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Posted at: Apr 10, 2019, 7:22 AM; last updated: Apr 10, 2019, 7:22 AM (IST)

Management’s soft angle

The corporate world is looking for individuals who are technically strong and can also offer something more

Arindam Das

MBA has a long history of equipping individuals with technical skills that were ideal to serve the ever-evolving business requirements. However, this has changed over time. Today, the corporate world is looking for individuals who are not only technically strong but who can also offer something more. 

Employers all over the globe have said that being ‘book-smart’ is not enough; individuals also need to be prepared for a rapidly changing and complex future. This is where soft skills come into the picture. 

Soft skills may be job-specific, however, generally, employers everywhere are looking for professionals who possess excellent life-tackling skills. The following are a few statistics that best explain why soft skills are on the rise when it comes to MBA graduates.

Do soft skills hold any real value in the market?

To examine the skills that are highly sought after by employers and those that are hard to find in MBA graduates, The Financial Times conducted a survey called “2018 FT MBA Skills Gap Survey”.  Almost 70 per cent of leading employers all over the globe were a part of this study. 

According to the results of this survey, soft skills are the most important factors  for employers. These  include the ability to work in a team with a wide variety of people; solve problems; sustain and expand a network; and manage time efficiently. 

The participants of this survey also stated that business schools are great at teaching the theory behind a subject, but lack the ability to inculcate skills such as self-awareness, communication and integrity in their students. While aiming at the development of the theoretical aspects of the course, MBA colleges also need to focus on helping students experience and explore real-life dilemmas, challenging choices and relationships at work. This study elucidates that soft skills are valued in the corporate world globally. 

The non-cognitive aspect of the soft skills that move beyond the parameters of quantitative IQ-based analysis has been able to salvage the labour market from the high-end automation and technological developments. Machines are still no substitutes for qualitative open-ended tasks such as creativity, negotiation, team-dynamics, social skills, etc. 

Skills that matter

Now that the importance of developing soft skills is clear, let’s take a look at how an MBA can enhance these highly demanded skills. Today, colleges have started designing MBA programmes that enable students to become a domain expert with sound interpersonal and social skills.

Business schools employ various methods to develop a student’s technical and soft skills. For instance, MBA students are often required to work in groups to complete a project, and this helps them learn how to be open to new perspectives, listen, share, understand and work together towards the common goal. 

When it comes to communicating effectively, students are taught the different ways of presenting an idea or a concept. Whether a student is presenting a corporate proposal, or writing a memo, he will know the right way to address his audience. 

Another way in which an MBA course helps students become self-aware is by offering constructive criticism. Constructive feedback helps students take a step back and identify where they need to put in more effort.

Further, an expected multicultural set-up of an MBA school, with regards to its members of faculty and the students, make the students ready for the global industry that incorporates a dynamic variety of cultural-mix. 

All in all, students and business schools alike need to understand that traditional mediocrity will no longer be accepted in the corporate world. Also, technical expertise alone is not enough to succeed in this competitive world. 

The modern workplace functions well with the help of listening, sharing feedback, presenting ideas, thinking critically and working within a team. By pursuing an MBA programme that offers a challenging curriculum, experiential learning, and ways to enhance soft skills, students will evolve into proficient leaders of tomorrow.

— The writer is Associate Professor, Alliance University


Why focus on soft skills?

Management schools aim to create “business leaders of the future”. MBA is a training programme for aspiring CEOs, entrepreneurs and managers. 

To work as a CEO, an entrepreneur or even a manager, it’s important to know how to lead, manage and delegate to a team by creating effective strategies for the betterment of the business. This is where leadership and strategic planning go hand in hand. Only when an individual possesses sound leadership skills (a combination of people skills and decision-making capacity) will he be able to implement and execute a strategy. Therefore, it’s easy to understand that both these skills are extremely crucial for a company’s success. It’s no surprise then that among the best soft skills that employers look for in MBA graduates, leadership tops the list. 

Leadership is just one example that demonstrates how a soft skill can benefit any company. Followed by leadership, individuals need to know how to communicate effectively, think critically, act creatively, negotiate perceptively, work in a team of multicultural people and be self-aware. 

An effective solution or idea quickly turns inefficient when professionals lacking soft skills enter the picture. 

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