Soft Skills : The Way Forward for SMEs

By Saira Nikhat Imam on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2015

Business has changed. Business demands change with challenging and emerging needs. With change in business customers have changed too. Customers now demand respect and satisfaction for the services they avail from the business. To keep up with the expectations and satisfaction levels of the customers, organizations have enhanced their workplaces and turn them to customer-centric environments. This transformation of workplaces from being traditional offices to dynamic and customer-centric environments was never possible without the arrival of soft skills in the organizational environments.

Organizations having adopted and changed their model of work from traditional offices to customer-friendly environments to serve customers have succeeded. Those who failed to bring out this change onto their organizational shores have ceased to exist. The reasons are simple. The successful organizations have been able to incorporate soft skills as bible into their work culture. It is the bible of soft skills that have brought about profitability and revenues to the successful organizations.

There is a potential of high growth in small and medium enterprises sector, which can eventually help in raising the bar in economy of the country. This can easily be attributed to the development of soft skills. However, the incorporation of soft skills has always been a debatable issue. For example, IT/ITES companies, when started, claimed technical skills could take over soft skills since it is technical skills that are needed for the work and serve clients and customers and not the soft skills. But the fact of the matter is that in order to drive technical skills to accomplish a business process we require soft skills. This thought has now dawned upon the IT/ITES companies and there has been a paradigm of shift in thought in realization of soft skills as being the integral part of companies and their workplaces. That is why we see these MNCs hire training consultants and freelance trainers to cultivate soft skills in their environments.

An article on internet recently revealed that as per the World Bank Data 37% SME’s have skills gap, which primarily affect the overall growth. The main reason for the skills gap is the true search for the workforce. SME’S from different sectors have different updates with regard to getting the right candidate to the work. The possible encountered difficulties are sector specific. Let us touch one aspect of this problem. Fresh graduates seem to have strong inclination towards joining big companies instead of small and medium scale enterprises. As such these SMEs get deserted from this very potential source of manpower. This is a massive indicator for SMEs to become competitive because once they are competitive and on a path on being par with big companies they can easily attract fresh graduates and skilled manpower.

Now the million dollar question arises. How do they become competitive? These SMEs can become competitive by easily incorporating soft skills into their environments.

The research says that one needs cognitive skills complemented with non cognitive skills to do a job or task. These cognitive skills are what we call emotional or social skills or broadly soft skills such as team work, collaborative skills, ownership and responsibility, resilience, problem solving and critical thinking, presentation skills, communication skills, etc. It is nearly impossible to find these skills naturally in the present employees. And these are the skills, owing to which, the company progresses and generates profits and revenues. Therefore, once soft skills are nurtured and practiced in the SMEs workplaces these SMEs start to become competitive by delivering customer outcomes effectively and efficiently. When SMEs start delivering customer outcomes it brings out many positive changes.

  • The competitive gap between SMEs and MNCs start diminishing.
  • Employee job satisfaction at SMEs start increasing, which directly helps in retaining the skilled workforce.
  • Fresh graduates will show penchant in joining SMEs.

To sum it up it is not inventing or reinventing the wheel rather an adjustment in strategic initiative by SMEs that will make them a play a role in the country’s economy.

This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of 'SME WORLD’ magazine.


Saira Nikhat Imam, a Soft skills trainer by profession, is an enthusiast to create a niche for her in the corporate landscape. She is a dreamer and wants women pursue their dreams in all subjects.

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