Here is why social skills and digital literacy are 'must-have' skills for new age employees

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 - 7:36am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Post the global economic slowdown, both working professionals and students are eager to upgrade themselves. From having international qualifications to acquiring a global experience, candidates are tying up all the loose ends to increase their chances of grabbing good employment opportunities. “Corporate India is becoming more global and diverse as organisations across sectors are recruiting talents from various geographies,” says Moorthy K Uppaluri, CEO, Randstad, India.

According to a recent Global Work Monitor Survey conducted by Randstad, social skills and digital literacy have become the top “must-haves” for employees. Tracking job seekers across 32 countries, the survey points out that, employers rate social and digital skills at 91 per cent each, education at 90 per cent and work experience at 94 per cent. Prasad Kaipa, CEO, coach and advisor, Kaipa Group, endorses this observation. “Education has become secondary to social skills, digital literacy and work experience because what we learn in schools and colleges lags behind in teaching us what is happening in the society right now,” he says. “The premium that educational qualification enjoyed over social skills and life skills has faded,”concurs Vaneet Gupta, organisational development professional, SteelStrips Wheels.

So what could be the reason behind this shift?
According to Gupta, jobs of the 70s and 90s, which were more administrative in nature and required sound academic background have long gone. Today, huge investments have happened in the private sector that has led to a creation of global roles and jobs. “These global roles demand that employees are able to communicate, work together and build relationships along with conceptual skills,” he informs. Living in a ‘wired’’ or Wi-Fi world, technology has connected a distributed workforce. “Qualities like digital literacy and netiquette which ensure that an organisation is working smoothly across time frames have become vital,” says Uppaluri.

“Acceleration of knowledge and technology are responsible for this change,” says Kaipa. “We have to know how to work with a diverse population with different interests and values, and have to do it virtually through skype, teleconferences and LinkedIn. This cannot be taught in classes,” he adds.

Job requirements across sectors have become more demanding. There is a constant need to upgrade and revisit one’s strengths and qualifications. With about 11 million workforce getting added to the job market every year, India is a powerhouse of human resource for the world. “There is tough competition that results in high demand and expectation from the employees,” says Uppaluri. 

Traditionally, people with better social skills have enjoyed better career growth. But now it has become a ‘must have’ skill. “If people are not team players, they have to endeavour to position themselves as subject matter experts or value creators in their own way, like for instance professionals who deal with the big data,” says Kaipa. Most employees have functional skills but lack the ability to communicate and work together. Organisations should train such employees by offering assignments, which require people interaction.“This may mean job rotations, overseas assignments, opportunity to lead and coach young people,” explains Gupta.

Learning on campus
Experts suggest that it is time for academic institutions to train students in social skills as well. Offering industry specific modules is one part of the solution, which many institutions are already doing. “Almost all professional courses have an internship programme lasting from 6 weeks to 26 weeks, but this is not helping,” says Gupta. 

Kaipa says academic institutions should offer not just modules but diplomas(series of modules) and try a different approach of teaching soft skills. “Harvard Business School includes apprenticeship and practical work to be part of the MBA programme,” he informs.

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