Soft or Work Skills Development of Students for Employment

Soft or Work Skill Development

We often hear talk about generic work skills, soft skills or digital related, but what are they and why are they important?

Hard skills may shortlist you for a job interview, but soft skills will have you selected, and may include the following which could also be described as personal attributes or selection criteria:

 

Communication, Organization, Teamwork, Punctuality, Critical Thinking, Social Skills, Creativity, Interpersonal Communication, Adaptability and Friendliness (Berger 2016).

 

According to Harvard Business Review article ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’:

 

Smart organizations have recognized that introducing new technology into the workplace isn’t about hardware or software: it’s about wetware, also known as human beings. If you want to be the kind of nimble business that can make the most of successive waves of tech innovation, you need human beings who can adapt to change. That means equipping each person in your enterprise with the skills and mindset that will help them successfully adapt whenever you introduce new tools like Slack, Basecamp, or even Google Drive into your workplace. But what exactly are these digital skills? They may be more familiar and low-tech than you think (Samuel 2016).

 

These could include goal focus, collaboration, communication, learning, troubleshooting and enjoyment.

 

Another view from traditional work of soft skills would designate planning workload, communication, reports, presentations, collecting/using information, note taking, data literacy, projects, ethics, problem solving, decision making, team work, meetings, negotiation, stress management and reviewing one’s own personal skills and development (Bingham and Drew 1999).

 

How does one develop these soft or work skills for work, community and life?

 

According to Open Colleges Australia the following tips are needed to teach students soft skills:

30 Tips to Teach Soft Skills

  1. Give students authentic choices about how they’re going to learn and be assessed.
  2. Provide a learning environment where trust, initiative, and taking risks are encouraged.
  3. Hold all students to the same high standards.
  4. Model perseverance by not giving up on students.
  5. Support students by helping them find their own way.
  6. Demonstrate alternate paths to content mastery.
  7. Teach to the whole person (not just the “student”).
  8. Treat your students as mature individuals, even when they aren’t following instructions.
  9. Talk about tailoring communication styles for different audiences.
  10. 1Build students’ interpersonal skills through an environment of humility and respect.
  11. Help students practise taking on different roles in different situations.
  12. Differentiate opportunities for personal growth and opportunities for team growth.
  13. Cultivate a sense of responsibility through meaningful and unique contribution.
  14. Assign group exercises that give people the opportunity to speak, listen, write, organise, and lead.
  15. Assess learning through interactive evaluations that demand real-world demonstrations of learning.
  16. Challenge students’ reactions to new obstacles and situations.
  17. Emphasise that the same solution doesn’t necessarily work every time, even in the same situation.
  18. Incorporate exercises in delayed gratification in order to build persistence and grit.
  19. Start grading students on how well they listen to their peers.
  20. Discuss the importance of social-emotional intelligence in the real world.
  21. Design opportunities for students to build and demonstrate resilience.
  22. Make learning a personal experience, highlighting the way education shapes personality.
  23. Create opportunities for students to innovate, both on their own and in groups.
  24. Draw attention to the differences between online and in-person social etiquette.
  25. Reward students who are willing to admit they’re wrong.
  26. Recognise students who are committed to communicating ideas to others.
  27. Hold brainstorm sessions in which students list the possible uses for various soft skills.
  28. Help build motivation through principles of self-reliance (read: Emerson, Thoreau).
  29. Keep an open ear and encourage students to develop new thoughts and ideas they may have.
  30. Develop learning ability through greater awareness of individual learning processes (Briggs 2015).

 

Teaching, training or tutoring approaches to learning need to be centred upon student centred andragogy for adults not teacher centred pedagogy for children, see related article blog FLIPPED Model – Pedagogy or Andragogy in Higher Education Teaching Learning.

 

 

References:

 

Berger, G 2016, Data Reveals The Most In-demand Soft Skills Among Candidates, LinkedIn Talent Blog, 30 August, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/most-indemand-soft-skills >

 

Bingham, R & Drew, S 1999, Key Work Skills, 1st edn, Gower Publishing Ltd., Aldershot.

 

Briggs, S 2015, 30 Tips to Cultivate Soft Skills in Your Students, Inform Ed – Open Colleges, 1 May, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/30-ways-to-cultivate-soft-skills-in-your-students >

 

Samuel, A 2016, ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’, Harvard Business Review, 5 February, viewed 21 March 2018,
< https://hbr.org/2016/02/the-soft-skills-of-great-digital-organizations >

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VET Vocational Education Training TAFE TAE and Related Issues

Following is an excerpt from a news article and an Education Minister’s press release proposing new source of school teachers while the vocational system is in a state of flux with the sub-optimal TAE Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and quality.

Workplace Training in Australia and the TAE Certificate IV in Training and Assessment

Workplace Training in Australia and the TAE Photo by Mikes Photos from Pexels

From tradies to teachers: The plan to ‘shake up Australia’s schools‘.  The Turnbull government wants to encourage tradies to become teachers, and nurses to swap the clinic for the classroom, under a plan to “shake up” the country’s schools.

A national review of teacher registration – to be announced Saturday – will look to streamline the process for becoming a teacher around Australia……

At present, most states require teachers to attain at least a diploma of education, if not an undergraduate teaching degree……..

….Education Minister Simon Birmingham said it should be easier for people with experience in specialist areas to teach those trades at schools and vocational colleges…

…Australia’s falling position on global literacy and numeracy rankings, as well as disappointing NAPLAN results, have worried education ministers around the country.

 

The article does not offer any context or reason for the Minister’s or the government’s ‘plan’?

The Australian Education Council has not made any related public statements, let alone conducted research?

For the government, the Minister and the Education Department’s interest, there TAE40116 – Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is already a pathway for trades and healthcare personnel to teach or train:

Qualification Description

This qualification reflects the roles of individuals delivering training and assessment services in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This qualification (or the skill sets derived from units of competency within it) is also suitable preparation for those engaged in the delivery of training and assessment of competence in a workplace context, as a component of a structured VET program.

The volume of learning of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is typically six months to two years.

Licensing/Regulatory Information

Achievement of this qualification by trainers is a requirement of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015

 

Further, in a relate article from Jim Munro, CEO of the Resources Training Council ‘The TAE debacle – a resources sector view’:

It is this writer’s opinion, that since BSZ, this program has been slowly hi-jacked by those who have no idea of what happens in the real world of workplace training. It has become a qualification for the training industry, not industry that trains.

 

One has observed in the past generation or two, several significant changes including removal of many technical streams and sometimes active ‘dumbing down’ of high school or matriculation education curricula (lower competency for entry to STEM or university, lack of skills in language, literacy and numeracy LLN, and removal of explicit teaching of ‘critical thinking’), teaching becoming too academic and pedagogic (teacher directed) based, versus andragogic (student centred); overseen by teacher unions, the (hollowed out) bureaucracy, resurgence in old conservative ideas of education and looking down at VET or TAFE.

Appears to be following the US conservative and/or nativist strategy of supporting elite schools and compromising the rest, leading to sub-optimal education and training outcomes in society and employment, exemplified by dumbing down, anti-science sentiment, leveraging or compromising sympathetic paid academia or research for political purposes etc.; leading to or maintaining more compliant, observant and respectful (to authority) society?

Ten years ago, we had John Howard promoting the anti ‘black arm band’ version of history, school chaplain program (outsourced to some dubious US influenced charities), last week the Liberal Opposition in Victoria mooted the idea of police permanently based in schools and now federally the government is planning that ‘tradies’ and ‘nurses’ can transfer into high schools, why do they want this disruption?

It may also follow the nostalgia of work and need to have influence, not just for conservatives of the right, but old ‘culturally specific’ white working-class conservatives in the important upper age median vote, who used to vote Labor?

They could do better by improving the Cert IV qualification or TAE which is seriously flawed due to focus upon narrow training package inputs, and assessment outputs with administration of related process and document management, or Taylor’s ‘Scientific Management’ as used on assembly lines.

However, the TAE ignores or is not fit for purpose when it does not equip trainers with practical skills to deliver quality training and learning, more about leading learners to become robots (workers following instructions) in a system of processes made easier to administer and audit; maybe the intention?

Rather than reinvent the wheel just fix up the existing wheel to offer training or teaching opportunities to ‘tradies’ and nurses, maybe review and improve the career or further study counselling youth receive from teachers, parents and peers, while repairing TAE and VET sector’s reputation?

 

 

 

Strategic Management – Porter’s Five Forces – Business Simulation Literature

Business Simulation – Strategic Management

Literature Review

 

Introduction

 

Business simulations have become an important tool for students of business and related studies to apply theory to practice, as a learning or experiential tool (Anderson & Lawton, 2009); also useful for mapping out strategies under different scenarios for real world by corporates.

 

A business simulation also allows students or participants to apply or refine various hard and soft skills including finance, management, marketing, operations etc.  for the former; communication, research, analysis, team work, planning, strategy, report writing and more for the latter (Bingham and Drew, 1999).  Further, team work or group dynamics in simulations can be analysed regarding impact upon any simulation, learning, and also actual business or real world (Malik & Howard, 1996). Learning can be enhanced by the use of business simulations along with conventional forms of education exemplified by reflection, case studies and discussion (Keys, 1977).

 

In other related study areas or fields, i.e. international relations and political science, student evaluation feedback seems to confirm that simulations help in understanding and applying abstract theories and concepts (Shellman & Turan, 2006).

 

Studies of business simulations have emphasised the identification and importance of success factors, planning and stable strategy, as part of the decision-making strategy along with team cohesion (Gosenpud et al., 1984).

 

Accordingly, business simulations such as Global DNA and CompXM have many applications in business from training and development, through market planning, strategy and analysis.

 

Theoretical Frameworks

 

There were issues faced by Andrews in CompXM when dealing with competition.  This included more competitive pricing, better specifications or lower operating costs, new or updated products, customer satisfaction and what appeared to be a drift back from performance to budget.

 

Competition is the main factor in business, in other words, success or failure.  Competitive strategy revolves round long term profitability and what determines it, and how to be competitive in any specific industry. The latter is most important as a company can at least shape a competitive strategy, however shaping an industry is generally not possible.

Competitive strategy can be through two main aspects, cost leadership and differentiation.  These five competitive forces include new competition, product substitution, buyer power, supplier power and existing competition (Porter, 1985).  Based on this a corporate strategist or investor must work out their place in the market via strategy, for example, what are our strengths and weaknesses, what may create best income or which should be observed as opportunities or threats (Porter, 2000)?

 

Competitive advantage requires any company to meet or exceed customer expectations via the value chain to assess what perceived value is for customers.   The value chain is dominated by internal processes that lead to a product or service outcome e.g. R&D, marketing, production and finance (IMA Institute of Management Accountants, 1996).

 

Of direct importance is the product lifecycle, especially within innovative industries, exemplified by low barriers to entry, high product differentiation, high innovation while the market can move rapidly.  With maturity, even with further industry growth, fewer new entrants versus exiting, fewer producers, less innovation, less diversity, with more focus upon production processes and market shares stabilise (Klepper, 1996).

 

Reference List:

 

Advameg, Inc. (2016) Cochlear Ltd. – Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Cochlear Ltd. Available from: http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history2/29/Cochlear-Ltd.html (Accessed 27/7/16).

Anderson, P. & Lawton, L. Business Simulations and Cognitive Learning: Developments, Desires, and Future Directions, Simulation & Gaming. Sage Journals. 2009 USA.

 

Austrade, (2016) Industries – Export Markets – Taiwan – Market Profile. Available at: http://www.austrade.gov.au/Australian/Export/Export-markets/Countries/Taiwan/Market-profile (Accessed 7/9/16).

 

Bennett & Giancola (2015) Nurotron Biotechnology Wins Tender.  Available at: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/11/prweb13104465.htm (Accessed 28/7/16).

 

Bingham, R. & Drew, S. (1999) Key Work Skills, Aldershot/England: Gower.

 

Biotech & Pharmaceutical Industries Program Office (2016) Taiwan’s Biotech Industry Overview. Available at:  http://www.bdi.ie/presentations/taiwan_workshop/taiwan_research_groups_day_1/Prof_Chei_Hsiang_-_Taiwans_Biotech_Industry_Overview.pdf (Accessed 7/9/16).

 

Bloomberg, (2013) Nurotron Annual Report. Available from: http://www.nurotron.com/sites/default/files/2013.3.31%20Bloomberg%20-%20Nurotron%20Report.pdf (Accessed 27/05/2016).

 

Comp-XM (2016) The Globe Report, Chicago, IL: Capsim Management Simulations.

 

Cochlear (2015) Cochlear Annual Report 2015 – Hearing Performance. Sydney: Cochlear.  Available from: http://www.cochlear.com/wps/wcm/connect/2a3956c0-f09d-4ce7-a8c9-8b0ddccf1999/en_corporate_annualreport2015_financial_1.54mb.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CONVERT_TO=url&CACHEID=2a3956c0-f09d-4ce7-a8c9-8b0ddccf1999 (Accessed: 27/05/2016).

 

Economist Intelligence Unit (2016) Taiwan Healthcare.  Available at: http://country.eiu.com/Industry.aspx?Country=Taiwan&topic=Industry&subtopic=Healthcare (Accessed 7/9/16).

 

Global DNA (2016) The Globe Report, Chicago, IL: Capsim Management Simulations.

 

Gosenpud, J.; Miessing, P. & Milton, C. (1984) A Research Study on Strategic Decisions in a Business Simulation.  Developments in Business Simulation & Experiential Learning, Volume 11, 1984.

 

Institute of Management Accountants IMA (1996) Value Chain Analysis for Assessing Competitive Advantage. Statements on Management Accounting. Practice of Management Accounting. Montvale N.J.: Institute of Management Accountants.

 

Investopedia (2016) Porter’s 5 Forces. Available at: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/porter.asp (Accessed: 01/06/2016).

 

Keys, B. (1977) Review of Learning Research in Business Gaming. Computer Simulation and Learning Theory, Volume 3, 1977.

 

Klepper, S (1996) Entry, Exit, Growth, and Innovation over the Product Life Cycle. The American Economic Review. Vol. 86, No. 3 (Jun., 1996), pp. 562-583.

 

Malik, S. & Howard, B (1996) How Do We Know Where We Are Going If We Don’t Know Where We Have Been: A Review in Business Simulation Research. Developments in Business Simulation & Experiential Exercises, Volume 23, 1996.

 

Porter, M. (1985) Competitive Advantage – Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. New York: The Free Press.

 

Porter, M. (2000) How competitive forces shape strategy. Harvard Business Review. March-April 1979 pages 137-145.

 

Shellman, S. & Turan, K. Do Simulations Enhance Student Learning? An Empirical Evaluation of an IR Simulation, Thematic Issue: Simulations in Political Science, Published online: 24 Feb 2007, pages 19-32 Journal of Political Science Education, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2006.

 

 

Business Communication Theory – Application for Professional Practice

Communication Theory and Professional Practice 1.2

Subject of Business Communication

 

Prescribed text referred to in these notes is Mohan et al, 2008, Communicating as Professionals, Edition 2, Cengage Learning, Melbourne. These notes are for the use of Bachelor of Business students with purchased copies of the text, not to be copied or sold separately.

For similar blog articles about subject of business communication click through.

Preview

 

What are the rules for good communication according to the transmission model, and what are the pitfalls?

 

The elements required of a professional communicator include the need to be clear and responsible, organised message, optimal use of medium, allows for receiver and environment, and allows response to check understanding.

 

Understanding different types of communication, views, attitudes and opinions that society, groups, people, consumers, clients, cultures, voters and customers have, with different preferences and ways of communicating, is essential for effective communication.    Accordingly, when we as a professional plan and prepare for communicating a message we must take all these elements or variables into account, if we want to achieve our purpose.

 

A simpler example follows, in communicating instructions with purpose, ‘Purposeful communication’.  Which is the best and why?  In English we have an expression for effective communication of systems and instructions, ‘KISS keep it simple and short’

 

Another example, too many students are gathering out front smoking cigarettes, leaving the area untidy, obstructing pedestrians and giving Stott’s a bad image in Lygon Street.  Write a message for the notice board to change this behaviour.

 

Finally, to show the importance of clear and purposeful communication in the workplace or professional life see Case Study 1.3 ‘Structuring the message’.  What is wrong with the message and how should it be communicated, i.e. purposefully keeping in mind ‘KISS’.

 

Transmission Model

Shannon Weaver Transmission Model of Communication

Shannon Weaver Communication Model

Standing here lecturing I am the information source, my vocal chords/mouth the transmitter, speech is the channel, your ears/hearing the receiver and you the destination.  What happens is that ideas, facts, data or commands are sent as a message, i.e. relates between source and transmitter, and then receiver and destination.

 

A message has content, structure such as explanation or narrative, and code e.g. language, images, music or body movement, depending upon sources and destinations.  Different sources could be academic, lecturer or teach versus research student, university student and school pupil.

 

Medium or channels are numerous sensory bases including face to face verbal, written, telephone, musical, poetic etc. and now the information communication technology (ICT) revolution a potential mix of all. Important, is the choice of channel(s) to convey the message (s).

 

How is communication carried between source and transmitter to the receiver and destination? (Medium/channel) Give examples, advantages and disadvantages?

 

What do we call an answer or response?  Does it always exist in communication? Give examples

Feedback Communication Model Loop

Schramm’s Circular Model of Communication

Schramm’s model is logical continuation of response or feedback, i.e. circular continuous and exemplified by encoding and decoding through various signs e.g. question and answer in conversation, which allows immediacy and accuracy.

 

What is a loop? What are examples of signals carried within loop?  In customer service this occurs whether face to face, over the telephone, online messenger or automated telephone service.  The latter example of an automated telephone service is purely technical form of communication and can be used to lodge a simple tax return, but if the message is not decoded, interpreted or encoded correctly, then you can defer to a live operator.  What are other examples of this communication working, and also where this would not be possible, and why? Would this be suitable for a detective interviewing a suspect, or a doctor attempting to diagnose a patient, why or why not?

 

Flow of communication generally in one direction or from one source such as gossip, rumour or the grapevine but with commensurate distortions though omission, alteration and addition.

 

Another example is your choice of study destination, agent, courses, visas, immigration and accommodation?  Who did you seek advice or suggestions from and from where did their advice come from?  Why might people use the ‘grapevine’ in preference to other sources e.g. official websites or government offices? What are the issues or potential problems with gaining informal advice from the ‘grapevine’?  Are there other ways the ‘grapevine’ can be used professionally e.g. ‘viral marketing’ by the advertising industry?

 

Summary:

 

What are the rules for good communication according to the transmission model, and what are the pitfalls?

 

Transmission model requires good communication through well thought out objective(s), message structure, optimum medium, socio cultural elements, eliciting and managing feedback, and keep direct to minimise distortion.  Because it is dependent upon the person for transmission, and subjective regarding the message, meaning and other elements are not taken into account when communication takes place, or too simplistic.  In a professional context the message must be very clear and checked for accuracy, while personally or socially be aware of the pitfalls and do not believe everything you are told, again check.

 

Reference List:

 

Mohan T., McGregor H., Saunders S. & Archee R., 2008, Communicating as Professionals, 2nd Edition, Cengage Learning Australia P/L, Melbourne.

Schramm, W. 1954, ‘How communication works’, in Schramm, W. & Roberts D. F. (eds), The process and effects of mass communication, University of llinois Press, Chicago.

Shannon, C. E. & Weaver, W. 1949, The mathematical theory of communication, University of Illinois Press, Chicago.

 

 

 

Business Communication Theory and Practice

Communication Theory and Professional Practice – Subject of Business Communication

 

Prescribed text referred to in these notes is Mohan et al, 2008, Communicating as Professionals, Edition 2, Cengage Learning, Melbourne. These notes are for the use of Bachelor of Business students with purchased copies of the text, not to be copied or sold separately.

Preview

 

  • What is your career objective and what skills will you need, and how will you carry out any future professional role?
  • How should communication theory help professionals?
  • Can you think of examples of professional communication?

 

Education or study is one example of a communication field or system including teachers, administration, marketing, agents and students, here in Melbourne, in your home country and different locations within.  This also includes study materials, promotional brochures, application forms, websites, assignments, telephone calls, classes, online study, informal conversations, books, newspapers, email and more.

 

This is an example of who, what and where, but there is another element, how?  How is communication conducted amongst all these elements to result in effective communication, but then what is effective communication?

 

Case Study 1.1 Mohan et al, ‘Communication ethics in the professions’.  From the keywords in the title of the case study, i.e. ‘communication’, ‘ethics’ and ‘profession’ can you think what the case study will be about?  The title probably suggests this case study will question the importance of ethical (behaviour) and communication by all professions and occupations.  Why is ethical behaviour important in professional life and how does it affect communication?

 

Next from reading the heading of the article extract, ‘Self-interest detracts from lustre of the professions’ can you imagine more detail and content of the case study?  Basic analysis of the heading would suggest it will look at how society respects professionals, but this trust is sometimes broken due unethical behaviour, in pursuit of personal advancement, whether that be a job promotion or profits.  What is the solution?

 

According to Ferguson of Harvard University:

 

In my view, business education – and not only in business schools – needs urgently to be reformed so future bankers learn to strive for more than just the “maximisation of shareholder value” (code for driving up the share price by fair means or foul).  I believe the next generation of financiers need something like a Hippocratic oath to guide their conduct, along the lines proposed by Harvard Business School students.  It is no accident Warburg thought of himself as a “financial physician”.  The world needs money doctors, not investment bankers focused myopically on “the numbers”. (Ferguson, 2010).

 

In 2010 BP oil company had an oil rig explosion and associated pollution disaster possibly one of the worst in the planet’s history.  After the disaster what was being communicated by BP, media, environmentalists, society and politicians?  Was it the same information and message?  If differences why?  What ethical issues were involved?  Are these issues and the standards or ethics we judge them by absolutely clear?

 

What is communication theory?

 

Communication theory has been defined as:

 

  1. The transmission of messages, encoded by sender, sent through a medium and decoded by a receiver, e.g. a newspaper article or collection of channels in the media as in the previous examples.
  2. Social interaction through messages helping people to relate to each other through “taking turns” e.g. we tried to analyse and understand the communication in the previous examples by discussion or conversation.
  3. Reciprocal creation of meaning in a context through language and other “symbolic forms” e.g. graphic images of oil covered pelicans and other wildlife on the beaches in the Gulf of Mexico, oil gushing from the well, President Obama on the news and unemployed oil workers protesting through print, television, internet and other media created a context of meaning.
  4. Sharing of meaning through information, ideas and feelings both encoded and decoded by the group e.g. online social media and other interactive media exemplified by blogs, allows diverse sharing of views and opinions according to groups’ attitudes.

 

The latter definition includes information (perceived facts), ideas (concepts and opinions) and emotions (personal feelings) through which professional communication requires clear purpose.  The elements required of a professional communicator include the need to be clear and responsible, organised message, optimal use of medium, allows for receiver and environment, and allows response to check understanding.

 

Understanding different types of communication, views, attitudes and opinions that society, groups, people, consumers, clients, cultures, voters and customers have, with different preferences and ways of communicating, is essential for effective communication.    Accordingly, when we as a professional plan and prepare for communicating a message we must take all these elements or variables into account, if we want to achieve our purpose.

 

Reference List

 

Ferguson, N. 2010, Banking Not the Devil’s Domain, The Australian, Nationwide News P/L, Sydney.

Mohan T., McGregor H., Saunders S. & Archee R., 2008, Communicating as Professionals, 2nd Edition, Cengage Learning Australia P/L, Melbourne.