Skills Currently Needed in Businesses and Future Career

Soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, leadership, problem solving, are needed much more today that in the past due to the increased complexity of the work environment. These skills are generally defined as personal skills, as they are behaviour patterns that help people socialize well with others, and they are in contrast with hard skills, which include the knowledge gain from past experiences and technical skills needed to successfully execute a job (Ritter et al., 2018).

The aim of this paper is to conduct an investigation into skills currently needed/lacking in businesses by interviewing one business person who either has a managerial position or has more than 5 years of experience in the business world, in this case the person is Gemma Dubberly, currently front office manager at Holiday Inn Southampton Hotel. Once the interview is conducted and transcribed, some of the topics will be analysed in order to summarize the interviewee’s ideas, and finally all the above will be compared and contrasted to some of the Key Skills for Business (MANG1017) lectures, which took place at University of Southampton, during the second semester of 2017/2018 academic year.

The following is a part of the transcript of the interview that will be analysed as the full transcript will be found in the appendix (1):

Q: It is known that many students don’t feel prepared for the work place. Based on your experience what skills should future employees have?

A:I’m not sure if its necessary skills, but having that “want to work”, realizing that you have to start sometimes at the ground and work your way up, I did a degree in Hospitality, so I did sort of hit the ground running a little bit, but I worked at the age of 14 as a waitress, so I have done the base understanding of what it takes to work in the industry. I think patience will take a little bit of time to learn what you need to know in order to do the job successfully, even just showing up on time, as a lot of new members and staff we have don’t have that sort of drive to just arrive at work and not calling sick.

Q: Is it true that hiring a young person is a risky move? If yes, why?

A: If they haven’t done the job before, then of course it is risk. If you recruit anybody who haven’t done the job before regardless of their age then is a risk, you have to train them from the scratch, but sometimes that can be a benefit because you haven’t got any preconceived ideas about how you should do the job and if you have got the time to train that person from the scratch, then the end product is actually better than somebody who has come into the job with previous ideas from previous experiences.

Q: Would you be willing to invest time and resources in training?

A: Yes, I VERY MUCH TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN, but unfortunately at the moment we had two members of staff start and we hadn’t time to train them properly and I am seeing the outcomes of that, but I think that if you spend the time doing a proper induction with somebody and then having a proper training plan where you are outlining exactly what they are supposed to do and how to do it, then the outcome will be much more positive.

Q: Can lack of experience influence your choice when hiring a person?

A:It does, lack of experience does have an impact because especially in hospitality you don’t always have the time to train people, I think shifts play quite a negative part on training, because you have got different things to do at different times in the day, is not a 09.00 to 17.00 work, every start of your shift is like this and every end of your shift is like that, you have got different starts and different ends. I think you are always working with different people who may be doing things slightly differently, and you as a manager are not always working with your full team, so communicating change is always more difficult, and I think when you have got somebody coming into the team that hasn’t got those skills you almost have to not include them in your team as in they are your shadow, they are under your arm for the first four weeks until they have got the skills, but in hospitality there is not the finance to be able to do that.

Q: What kind of employees tend to have success in your company?

A: Hard working ones, with enthusiasm, and it’s not necessarily the brightest people that come from the background of hospitality, but people are willing to try their hardest and give the best their attempt to succeed. Hospitality, in particular, isn’t for everybody, and I think there is a lot of people that sort of tried it out and then go “Okay, nope, it is not for me” and move on. That is absolutely fine, but people who are working in the industry, who actually want to stay in the industry, you can tell from the effort that they put in and the care that they give on the work. That’s the people who succeed.

Q: What are some of the soft skills you reinforce in your team members?

A: Communication, which is really important because of the shift work, what you deal with needs to be communicated to the rest of the team, so if that guest comes back on a later date, you have the information. So, communication is very important, and the teamwork in terms of making sure that what you do has a positive impact on the job, so we are preparing today for what happens tomorrow, rather than leaving tomorrow for tomorrow to deal with.

Q: How valuable is, in your opinion, an internship for a student? What skills can he/she develop?

A: Internships give people valuable insight into that industry, so on paper they may think they like the idea to talk to guests all day, like for example in hospitality or retail, but actually when you stood on your feet for 9 hours or 6 hours during an internship shift does not seem quite as rosy, and I think actually being in the workplace and talking to colleagues gives you a better understanding compared to just seeing the job description on a paper, so I think internships are a really good idea.

Q: How can students make an impact while doing an internship at a specific company?

A: I think a positive attitude is the best thing people can come in to and willingness to learn, as we had students in the past that arrived thinking that they have been forced to do the internship and didn’t actually want to work in the industry. They didn’t show any willingness to learn what we were showing them, they had no interest, they were playing on their phones rather than paying attention to what they are doing.

Q: Many think that business skills should be introduced in schools. Do you agree with that or do you believe that there are some skills that should be gained by working?

A: It depends on what industry you are going into, I think hospitality is more stuff that you get from working, having said that I think people need to have numeracy skills and literacy skills. These are basics, but we got people starting with us that can’t write an email, have spelling mistakes, we still use paper notes and some of them have a poor English level and their notes confuse the others. I think these skills are more important than ones related to business in hospitality.

Q: What should young people outline in their CV’s in order to impress you?

A: Outline what skills they have developed from their experiences, for example from volunteering or group work they have done while studying, even at university. For me, I get a lot of CV’s that only include the name of their persons and their address details. Make sure that you actually filled out all of the questions, so the recruiter gets all the information. If you don’t care enough to fill out all of these boxes, why should I care to recruit you? It is really hard when you haven’t got necessarily a whole lot skill in the sector, but I am always looking for that person statement of why they are looking to move in to hospitality and what they think they will bring to it.

Q: What kind of skills lack in today’s candidates?

A: Numeracy, literacy, attention to detail, being unable to focus on what they are doing. In hospitality it is about multitasking, so you should be able to answer the phone and talk to the guests at the same time. I think sometimes it depends on the characters, but lots of students we have coming in to hospitality are quite overwhelmed by the amount of things they have to do at the same time.

Considering all above, there is an increase need for soft skills as success in the labour market depends on possessing this kind of skills. Gemma said that people that are successful in her field are not those who have a background in the specific field but those who are willing to succeed. In addition, as Dr. Andy Wible, an instructor of philosophy and currently chair of the Arts and Humanities Department at Muskegon Community College, said during a TEDx Talk soft skills are learnable, teachable, transferable and foundational for any job and any field (Wible, 2015). They represent learned behaviour based on individual’s predispositions, acquired skills and not to psychological traits or other predispositions (Balcar, 2016). A person who thinks creatively, solves problems easily, communicates clearly and sensitively is more likely to adapt to today’s business world as they act ethically and build trust with those around them. These skills give lots of benefits to a person as they can be used not only at the work-place but also in the society (Wible, 2015).

During the interview Gemma also added that there are some skills which lack today’s future employees, such as attention to detail and being able to focus. These are personal characteristics of a single individual and they might seem not that important, but from the point of view of the interviewee they are essential in order to be able to communicate and work as part of a team. Also, she believes that a person can be trained when they don’t have the required skills and is very dedicated to training young people and helping them be more adaptable as today, when talking about jobs, nothing is certain. In fact, when hiring a person, employers look for both hard skills, acquired knowledge and qualifications, and soft skills. Both types of skills influence the productivity of individuals but from the employers’ point a view soft skills make the difference (Balcar, 2016). Even when talking about internships these skills are increasingly becoming more and more essential as Gemma showed in the interview.

Another element discussed in the interview was how a potential future employee presents their skills to the employer. Gemma underlined the fact that when she has to make a decision about a CV she considers the writing skills and the presentation skills. Presentation skills are becoming a vital tool in the work place (Shekhawat and Bakilapadavu, 2017). The way a person speaks, engage with others, their body language are only a few elements analysed by employer when hiring.

Hard and soft skills together is professional competence of an individual which allows to get the most suitable job. Soft skills are also known as employability skills and it has become imperative to create technical courses to help increase the employability of students. As Gemma said communication, team work and adaptability are essential in any work environment and she believes that these skills can only be gained by working in the field a person is interested in. As a matter of fact, this is the main objective of Key Skills for Business (MANG1017) is to teach student what soft skills are and how to develop them. The topics discussed were presentation skills, decision making, future careers, ethics and the balance in the family and work lives.

When talking about internships, Gemma underlined that students finally understand the work environment and how difficult it is to adapt to various scenarios. In fact, another essential skill is the ability of an individual to balance its private and personal lives. She very often met people who were not able to multitask and focus only on the tasks they were given. Individuals are equally involved in their work role and their family role and they should be equally satisfied with both these situations in order to be more productive and work better (Greenhaus, Collins and Shaw, 2003).

A team has a common goal and it could be to improve sales of a product, increase staff motivation or solve a specific problem (Kamin, 2013). Gemma believes that the most important skill in her field is communication. Communication is what makes a team be successful and it improves the productivity of all departments of a company due to the fact they all work towards a common goal. In addition, the skills should include listening and responding in a receptive way to others’ points of view; in fact, during a Keys skills lecture, a guest speaker Leigh Johnstone from Fluidmotion Theatre talked about the importance of how others perceive another persons’ opinion. His idea was that feedback, given or received, must be constructive. Also, the ability to be flexible and take positive action in situations that require understanding of the circumstance is important as Gemma also said.

In conclusion, what really counts for employers are not only hard skills or soft skills but a mix of both of these skills. Some believe that soft skills are the skills that employers look for as they show a person ’s ability to communicate effectively and build relationships with others in a team context. In recent years due to the global economy companies have invested more in soft skills as they are critical to be successful. Generally speaking soft skills are becoming more and more important as many people still do not have them, but hard skills should also not be forgotten. A person should have the necessary skills to socialise with others and the knowledge to achieve maximum productivity as both types of skills increase an individual’s productivity. There are still some skills lacking in today’s employees but as said before hard-work and willingness are the key elements that will determine if a person can or cannot gain the needed skills.

Reference

  1. Balcar, J. (2016) ‘Is it better to invest in hard or soft skills?’, The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 27(4), pp. 453–470. doi: 10.1177/1035304616674613.
  2. Greenhaus, J. H., Collins, K. M. and Shaw, J. D. (2003) ‘The relation between work–family balance and quality of life’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 53(3), pp. 510–531.
  3. Kamin, M. (2013) Soft Skills Revolution : A Guide for Connecting with Compassion for Trainers, Teams, and Leaders, Center for Creative Leadership.
  4. Ritter, B. A. et al. (2018) ‘Designing Management Curriculum for Workplace Readiness: Developing Students’ Soft Skills’, Journal of Management Education, 42(1), pp. 80–103. doi: 10.1177/1052562917703679.
  5. Shekhawat, S. and Bakilapadavu, G. (2017) ‘Teaching Soft Skills to Engineering Students: A Case Study of BITS, Pilani’, The IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 11(1), pp. 29–35. Available at: http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/presentation101.htm (Accessed: 6 March 2018).
  6. Wible, A. (2015) ‘Strengthening Soft Skills’, in. TEDx Talks. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkLsn4ddmTs&t=1s.

 

Appendix (1)

The following is the full transcript of the interview with Gemma Dubberly, currently front office manager at Holiday Inn Southampton Hotel concerning skills currently needed/lacking in businesses.

Q: How valuable is, in your opinion, an internship for a student? What skills can he/she develop?

A: Internships give people valuable insight into that industry, so on paper they may think they like the idea to talk to guests all day, like for example in hospitality or retail, but actually when you stood on your feet for 9 hours or 6 hours during an internship shift does not seem quite as rosy, and I think actually being in the workplace and talking to colleagues gives you a better understanding compared to just seeing the job description on a paper, so I think internships are a really good idea.

Q: How can students make an impact while doing an internship at a specific company?

A: I think a positive attitude is the best thing people can come in to and willingness to learn, as we had students in the past that arrived thinking that they have been forced to do the internship and didn’t actually want to work in the industry. They didn’t show any willingness to learn what we were showing them, they had no interest, they were playing on their phones rather than paying attention to what they are doing.

Q: It is known that many students don’t feel prepared for the work place. Based on your experience what skills should future employees have?

A:I’m not sure if its necessary skills, but having that “want to work”, realizing that you have to start sometimes at the ground and work your way up, I did a degree in Hospitality, so I did sort of hit the ground running a little bit, but I worked at the age of 14 as a waitress, so I have done the base understanding of what it takes to work in the industry. I think patience will take a little bit of time to learn what you need to know in order to do the job successfully, even just showing up on time, as a lot of new members and staff we have don’t have that sort of drive to just arrive at work and not calling sick.

Q: Is it true that hiring a young person is a risky move? If yes, why?

A: If they haven’t done the job before, then of course it is risk. If you recruit anybody who haven’t done the job before regardless of their age then is a risk, you have to train them from the scratch, but sometimes that can be a benefit because you haven’t got any preconceived ideas about how you should do the job and if you have got the time to train that person from the scratch, then the end product is actually better than somebody who has come into the job with previous ideas from previous experiences.

Q: Would you be willing to invest time and resources in training?

A: Yes, I VERY MUCH TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN, but unfortunately at the moment we had two members of staff start and we hadn’t time to train them properly and I am seeing the outcomes of that, but I think that if you spend the time doing a proper induction with somebody and then having a proper training plan where you are outlining exactly what they are supposed to do and how to do it, then the outcome will be much more positive.

Q: Can lack of experience influence your choice when hiring a person?

A:It does, lack of experience does have an impact because especially in hospitality you don’t always have the time to train people, I think shifts play quite a negative part on training, because you have got different things to do at different times in the day, is not a 09.00 to 17.00 work, every start of your shift is like this and every end of your shift is like that, you have got different starts and different ends. I think you are always working with different people who may be doing things slightly differently, and you as a manager are not always working with your full team, so communicating change is always more difficult, and I think when you have got somebody coming into the team that hasn’t got those skills you almost have to not include them in your team as in they are your shadow, they are under your arm for the first four weeks until they have got the skills, but in hospitality there is not the finance to be able to do that.

Q: How was the recruitment process when you started working?

A: When I started working, it was a friend of my family who recruited me in a small hotel where my grandmother worked a long time ago. It wasn’t really a recruitment process, we sat down and had a chat about why I wanted to have a part-time job working in a hotel. I was working in the restaurant, I was able to go behind the bar, bring the food from the kitchen to the table and then clean the empties. That was my job, and I got paid 2.20 GBP per hour. When I did my internship in America, it was a phone-call interview, as they didn’t use Skype for interviews back in 2001, and when I got my first full-time job after university, it was a two staged interview where I went to London to meet the manager and then I had to go to Jersey, because I worked there, to meet four different managers. It was more a casual conversation, rather than a structured interview, but it was, I think that my interview was structured differently, depending on the industry, so I think in hospitality my interview was structured in order to look like a casual conversation.

Q: Many think that business skills should be introduced in schools. Do you agree with that or do you believe that there are some skills that should be gained by working?

A: It depends on what industry you are going into, I think hospitality is more stuff that you get from working, having said that I think people need to have numeracy skills and literacy skills. These are basics, but we got people starting with us that can’t write an email, have spelling mistakes, we still use paper notes and some of them have a poor English level and their notes confuse the others. I think these skills are more important than ones related to business in hospitality.

Q: What kind of skills lack in today’s candidates?

A: Numeracy, literacy, attention to detail, being unable to focus on what they are doing. In hospitality it is about multitasking, so you should be able to answer the phone and talk to the guests at the same time. I think sometimes it depends on the characters, but lots of students we have coming in to hospitality are quite overwhelmed by the amount of things they have to do at the same time.

Q: How could you describe the work ethic of your company?

A: To be honest, you need to work hard, here at Holiday Inn the owners are trying to get us to do everything as cheap as possible but still provide the best services. The work ethic here is to make as much as we can to help everybody out, so what we do has an impact on all the other departments, so we try to make a positive impact rather than a negative one.

Q: What kind of employees tend to have success in your company?

A: Hard working ones, with enthusiasm, and it’s not necessarily the brightest people that come from the background of hospitality, but people are willing to try their hardest and give the best their attempt to succeed. Hospitality, in particular, isn’t for everybody, and I think there is a lot of people that sort of tried it out and then go “Okay, nope, it is not for me” and move on. That is absolutely fine, but people who are working in the industry, who actually want to stay in the industry, you can tell from the effort that they put in and the care that they give on the work. That’s the people who succeed.

Q: What are some of the soft skills you reinforce in your team members?

A: Communication, which is really important because of the shift work, what you deal with needs to be communicated to the rest of the team, so if that guest comes back on a later date, you have the information. So, communication is very important, and the teamwork in terms of making sure that what you do has a positive impact on the job, so we are preparing today for what happens tomorrow, rather than leaving tomorrow for tomorrow to deal with.

Q: How do you appreciate contributions to team goals?

A: We have incentives here, so if our team meets goals, then the whole team gets paid out, but obviously with certain aspects, for example when we get people enrolled into our award scheme, then its individual achievements that get paid out individually, so as long as we all achieve the goals as a team, then individually people will get benefits according to how much they contributed to that, and I am a big believer in cake, so if we have got a celebration because something good happened, then there is cake involved.

Q: What should young people outline in their CV’s in order to impress you?

A: Outline what skills they have developed from their experiences, for example from volunteering or group work they have done while studying, even at university. For me, I get a lot of CV’s that only include the name of their persons and their address details. Make sure that you actually filled out all of the questions, so the recruiter gets all the information. If you don’t care enough to fill out all of these boxes, why should I care to recruit you? It is really hard when you haven’t got necessarily a whole lot skill in the sector, but I am always looking for that person statement of why they are looking to move in to hospitality and what they think they will bring to it.

Q: Did you ever have to deal with interns who are not willing to work but still try to convince them that they should do that?

A: It’s more sort of year 11 students, rather than people studying leisure and tourism, year 11 just want to find a work placement are more difficult to get enthused and you explain them that they may not want to work in the industry, but they can develop skills that can be used in several other areas.