Introduction This paper will discuss training and development of employees and focus on soft skills. This will be compare the literature with case studies and conclude on the benefits of training in organisations. Skills of employees are broken down into two main headings, hard (technical) that allow them to perform the tasks that make up the role, and soft skills that encourage interactions, with colleagues, peers and customers.
This paper has concluded that both skills need to be present to gain the most from the customer relationship, although soft skills will increase the benefit of hard skills, they allow the communication of technical skills. Soft skills are the interaction between individuals, which includes communication and empowerment, autonomy and decision making. Soft skills are discussed as the last competitive edge organisations can posses, that add value. This skills are difficult to assess, many are already present in employees, but not nurtured.
The theorist during the early 1990’s discussed soft skills from a management perspective; it was discussed as the hidden value (or skill) that organisations could offer. This perspective has now changed, to one of marketing theory, discussed in areas such as relationship marketing and customer value. This is opinion by marketers is that by encouraging soft skills in employees it will add value to the product. Marketing theory discusses that customer loyalty can offer the organisation repeat business; this is valuable as it utilises economies of scale, lowering marketing and production costs.
This is a cost effective method to maintain and increase business, leading to a higher level of revenue, but it requires the organisation understanding what the customer requires from this relationship. The question raised at this point, is should customer loyalty be taken for granted, or can it be effected by actions from the organisation, therefore should it have resources ploughed into it. Can employees be trained to meet the needs of the customer? Can organisations build on this through skill utilisation of the human resource, can training affect the relationship, and will lack of training have a negative affect on this.
The skills that are needed are classified as soft, in contrast to the hard technical skills that are required for job performance. At first the area researched was the customer’s opinion of their loyalty, why they made repeat purchases and what actually influenced their decisions. This area proved subjective, they enjoyed the experience of purchasing, and often attributed to the organisations representative. It then followed to look at the skills of organisations in further depth, studying the skills of their representatives, and how the training and developing of soft skills could add to this relationship.
Literature states that the evaluation of training is neglected, although it must be noted that there is no universal method that can be employed. Evaluation of training is a subjective area, with various factors that impinge on the successful transfer of new skills. Numerous organisations were contacted, but the response level was low, therefore it was decided to review soft skills within three organisations, as an interaction with both colleagues and ultimately customers. The three organisations that were chosen are all in different industry sections and in different stages of the life cycle.
The first organisation agreed to the research, but then became reluctant to disclosure further information. The organisations felt that the economic position they were in would not be helped by a report written into the possible causes, although, it was stressed this was not the purpose of the paper. It was agreed to keep the organisation anonymous, but meant that their accounts could not be discussed in relation to training. To maintain neutrality throughout the paper all three organisations would study in the same method.
This focussed the paper on utilisation of soft skills, the amount of training invested in them and the ultimate benefit to the organisation. The paper concludes individually on all three organisations. Assessing their levels of commitment to skills training, the value they place in this, and the culture that encourages the transfer of skills. The main conclusions are drawn from this section. 3. 0 Aims and objectives The aim of this paper is to study the value of soft skills training in terms of attracting repeat customers and increasing company profits.
This aim is wide, to allow for other discussion which after reviewing the literature review and case studies, will appear relevant to the paper. The first objective is to determine the extent to which training can improve the soft skills of employees that are customer facing, combining this with practical experience. In terms of being combined with experience, it may be useful to study whether training before extensive experience of dealing with customers is more effective than training employees who already have significant experience. Do employees get stuck in their ways and find it harder to change.
Although it must be noted that the organisational structure and culture will have a direct affect on level of transfer of new skills. The second objective will be to determine to what extent employee and managerial soft skills can influence the tendency of customers to become repeat, and potentially loyal, customers. Again, soft skills will only be one potential factor influencing customer choices, and it will be necessary to attempt to determine the impacts of the other aspects of the marketing mix: price, promotion, place and product.
It is hypothesized that there will be certain combinations of the various aspects that will have the desired effect; however this may vary according to customer demographics. The third objective will be to determine the extent to which soft skills can be converted to company profits, as a result of gaining more customers, and repeat customers, and how this is affected by company training policies and expenditure. In other words, the data will be used to attempt to discover if expenditure on soft skills training actually produces significant rewards for a company.
It will be necessary to study several organisations who have invested in soft skills training programs, and attempt to determine the perceived improvement in the soft skills of their employees. This should also be compare against an organisation that have not invested in soft skill training, to contrast the skills of the employees. The areas that will be examined will involve the structure, culture, leadership and training programmes within the organisations.
These findings will be compared to the literature review and a marketing database Factiva to determine the importance customers place on the soft skills of company employees. Surveys of customers were considered; however they may produce even more distorted results, as many customers are unsure of their personal reasons why they make repeat purchases. The surveying of organisations will determine their expenditure on training, both in time and capital, and focus on soft skills. This should be discussed with the value they place on the customer and the level of repeat business they expect.