The Need For Soft Skills Training in India

The Need For Soft Skills Training in India Having lived in three different parts of the world over a span of three decades now, I’ve heard the familiar notion – “Indian students are smart” or “Indian employees are hard working.” That’s always a great feeling if you just happen to be Indian! And its true too; Indian students are smart. And Indian employees are hard-working; maybe even a little too hard-working in my opinion. It is no surprise then that these individuals thrive in foreign countries and companies. But the Indian employee is not free of his troubles; he is woefully lacking one thing that businesses today deeply require –Behavioral skills training.

From the time the average Indian gets into higher levels of school, there is an intense focus on academic excellence. But despite this there is still a gap in the area of ‘soft skills’ that the Indian is not prepared for. But what are soft skills? Recruitment firms and companies that have hired Indians have said that while the Indians tend to be incredibly smart and qualified people, their rudimentary skills such as social, relational or behavioral skills are often badly lacking. Some of this can certainly be attributed to a culture where there is subservience to authority and blind obedience is preferred over independent thinking. This often leaves the average Indian in a rather awkward state of affairs despite being exceptionally qualified to be in the game. Indians often find themselves ill equipped in the areas of email/phone etiquette especially when interacting with their fellow colleagues and peers. This leaves a lot of frustration for company bosses who would simply like to hire a qualified candidate and get the job going instead of spending more money and time on training the employee on his workplace ethics and manners.

Indian educators have realized this and are now in the process of setting up special institutes called ‘finishing schools’ that help equip graduates with the rudimentary skills required to function effectively in the workplace. The ISIL (Indian School of Integrated Learning) and British firm, Speak First, are currently partnering in a joint venture as part of a two million dollar project to setup finishing schools in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore for the very purpose of further training potential employees on different types of soft skills.

Soft Skill Training programs are being setup all around the country to help equip the growing demographic of Indians to be better suited with the right skills to succeed in the workplace. For more information on how companies do this, please refer to the following link:

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2010-11-25/news/27580406_1_soft-skills-private-sector-skill-gap

How To Improve Soft Skills Of Your Employees

How To Improve Soft Skills Of Your EmployeesSoft Skills training development is currently the most rapidly growing and investing industry for corporate training in India right now. As India grows and begins to make a more global footprint and presence in the world today, companies are fast realizing the need to train their workforce to be relevant to the changing trends of corporate globalization. As a result, soft skill training in India has exploded. But exactly what are soft skills? And how does that actually affect the way we do our work and interact with our colleagues? After all, isn’t all that matters simply our academic credentials and/or work experience? Well, no it’s not that simple and here is why:

Communication Skill

Of all the soft skill topics, this is the most cardinal skill that one needs to have. Eye contact, an attentive posture and non-verbal acknowledgement (affirming nods) go a long ways in communicating that you are paying attention to what is being said. It also attributes a sense of undivided attention that makes for an affluent conversation.

Relational Skill

Developing relational equity with a colleague also goes a long way in honing one’s soft skills. Making sure to get good quality time with one’s peers goes a long ways in developing common ground and foundational trust that can be so crucial to a harmonious working relationship. Having relational equity is also tremendously useful when a conflict arises and a situation is created that requires tact and trouble-shooting skills for a healthy resolve and reconciliation.

Initiative Skill

Whenever possible, it also helps to take the lead on an issue and be the one to spearhead a project or task, or at least be willing to. This displays responsibility but also fosters an image of dependability that is encouraging to the company and peers included. It shows a general care for the greater good and a principled approach to taking ownership of a situation.

With the growing need in this area, there are numerous programs that train on how to develop soft skills. For more information on soft skill training from a company’s perspective, please refer to the following article – Top 5 Most Important Soft Skills Training for Companies

Soft Skills Development For Interpersonal Relationships

I had no idea what behavioral training was. But let me qualify that statement with a story first. My former colleague had it all – the social status, the education, training, work experience, fantastic resume, high benefits job, etc. It seemed like he was born as royalty, with a silver spoon in his mouth and wired for success. At work he had the Midas touch – every project and assignment he ventured into he was successful at. He was the envy of many at work, including myself. And then one day in a rather strange turn of events he suddenly left the company. And I was asked to take over some of his projects. Over the next few weeks I got to talk to some of his department staff and a very different image of him turned up. His staff claimed he was rude, proud, narcissistic, insensitive and totally oblivious to his fellow peers. People hated being around him and would consider it a fabulous day if they didn’t have to run into him in the hallway. Their testimonies of him were so damning that I was struggling to understand if we were talking about the same person. So while his personal achievements were pretty hot, his interpersonal relationships were stone cold dead! Days after his departure our company began a behavioral skills training program. Now I know what it means!

Soft Skills Development For Interpersonal Relationships

My former colleague lacked, what is called in the professional world, ‘Soft Skills’. What are soft skills? Lets first address what they are not – they are not your academic or professional qualifications or credentials; that would be called a ‘resume’. Soft skills are those intangible qualities and traits that one possesses in work ethic, communication skills, attitude and emotional intelligence. They are the little facets of one’s personality and character that make them who they are, that are so vital to doing one’s job effectively. Companies today look just as hard into a candidate’s behavioral skills as they do his professional skills.

While a candidate’s weighty CV/resume might get him through the doors of the company, it is ultimately his soft skills that will define what he becomes and determine how long he lasts there. A person with good soft skills is a naturally good leader, excelling in delegation of responsibilities, troubleshooting, conflict resolution and a host of other talents crucially necessary for productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Unfortunately soft skills training are highly undervalued in the business world today. But this scenario is starting to change rapidly with the evolution of professional development training offered my numerous companies. Soft Skills is fast becoming a highly desired aspect for employee profiling and hiring in the corporate world today.

For more information on Soft Skills Training, please refer to the following article – Top 5 Most Important Soft skills training for Companies

Top 5 Most Important Soft Skills Training for Companies

Top 5 Most Important Soft Skills Training for Companies
In an ideal world, every identified soft skills training need for companies, ought to be given equal priority. But with increasingly lean budgets allocated for training due to the economic challenges, a far cry from what the yester years offered, organizations across industries, barring few, are trying to bring down the number of soft skills training programs to be conducted in the coming financial year.

While, bringing down the number of programs may help cutting costs, leaving out key soft skills & behavioral training programs from the training calendar can be defeating the whole purpose of employee development. (To learn more about creating an effective training calendar please visit: STRATEGIES FOR CREATING AN EFFECTIVE TRAINING CALENDAR)

So, what are the top 5 Behavioural / Soft Skills Training Programs for corporate employees?

If you look at each training need objectively, it would be a near impossible task to pick the top 5. Having a broader perspective helps. Ask yourself what are those key behavioral skills that go a long way in ensuring employee productivity? My list is as follows (not necessarily in the order of priority)

Communication is a complex activity. Communication is considered effective only if the receiver comprehends the message in the way it was intended by the sender. The effectiveness of communication depends on usage of words, body language, tone of voice, sender’s and receiver’s perception of the topic of communication and the communication history between the sender and receiver. To address these complexities in communication and to ensure all employees work in cohesion towards achieving organizational objectives it is imperative that Communication Skills Training is part of your training calendar.

Most organizations have highly skilled employees and yet the desired business results are seldom achieved. The reason for this is that, these skilled employees either prefer working in silos or find it difficult to align personal goals to common goals of the team. Interpersonal effectiveness, ability to resolve conflict, ability to challenge and inspire fellow team members are few of the benefits of Team Building Training. In a nutshell, team building programs ensures synergy in team and propels them to achieve more.

Today’s business scenario has become extremely competitive. From an individual’s perspective, it is important that he or she has the necessary skill to present an idea or a plan effectively. This can help progress one’s career. Leaders with better presentation skill seem to enjoy more success and better followership. From an organization’s perspective, it is a known fact that, more often than not, it is not the superior product that sells but a superior presentation. That is the reason why many organizations across the globe spend huge amounts of money on Presentations Skills Training.

A team without a leader is like an army without a general. You are sure to expect chaos in such a situation. But even with Leaders on board, the changing times and the dynamic business climate necessitates Leaders to evolve. Also, Leadership Skill is not a skill limited to managers alone. Even individual contributors need to undergo Leadership Training program to develop the ability to influence stake holders.

Time is a valuable resource. We all acknowledge and know that time is money. Therefore, effective use of time results in higher employee productivity and business profits. Regular Time Management Training interventions to reinforce time management skills ensures employees remain productive.

Chances are, most of your employees have already undergone programs on these skill sets in the previous years. However, these are skills that can never be mastered with a one-time training. If these soft skills training programs are conducted on a yearly basis by effective soft skills trainers, the organization is bound to benefit exponentially.

The Pursuit of ‘Goodness’ – Is It A Choice?

Things that are bad for you seduce you easily; you run towards them impatiently. But things that are actually good for you fail to attract you; you shun them creatively, finding powerful excuses to justify your procrastination…”

– Mythical character ‘Raavan’ as quoted by mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik in the Times (Times Life, July 4th 2010)

I cannot but agree with king Raavan as far as the above quote is concerned. Many times in my life I have been seduced by what was not good for me. Be it that tasty fried dish, that extra hour spent watching television instead of going to bed, lying about something so as not to lose face and all the other pleasures of materialism that come with being human.

A number of times I have shunned what was good for me – the cleaning up of a room, the exercise that I always wanted to get but never seemed to make the time for, the vegetables that were lovingly kept on my plate, being bold enough to swallow my pride and take responsibility.

How do I rise above this? How do I chase after what is good for me with a greater interest than what I show to all that is material?

The only answer I have found is ‘shifting my intentions’. Choosing to do the ‘good’ things; the ‘right’ things. I chose to eat more vegetables. I chose to take more responsibility. I chose the good. Surprisingly, it was not as hard as I thought it would be. It was by no means an overnight process but the power of a determined mind can take one to levels that a strong body cannot.

Good and bad exist within all of us. I believe that what you give power to (the good or the bad) is what will determine your path in life. Today, ‘goodness’ is something that I chase after. Today, the ‘truth’ is something that I constantly chase after. The challenge is separating the ‘truth’ from ‘subjective truth’. It is an arduous journey, yet one that I believe is the path of higher learning.

As an person who conducts extensive amount of both executive coaching and leadership training, I strongly believe that it is this path that will allow me to be a candle that will spark the learning of those around me.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…”

“…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Mariam Williamson (Spiritual activist and author)

Below are some of our blogs that have been well received by our readers:

  1. What It Takes To Develop The Leader In You
  2. Creativity and Appetite for Risk – Is Jeff Bezos a fool or a leader?
  3. Sachin Tendulkar – The Epitome of Self-Leadership

Avoiding Gaps In Communication – An Anecdote

Here is a humorous story that throws light on effective communication skills:

A man feared his wife could not hear as well as she used to and thought that she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he visited a doctor to discuss the problem. The doctor thought for a while and explained that he could perform a simple test to evaluate the extent of hearing loss.

That evening, the wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner when the husband came in. He thought to himself, “I’m about 40 feet away, let’s see
what happens.” Then in a normal tone he asked, ‘Honey, what’s for dinner?”

No response.

So the husband moved to closer to the kitchen, about 20 feet from his
wife and repeats, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

There was still no response.

He then walked up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. “Honey, what’s
for dinner?”

Again there was no response.

As a last attempt, he walked right up behind her and asked, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

To which the wife answered, “Sam, for the fourth time, we are having CHICKEN!”

The learning point in this anecdote is easy to see – always consider closing any communication gap that may arise before coming to conclusions.

Communication gaps arise due to many factors. They may be extrinsic – like noise or clutter; they may be intrinsic – lack of focus or preconceived ideas. Always keep an open mind during any form of conversation and aim at reducing the impact of uncontrollable factors. By consciously taking the effort to indulge in effective conversation, you can really go a long way in forming better relationships in the workplace and in your personal life.

Business Writing From Abe Lincoln’s Perspective

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most loved Presidents of the USA. He is an admired leader of the world for he always thought before he spoke. The incident given below highlights his thoughts on writing and the learning can be extended to helping you to improve business writing skills.

One day Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury Chase said, “Oh, I am so sorry that I did not write a letter to Mr. So-and-so before I left home!”

President Lincoln promptly responded:
“Chase, never regret what you don’t write; it is what you do write that you are often called upon to feel sorry for.”

(From Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, by Colonel Alexander K. McClure)

A well thought, structured and concise mail or report is easier to read. It saves the reader a lot of precious time in today’s busy world. Lincoln’s seemingly simple response in this story has great meaning. You have to be careful of the words you speak – even more of the words that you write. You are responsible for what you have stated in your writing.

This gives you even more reason to ensure that you recheck the contents for its grammar, punctuation and flow of thought before delivering it to the intended recipients. A minute or two spent in rechecking this way would save you a lot of time, trouble and explanations later.

The bottom line is: Be aware of what you write and how you do so, since it has an impact on your image and career. Improving this aspect of your communication skills can go a long way in putting your career on the fast track.

Business Communication – Understanding Boundaries

We learn many valuable morals from the famous Aesop’s fables. I shall share my thoughts with respect to business communication with regards to the following fable today:

A crab and her child were walking down the beach one day. While doing so, the crab irately watched while the child strolled in a one-sided manner. She said, “Why don’t you walk in a straight manner? It is easier and more pleasing to the eye.”

The young crab replied, “Mother, if you could show me the straight way to walk, I promise I will follow you.”

The mother crab decided to show her child the right way. But as much as the crab tried, she could not walk straight. She finally realized that her child learnt to walk from her; all her effort was in vain, and that she should not have reprimanded her child without any basis.

In business communication, always ensure that you make educated statements about a subject – be it written communication or verbal communication. In other words, ensure that you are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) in what you say and deliver. By doing this, you can go a long way in paving the way for a successful career. This is because such individuals come across as those who can communicate effectively under all odds, are decisive and is consistent in thought and action.

Workplace communication skills are hence a cluster of intelligent thought, effective words and powerful actions.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Stephen Covey

Business Communication: Effective Questioning

Here is a well known anecdote that reinstates the importance of effective questioning in verbal communication:

Two young men were walking home after having attended a religious service by a renowned priest. One man said to the other, “I wonder whether it would be alright to smoke while praying.” The other replied, “Why don’t you ask the priest?”

The next day, the first man went up to the priest and asked, “Father, may I smoke while I pray?” The priest replied, “No son, that is disrespectful.”

The young man went back to his friend and recounted what the priest had said.

The second man replied, “I am not surprised. You asked the wrong question. I shall give it a try.”

Saying this, he went up to the priest and asked, “Father, may I pray while I smoke?” The priest replied, “By all means, my son. By all means.”

What is the learning point of this story?

Communication skills consist of effective questioning methods. It is an understood fact that you can elicit the desired response by asking the right questions. This would require a certain amount of tact and presence of mind. With practice, you can get better at asking the right questions. By mastering the art of effective questioning, you would be able to consistently communicate, and hence improve your verbal communication in an effective manner.

Business Communication: The Reader’s Perspective

Here is a story that will highlight the importance of clarity in written communication:

A blind boy once sat at the side of a busy pavement with a hat placed in front of him. He had a hand-written sign that said: “I am blind. Please help.”

Passers-by hardly took notice of the boy and there were only a few coins in his hat.
A man who was passing by stopped beside the boy. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then looked at the signboard, took it and wrote a few words on it. “Here you go”, he said and placed it where everyone could see, and then walked away.

Soon the hat began to fill up. The young boy was pleasantly surprised and happy. Later that day, the man who changed the signboard came by. He asked the boy, “How are things?” The boy recognized the man’s voice and said, “Hey mister, were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”

The man said, “I wrote what you wanted to really tell them. It was the same thing that you meant, but only written in a different way.”

He had written: “Today is a beautiful day. But I cannot see it.”

This short story indicates that communication can be made more effective by exploring a different perspective. You can see more results if you do so. This is especially true in written communication. In business communication, it is essential to think from the perspective of the reader. This will improve clarity and help the reader to understand better.