Magazine article The Catalyst

Fundamental Work Skills: A Prerequisite for Performance

Magazine article The Catalyst

Fundamental Work Skills: A Prerequisite for Performance

Article excerpt

A large percentage of workers entering the workforce do not have the fundamental technical, business or interpersonal skills to become effective employees. And many currently employed workers lack the skills to earn promotions or even stay employed. To fill this critical and costly gap, many organizations are implementing fundamental skills training. First, however, they have to select the specific skills needed as well as delivery methods that will provide the greatest return for their investment.

In the early 1990s, a U.S. Department of Labor study found that more than half of the nation's young people were leaving school without the knowledge they needed to find and hold a job. Even more alarming, many knew little about such basic work-place demands as showing up on time and calling in when they are sick. Today, this situation continues to pose serious problems for organizational leaders.

Prioritizing needed skills

In a more recent study, AchieveGlobal asked trainers and managers in a variety of industries to rate the importance of 23 job-related communication skills for their organizations. Our findings were similar to those reported in other research. Here are some highlights:

Interpersonal relationships

Respondents rated "resolving issues with coworkers" and "maintaining good relationships" most important. Many said employees need to better understand how their actions affect coworkers and how their work habits directly relate to the success of the company.

Communication skills

"Communicating ideas," "listening for details" and "knowing when to ask for or offer help" were viewed as most critical.

Self-esteem and work ethic

Nearly all respondents indicated the following as important factors for success:

* accepting responsibilities

* showing respect for self and others

* remaining focused amid change and challenge

* taking pride in a job well done

* managing work priorities

* managing personal growth

A common concern was that many entry-level workers have had little exposure to the real world of work. Often, they have unrealistic salary expectations and tend to make assumptions about career planning and promotion. And even experienced line and staff-support workers may not be prepared to cope with today's changing work environments, overcome obstacles and solve problems.

What trainees are saying

To examine the effectiveness of this type of training, AchieveGlobal asked participants in its new fundamental skills program to describe personal obstacles and assess the training's value in helping them overcome these barriers. The respondents, from a variety of work, educational and vocational settings, cited their personal deficiencies in basic communication, interpersonal, coping or problem-solving skills.

One trainee explained that he didn't know how to handle confrontations. Training in communication skills and how to handle disagreements helped him to better understand another person's point of view so he wouldn't be creating uncomfortable situations.

Another participant described an ongoing conflict with another employee that resulted in both losing their jobs. She commented that if she had had the training earlier, they might have been able to "talk it out."

A team leader in a corporate shipping department explained that the training helped him improve communication and team skills and be more effective in his job.

Some participants said their coworkers needed the training. A corporate mailroom employee described some of the people he works with as "just there to get in their eight hours. …

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