Senior managers or those aspiring for managerial positions must become equipped with content knowledge, computer skills, data analysis and language skills, as well as teamwork, problem-solving skills and work ethics.
School of Business & Administration (SBA) Dean Prakash V Arumugam was delivering an online talk on “Hard Skills versus Soft Skills: What Employers Really Desire?”, organised today by SBA and the Penang Regional Centre, and attended by over 50 people.
He highlighted the findings of a preliminary survey conducted on 8 employers with a sizable workforce. They were employers of his students pursuing postgraduate studies via open distance learning at WOU.
He said employers wanted their senior managers or those being trained to move up the organisation to possess the following hard skills -content knowledge (e.g. finance, accounting, HR), computer skills (computer literacy and information systems), data analysis and language skills (effective communication).
“Managers must understand how information systems of the entire organisation work so that when a technical person explains something, they understand the rationale behind it. That helps them make decisions,” Prakash remarked. Meanwhile data analysis will enable the managers to make sense of data, thus providing access to critical information, he added.
He shared that the soft skills indicated by the employers surveyed were teamwork, work ethics and problem-solving skills. He said problem-solving skills and critical thinking go hand in hand. “Work ethics was one of the most important things that employers mentioned. If you make a mistake, own it. Don’t look for excuses.”
Work ethics encompass being punctual, being thorough, tolerating different views, working without much supervision, willing to learn and accept corrections, working under pressure, and paying attention to details.
He said for a business to thrive, there must be a synergy between hard skills and soft skills. “So our role as educationists is to ensure that the curriculum for business education should have information systems, communication skills, hardcore skills, ethics, and so on.”
Prakash informed that his preliminary survey found many at junior to middle managerial-level positions to still lack the required technical, problem-solving and communication skill sets.
He said that the 2019 Graduates Tracer Study conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education showed that 116,161 graduates will be unemployed towards end of 2020 due to a lack of certain skill sets.
He also pointed out that the 21st century skills often listed for the workforce in Malaysia are critical thinking (includes problem-solving), communication, collaboration (includes leadership, initiative, cooperation, responsibility), creativity and work ethics.
He stressed that hard skills can be trained through certificate-level, degree or professional development programmes which can deliver content-specific skills, whereas soft skills are more experiential and environmental.
Prakash encouraged those aspiring to climb up the corporate ladder to take up the Commonwealth Executive MBA (CeMBA) programme at WOU.