Academic journal article The Journal of Research in Business Education

Essential Soft Skills for Success in the Twenty-First Century Workforce as Perceived by Business Educators

Academic journal article The Journal of Research in Business Education

Essential Soft Skills for Success in the Twenty-First Century Workforce as Perceived by Business Educators

Article excerpt

Abstract

Background: Soft skills describe career attributes that individuals should possess, such as team skills, communication skills, ethics, time-management skills, and an appreciation for diversity. In the twenty-first century workforce, soft skills are important in every business sector. However, employers in business continuously report that new employees are deficient in these soft skills. The literature suggests that more research is needed in the area of soft skills, to explore improved instructional methodologies that may be applied by business educators. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine Alabama business educators' perceptions of the importance of soft skills for success in the twenty-first century workforce. Method: Alabama business educators were surveyed to assess the importance of specific soft skills and how these skills affect success in the workforce. Results: A significant difference was found between the perceived importance of how specific soft skills affect success in the workforce and the location of school (city, county). Respondents perceived all eleven soft skills included in this study to be very important (M = ≥ 4.95 on a 1-6 scale) to success in the twenty-first century workforce. Conclusions: Alabama business educators consider soft skills to be important components of the business/marketing education curriculum. Alabama business educators' perceptions of the importance of soft skills transcend demographic factors. In addition, a hierarchy exists among Alabama business educators concerning the importance of selected soft skills. Implications: This study provides information that should be utilized by business educators to improve the skills of students entering the workforce.

Introduction

The twenty-first century workforce has experienced tremendous changes due to advances in technology; consequently, the "old way" of doing things may be effective but not efficient (Redmann & Kotrlik, 2004). The National Business Education Association (NBEA) stated that the shortage of skills confronting today's dynamic workforce goes beyond academic and hands-on occupational skills. Therefore, the best way to prepare potential employees for tomorrow's workforce is to develop not only technical but also human-relation abilities (Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education [PCBEE], 2000).

Perreault (2004) defined "soft skills" as personal qualities, attributes, or the level of commitment of a person that set him or her apart from other individuals who may have similar skills and experience. James and James (2004) agreed that "soft skills" is a new way to describe a set of abilities or talents that an individual can bring to the workplace. Soft skills characterize certain career attributes that individuals may possess such as team skills, communication skills, leadership skills, customer service skills, and problem solving skills (James & James). "Employers Value Communication and Interpersonal Skills" (2004) suggests that one who communicates effectively, gets along with others, embraces teamwork, takes initiative, and has a strong work ethic is considered to have an accomplished set of soft skills. Sutton (2002) found that soft skills are so important that employers identify them as "the number one differentiator" for job applicants in all types of industries (p. 40). According to Sutton, soft skills have become extremely important in all types of occupations. Glenn (2008) added that hiring individuals who possess soft skills is instrumental for high-performing organizations to retain a competitive edge. Wilhelm (2004) agreed and claimed that employers rate soft skills highest in importance for entry-level success in the workplace.

The literature supports the conclusion that soft skills proficiency is important to potential employers. However, many employees in business are reported to be deficient in soft skills. Furthermore, the literature revealed that research is needed in the area of soft skills so that improved instructional methodology may be developed and applied by business educators. …

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