Soft skills, which encompass social, communication and self- management behaviour, are being neglected, with hard-skills training enjoying prominence, owing to the current state of the South African economy, skills and training networking company Alusani Skills & Training Network, tells Engineering News.
Training specialist Imogen Tarita notes that soft skills generally assist people with their career progress within a company.
“If people do not progress in a com- pany, it usually has something to do with a shortcoming in their soft skills, which are nontechnical traits people do not realise they need for career navigation. To progress within a company, a person must have a level of emotional intelli- gence (EQ), communicate with confidence and show his or her assertiveness,” she says.
Tarita adds that Alusani has noticed a significant decrease in requests by companies, in South Africa, to provide soft-skills training for their staff over the past two years.
“We have been inundated with résumés of soft-skills trainers. There are many soft-skills trainers in the country who are desperate for work,” she says.
Tarita points out that a lot of research is being done on the effect of soft-skills training in the workplace, adding that the most progressive companies do well, in no small part, owing to the high levels of their employees’ self-awareness, which is a soft skill.
“Companies tend to spend money on soft-skills training for senior managers, as they do not think it is necessity for everyone in the company to have a firm grasp on soft skills,” she states, adding that soft-skills training for lower-level staff is something that South African companies should focus on more.
“The most important soft skill is communication, followed by self- management, self-awareness and con- scientiousness, which are the type of traits that will result in people progressing in a business,” notes Tarita.
Companies should realise that there is nothing ‘soft’ about soft skills, she says, highlighting that they should be as prized as hard skills because they influence the way in which employees operate in the workplace.
Tarita points out that there are many options available to people who want to master soft skills on their own; how- ever, learning these skills from trained professionals has proven to be most effective.
“Soft skills help people gain more self-respect in the workplace, but soft skills are often ignored by people who feel that they don’t need them. If you want to progress in the workplace, a balance is needed between hard skills and soft skills,” she states.
In the past, when the economy was doing better, Tarita says, companies invested more in soft-skills training than they are investing currently.
“If I look at our in-house training service, where we go to businesses and undertake training for them, the bulk of training provided is for hard skills. Few soft-skills training courses are being taken seriously.
“It is also difficult to quantify soft skills. A company is less likely to spend money if it cannot quantify that investment; therefore, they are unable to determine whether they have achieved return on invest,” she says.
Alusani’s most popular soft-skills course is Assertive Communication Skills for Women.
“This training course is fully booked whenever we present it and I am sur- prised to hear about the problems, such as name-calling, that women continue to face in the workplace with men.
“Sometimes, women are more quali- fied than their male counterparts, they have the necessary hard skills, but lack the ability to put that into practice and stake their claim in the workplace,” she adds.
Tarita notes that the workplace is especially difficult for female engineers, as they generally work in a male-dominated environment and often have to deal with sexist attitudes.
Other soft-skills courses presented by Alusani are The Emotionally Intelligent Leader, as the training provider believes that all employees should have a well- balanced EQ, which is vital in the workplace, and People Management Skills for New Managers, which is suitable for anybody on any level of the corporate ladder.
“The lessons are similar and focus on enhancing self-esteem and confidence, the ability to talk to people and the power to persuade and negotiate, which are all crucial skills in the workplace,” Tarita says.
The courses take place four times a year, with up to twenty people per course.
The number of participants in the courses are limited, as Alusani wants “everyone to get the time and attention they need and deserve. At the end of the day, soft skills complement hard skills and this is an understanding that we con- tinuously promote,” concludes Tarita.