Shanthi Rajan, Teacher, OB and Strategic HRM, University of Bolton's campuses in Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) and Vietnam

Shanthi is a visiting faculty at Middlesex University and University of Stirling in UAE. She holds a Master’s in Strategic Human Resource Management from the University of Wollongong and is now pursuing research in the fields of OB and Emotional Intelligence in workplace. She translates her 17 years of Corporate experience into classroom knowledge through her teaching and communication skills. She uses the edifice of emotional-intelligence-based education system as the core concept in classroom teaching. She is a good team player with her colleagues and her students – an emotional intelligence approach that reflects in her disposition in workplace and beyond. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D in this field

Twenty first century workplace emphasizes on job aspirants having essential technical (academic skills), as well as workplace behavioral competencies (soft skills). These includes collaboration, goal congruence, adaptation to the team environment, perseverance toward team objectives and most importantly one’s attitude and willingness to shift from the probabilistic nature of emotions to a deterministic one. All for one purpose. Success of an individual in terms of career advancement and retention in an organization largely depends not only on possessing technical awareness, abilities and skills but also on the ways in which they are used. And more so, the mode of delivery of these skills is essentially to enhance the team’s motivation and objective congruence.

Since the beginning of the Industrial revolution when people started working together towards a set objective, there has always been a glaring void between deployment of skills and employment. Furthermore, researches done in this field have been able to address certain facets of the problems but not provided a comprehensive all-encompassing solution. This becomes even more complicated due to macro and micro aspects like transferability skills, subject skills and other attitudinal and psychological drivers.

In a highly resource-crunched economy needless to mention that these transferable skills have become highly significant and are pre-requisites to be able to contribute toward team building and to also sustain the team to achieve goal congruence. Subject skills are definitely a requisite but additionally these days transferable skills have achieved a higher significance from a workplace perspective.

While subject skills are pertinent to a specific job, transferable skills are an individual’s personal abilities that doesn’t just pertain to a specific job but can be used within any profession. In other words, the employee demonstrates readiness to any job within an organization, thus adapting with ease to an organization’s specific roles as well. Employers are yearning to hire job aspirants who they think would have acquired workplace competencies along with their academic skills.

On the other hand, job aspirants think that they have essential academic skills to perform well at work if hired. More often than less, a job aspirant would never think of the requirements of workplace competencies that an employer would be thinking of as essential.  Employers perceive this disparity as the most significant challenge to hiring the right talent. There has been a paradigm shift in what used to be a linear career path in an organization depending on the number of years an employee would have put in. As career progression begins, social skills and competencies take the center stage and the technical skills are relegated behind or are seen as less significant and this applies to all disciplines.

Research conducted by Harvard University, The Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute for The Protocol School of Washington reveals that while 15% of the weightage in hiring relate to knowledge and technical skills 85% of the job success relate to an employee’s ‘people-skills at the workplace (and beyond). The recent HR trends in Sri Lanka states that failure to enhance employability skills of the younger generation may result in negative consequences and, therefore, suggests preparing employee graduates with essential skills.

Likewise, in India, employability is high for engineering and business students due to dearth of soft skills and employability enhancement is a challenge for Indian students. Of late, due to the shift in labor market and education policy there has been a growing concern and pressure on educational institutions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well to relook at their employability skills offered as part of the curriculum in order to produce employable graduates. Research validates the seminal work by American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), which are used as benchmarks to identify employability skills. ASTD and SCANS have highlighted workplace competencies focusing on basic skills, thinking skills and personal qualities that are pre-requisite transferable skills that graduates need to have in order to make them employable.

Higher Education (HE) sector according to SCANS play a phenomenal role in transition to knowledge-based economies, however, there are growing concerns of the graduate suitability in terms of their employability skills and lack of essential foundation and or workplace competencies resulting in poor performance, productivity etc. These high expectations over graduate skills and employability remain one of the core elements of a wider education debate. UAE’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research released a report in September 2012 stating the importance of issuing a national qualifications framework (NQA-QSFC) asserting the importance of improving the skills level and productivity in order to develop and maintain a system that focuses on individual’s learning, and progression, thereby leading to a “skilled and knowledgeable workforce”.

Assessing employability skills as part of the hiring process is becoming the norm in UAE organizations and the industry’s demand on the importance of improving the skills of graduates has raised the bar of incorporating necessary graduate attributes as part of the academic curriculum. Research need to be strengthened to ascertain various industry requirements pertaining to essential employability skills that makes job aspirants employable and more so stress on the importance of incorporating employability skills as part of the academic curriculum. This academic-industry interface will contribute to the HR concerns of hiring trends and staff retention now and in the future.

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