1 Introduction & Background
Business concerns with people. It’s about communication, coordination and relationship. Although business success is based upon logical acts and thoughts, the human element cannot be ignored (Armstrong, 2006). That’s why strong soft skills are vitally important. Organisations and businesses are established with one thing in mind that is to earn revenue for their stakeholders. Revenue is earned by selling products or providing services to its customers and clients. Businesses flourish because they have products or services to sell which their customers buy in return for profits. To compete or to survive in the competitive business environment, it’s critical for any organization to satisfy the customer needs. Service is often considered an important aspect of satisfaction of customer as well as a significant contribution. Customer satisfaction is an important aspect for business profitability (Armstrong, 2006). It is the satisfaction of the customers that keep them loyal and any good service provided by the organisation help it to retain customers that in turn ends in high profitability. Increased competition and customer expectations have forced the companies to frequently provide good customer value and service. This has pressurised the businesses to focus more on customer satisfaction (Gerson, 1993).
According to Phillips (1991), customer service is the base for a flourishing business and training is the service’s cornerstone. Quality product with just price attracts customers but it is not enough. Organisations came to realize that consumers’ decision to buy this product also depends upon the service or treatment that he/she has received. The importance of customer satisfaction is also a key element in service only industry. That’s why a strong emphasis has been put on soft skills and organisations lay a great importance for employees to acquire soft skills specially the ones who deal with customers. With the growing significance on quickly intensifying service sector; organisations recognized the soft skills’ importance and they are paying special attention to the softer side of their interaction with consumers. Training of employees especially in soft skills is vital for any organisation and it helps in overall employee improvement as well as development. The need and value for soft skills development for employees has always been accepted by many organisations (Guirdham, 1999). Training also contributes towards development of employees and and plays an important role in their satisfaction. It helps to acquire new skills or polish the existing ones (Green, 2001). Organisational structures are influenced by customer oriented market and constantly changing environment that is leading the organisations to rely on soft skills training for employees. Organisation structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees. It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities. Culture of an organization also plays an important part in assessing the needs and requirements for training and development. It also puts a positive pressure on organizational behavior and influences it. It also helps in producing high level of business performance. Culture is what makes an organisation unique and that differentiate it from other organizations. The stronger the culture is, the more effective the organization.
Training equips organization with flexibility and durability required for growth and survival. Environmental pressures forces an organisation towards change. Training provides adaptability to change and answer to the challenge on how to adjust to change (Ulrich, 1998). Change and training is worthless if employees are not involved properly. Employees are regarded the most valued assets especially which are skilled in soft skills, as the nature of business changes. When organizational change occurs, major alteration and modifications in the policy of the management need to be reflected in the training theory. It is very essential for any organization to realize its environment’s dynamics and adjust to the changing requirements the internal or external environment (Bhattacharyya, 2007). Leadership is necessary for creating change and can produce orderly change. Leaders are expected to focus on taking the organization forward. Leadership in today’s environment is a tough business. Organizational leaders face a number of significant challenges as their jobs and the world around them become increasingly complex (Murphy and Riggio, 2003). In business, a rapidly shifting economic environment, changing demands of customers and increasing market competition has become normal. To compete, business leaders must continuously increase their performance by any measure.
Organisations should work to assure that people in the company work flexibly in the response to change. Trained employees will respond positively to the change and employees that are skilled with both hard and soft skills can work more effectively in achieving organisational overall objectives. Studies have found a relationship between organisation’s productivity and employee satisfaction and also between satisfaction of employees and customers (Allen and Wilburn,). Satisfied employees can generate satisfied customers. Valued and satisfied employees make more contributions to the organization’s performance. They are more productive and work more effectively. If they are satisfied with their job and working conditions, they will serve the customer needs more carefully and efficiently.
To get an accurate picture of the service quality delivered; an organisation measure customer satisfaction and experience. Customer satisfaction measurement is about how customer perceives an organization’s performance. Measuring customer satisfaction helps in finding out customer needs and determining customers’ problems. It also assists in improving product and quality of service that in turn leads to more satisfaction of customers. As with customer satisfaction measurement, training evaluation is equally important. Training evaluation is a way to gather information by which the organizations make decisions about training actions (Armstrong, 2008). Businesses apply evaluation of performance appraisal to calculate work performance and effectiveness of an employee, which can help in defining and developing training needs for the organisations.
1.2 Study Purpose
The main idea of this dissertation is to investigate the soft skills importance for organisations working in the constantly changing customer oriented market. The significance of soft skills training for customer focused organisations was never felt before. Growing economical environment and customers’ high expectations forced the organizations to recognise the need of soft skills and soft skills training for employees (Muir, 2004). The other reasons for writing this research paper include examining companies’ relations with employees and consumers and its effect on satisfaction level of customers. The research focuses on employee’s soft skills development relating to changing nature of organisation culture. Effects of internal and external environmental factors on organisations functions and policies are also discussed. This paper also examined and argued on roles and responsibilities of HR professionals like HR managers for planning and developing HR strategies and policies. Aspects of leadership are considered in details, like leading through change, motivating in employee relations and influencing during training and development.
The writer has evaluated and related literature review with case-studies of Mobilezone Ltd and United Mobiles Ltd and concluded on the training and developing soft skills benefits and subsequent effects on employee and customer satisfaction. The research paper has analyzed critically on the training of soft skills and its impact on its staff and consumers. In the end the researcher has assessed customer satisfaction and evaluated training by use of research methodologies. The writer has tried to take several authors’ views on above mentioned subjects. Authors’ ideas and theories are not only mentioned but debated. The researcher provided point of view of different writers and counter arguments of some scholars on related.
1.3 Company’s Overview
The organisations selected for this dissertation are in the growing stages with different structures, cultures, and management and leadership styles. Their approaches towards customer satisfaction by training employees in soft skills differ from one another. Both companies are leading mobile phone sellers and service providers in Delhi region of India. The names of the companies are Mobilezone Ltd and United Mobiles Ltd. Both the companies are new to this field. They started their business and launched their operations with the growing demand for telecommunication sector in India.
1.3.1 Mobilezone Ltd
Mobile Zone was established in 2002 with the vision of bringing top mobile brands, latest products, and to provide high quality services. It provides quality products of top mobile phone brands in India. Unlike its competitors, it planned its entry with a thorough and careful market research and its employees were well trained before the business actually started. In just 7 years of its existence, it gained a good market share and enjoys a commanding position in mobile phone market in Capital region. With main office in the heart of the city, it has presence in many other areas of Delhi through sales and service centres. Apart from providing services face to face it deals with customer problems and queries via call centre. It employees highly qualified and trained sales and service staff. There are total of 150 employees in the main office and service centres.
1.3.2 United Mobiles Ltd
United Mobiles Ltd has also started their business in 2002 just a moth prior to its competitor. In contrast to its competitor, it was fairly new to this business and its staff had little experience in this business field. It also enjoys a market share in the area and earns good profits. Just like its competitors it has sales and service centres in different parts of the city. Its call centre is located in the main office. It employees around 100 staff at main office and service centres (excluding cleaning and maintenance jobs).
1.4 Selection of Topic
Research was undertaken before deciding which topic area to select. After initial research on wide range of topics, discussions of ideas with colleagues and friends, browsing internet and libraries, exploring different dissertation of previous years and finally weighing opinions and careful thinking; the researcher narrowed down the topic and selected this specific research. The main motive for selecting the topic was that this covered a lot of subjects within, and extensive data material was available from different sources. The other reasons include the researcher’s own personal experience in the field and work experience in one of the companies; and the available ease for carrying out data collection research.
1.5 Project paper usefulness
The research project can be useful for reference purposes for later projects and studies by the students. This research was conducted with the management help, so this study can also be useful for comparing companies’ results with its updated analysis. The companies can use it as a guideline to take improvement measures and modifications. The theory and research of this paper can also be of some assistance for companies and other researcher alike.
1.6 Aim and objectives
Aim: To study and examine the importance of training soft skills in organisations in terms of customer satisfaction.
- Following are the research objectives:
- Examine and analyze the existing literature on employee training and development with specific focus on soft skills and customer satisfaction. Summarize the main subject matter of the findings and provide recommendations to the company on the conclusion.
- Determine the extent employees’ soft skills can be improved by training; and the degree of influence of skilled employees on the tendency of customers.
- Appreciate the contribution of internal and external factors towards skills training and development.
- Evaluate training and measure employee and customer satisfaction using available research methods.
1.7 Layout of research paper
Chapter 1 is research paper introduction. The background and overview of the research undertaken, has been given by the writer. Research purpose, objectives, usefulness of the research paper, selection of topic and company’s overview has been proposed.
Chapter 2 encompasses the review of literature that includes the body of discussion. This section has further been divided into parts which are related and relevant. Research of soft skills, training and development, change, organisation’s structure and culture, HR professionals and leaders’ roles and responsibilities, employee relations and customer satisfaction; has been put forward and discussed and explained in details. This section has been critically analyzed, taking into account different perspectives. Different scholars and writer’s work has been taken into account, and comments and arguments were put forward by the researcher.
Chapter 3 consists of review of methodology. Different research methods which could have been useful are discussed and weighed. Selection of appropriate methods and reasons for selection and rejection of research methods are presented in summary. Arguments and benefits for selected methods are also given. Sampling, tools of research, designs, models and other related techniques are also explained in this section.
Chapter 4 comprises data analysis that the researcher collected and its significance in terms of reaching the explicit conclusions. Data gathered from interviews, questionnaires and other sources is analysed critically analysed. All the results are presented graphically. Comparison o results are also made in this section.
Chapter 5 is summary, conclusions and recommendations. All the data in first 4 chapters has been summarised and concluded in this chapter, drawing together the threads of research project and the main things found out in data collection. Recommendations has been proposed after taking into consideration all the summarised research that gives detailed insight into the related research criteria. The researcher has also highlighted the areas the companies can focus in future to improve its business performance.
2 Literature Review:
Organisations survive, grow and earn profits by meeting the needs and requirement of customers. To survive in the ever changing environment, it is critical for any organisation to satisfy the needs of the customers (Mullins, 2007). Consumers’ decision to buy this product also depends upon the service or treatment provided by the company. That’s why companies put a great emphasis on its employees training of skills as well as continuous development over the years; especially for the ones which provide service directly or interact with customers often. Organisations have started emphasising on soft skills importance for services and they are laying a great importance for employees to acquire soft skills. Training of employees in soft skills is vital for any organisation as it aid in employee development (Guirdham, 1999).
Customer oriented market and changing environment has influence on the organization structure that leads to increased reliance on skills development. Organisation structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees (Armstrong, 2008). It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities. Organisational structures are influenced by customer oriented market and constantly changing environment that is leading to more dependence on soft skills training for employees. Culture of an organization also plays an important part in assessing the needs and requirements for training and development. It also puts a positive pressure on organizational behavior and influences it. It also helps in producing high level of business performance. Change and training is worthless if employees are not involved properly (Armstrong, 2008). Employees are regarded the most valued assets especially which are skilled in soft skills, as the business nature organization itself changes. The role of managers and leaders are very important in development of employees. Leadership is necessary for creating change and can produce orderly change. Leaders are expected to focus on taking the organization forward. To get an accurate picture of the service quality delivered; an organisation measure customer satisfaction and experience (Bratton and Gold, 2001). Training is also evaluated to measure the employee work performance and effectiveness (Beardwell et al. 2007).
2.2. Training and Development
Armsrtong (2008) defines employee development as a process to prepare organization employees for future responsibilities related to job. This may include training (formal or informal, mentoring, education, coaching etc. Training and development of employees is a HRM activity. HRM is concerned with personnel management and staff development in a company and is normally carried out by HR professionals e.g. HR managers (Armstrong, 2006). The nature of work HR carries out differs from one business to another and is effected by size and structure of the company. Talented pools of workers are always required by an organisation to compete successfully in today’s highly competitive market (Bratton and Gold, 2001). Company can achieve and maintain this competitive advantage by regularly upgrading the workforce skills. Training and development is a never ending challenge that a company must address (Wilson, 2006). The development of employee skills is one of the most imperative tasks in which an organisation can engage (Molander and Winterton, 2006). Effective training is paramount for survival and growth of a business. Training is not just about developing people but serving them to become more positive and capable in their jobs as well confident in their lives. The field of training is a fast growing sector of human life and has come of age as a profession. There are many motives for training and developing employees. It can be started for a variety of reasons for employees e.g. to facilitate an employee to be qualified for a planned change. It can be carried out as part of an employee’s professional development program or performance improvement (Rae, 1999). The training need has always been present in every walk of life and today the need is so much greater. There could be any reason but important are probably: the pace at which change is happening in every field of business life, and the employers’ attitude and the attitude of the individuals (Pont, 2003). Training is not only essential to create skilled force but also needed to maintain a high level of skills required by the constantly changing work environment and to equip employees to meet future demands (Stewart, 2996) (Pont, 2003). HR professionals do recognise training and development of an employee is a process that is ongoing but it speed up in case of organisational, cultural or environmental change. This training process involves continuous adjustment to adapt which is achieved from improved skills and increased knowledge (Beardwell et al 2007). The new working system demands completely new approach of thinking and extensive training in new skills (Beardwell and Claydon, 2007). The importance of training has long been recognized. The need for training is more prominent given today’s business climate which affects the economy and society at large. The most simplistic definition of training is that it is an activity that changes people’s behaviour.
Training is defined by Wilson (2006) as a planned process to modify employee knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour through learning to gain performance. Employee is trained to make sure that organization’s current or future needs are met. Training can equip employees to do their jobs, perform their tasks and handle complex products and services. In Bramley’s (2003) words, training involves learning and educating employee to do something so that the things are done differently. He and (Wilson, 1999) further explains that training process is planned to facilitate education to help employees develop into more effective and efficient in performing their duties and completing their work. According to the CIPD, training is expected to equip workers to help them become strategically unique, in addition to the provision of skills, attitudes and knowledge required to attain operational efficiency. The foundation for training remains the traditional training process system. This involves: 1. identifying the needs for training and development of the company; 2. Planning training or devising a learning plan; 3. Carrying out or delivering training and 4. Assessing and evaluating outcomes/results. A training-need-analysis is the first step in identifying the types of programs that will further organisation’s goals, which helps to decide whether training is appropriate at all. The organisations have to assess why they need training. Is the current organisational deficiency that the training seeks to address really due to lack of skills and knowledge or some deeper problems? Frequently, organisations implement training program because a HR professional identifies an individual or business need (Smith and Mazin, 2004). Then plans are made on how to deliver the program and by which method.
Although the terms training and development are often linked, these address slightly different needs. Training focuses on learning the necessary skills and acquiring the knowledge required to perform the job. Training deals with design and delivery of knowledge to improve organization performance. Development focuses on the preparation needed for future jobs; it should be considered investment in the work force since its benefits are long term (Buhler, 2002). Training inclined towards focusing on short term results. Development may inadequately focus on working environment. It is very important for the business to review its training to a broader scenario (Bryans and Smith, 2000). According to Armstrong (2006), people are learning and will continue to do so throughout their career, whether taught formally or as an experience. Mullins (2007) observed that people learn within the organisation and in everyday life situations. Competition, technological advances and organizational development, all necessitate the creation of knowledge that leads to constant advancement. That directs oganizations to take more interest in employee development within evolving organization. Training is the main area of the HRM function of particular importance and relevant to the management effectiveness. There are not many scholars who argue in opposition to the importance of training as a foremost influence on the organization success. Leading writers have recognised the importance of training as fundamental for management (Bratton and Gold, 2003). Many believed that training employee development is a key factor of HRM within organization. Training as described by Keep (1989 cited by Wilkinson, 2006), is a litmus test against which management’s characteristics practices can be measured. Other advantages of staff’s training and development includes: increased employee morale, motivation and job satisfaction, increased efficiency and effectiveness, increased ability to adopt latest methods and technologies, enhanced company image, reduced employee turnover, risk management. The precise staff training at the right timing presents big payoffs for the employer in increased knowledge, productivity, contribution and loyalty (Web 3). Training let the organization to develop and promote its own business culture. It also permits organizations to become accustomed to changes in the working environment and can be used as a change agent (Wilkinson, 2006). Training can improve effectiveness of the organisation in fiercely competitive markets. Training assists in optimizing the development of human resource for employee to achieve the individual as well as organisational objectives (Benson, 2006). It increases the job skills and knowledge of employees and expands the horizons of their intellect and their personality. Training and development also aids in signifying the team spirit sense, team work and inter team relationship. It also helps the company to be effective in decision making and solving problem. It also assists in developing leadership skills, loyalty among employees, staff motivation, enhanced attitudes and other features that successful employees normally display (Armstrong, 2008) (Bratton and Gold, 2003) (Jenkins,2002) (Pont, 2003) (Price, 2007).
Of course, the basic and main goal of a business is to enhance its value and to increase its stakeholder’s wealth. It requires effective and efficient use of limited resources available to the organization to achieve theses aims. Resource aavailability (human, physical and financial) are considered important inputs (Bacon & Haque, 2008). HR scholars agree that an organisation is only as good as persons working in it but opinions vary on how it translates into practice. Many organisations not only consider training as n chance for employees to learn something but also as an investment that would produce results for business. It also takes money and time to train staff (Bacon & Haque, 2008). With a supportive environment and a little encouragement and reinforcement, a business can accomplish the required result on a substantial investment in people. An organized approach is needed in evaluation of needs of training; otherwise organization may not be able to utilize valuable resources efficiently (Armstrong, 2006). Training matters for a company because of the established links between productivity and skills. Organisations allocate resources for training because of fear of skills shortage. Some scholars like Kallenberg & Moody (1994) recognize that investment in employee development result in higher returns in future. Employees are the essential and crucial resource. It’s important for an organisation to optimize the employees’ contribution to the organisation’s goals and objectives in order to maintain effective performance. Adequate supply of technically and socially competent and proficient staff is only ensured by training and development. Training helps the staff to become capable for career advancement into specialist departments and management positions. Staff training can be on-the-job that is conducted at the trainee’s workplace, and off-the-job which is carried out away from employee’s work place (Mullins, 2007). Some employees are naturally gifted in talents while others work hard to gain but all can still benefit from learning new techniques. People usually receive a well to do on the job training in one form or another. Some people are good at finding their own paths and procuring the necessary resources and information, many persons learn best by following, observing and asking questions (Smith and Mazin, 2004).
Training is not always the answer to problems related to performance. Some training analysts (Rosner, 1999 cited by Smith and Mazin, 2004) believed that training could be a good investment or could be a waste of resources. It is in fact a waste of resources when the desired behaviour does not occur. That’s why training and development doesn’t succeed all the time to achieve desired results and in obtaining aims and objectives of the organisation. There can be many causes for the failure but most common are (Web 6): Training is often put into practice for the wrong reasons and seldom aligns to a business measure. If training program does not support the business goals then no improvement can be recorded. Training is thought to be a solution for a range of performance problems when training may not be concern at all. It also fails because it does not succeed to give direction and focus. Sometimes the solution proves too expensive for the desired outcomes. Individual’s behaviour towards training also plays an important part; e.g. when training is believed just as an event than as enhancement of skills and abilities of the employees, it fails to generate business results. Other important reason for failure is lack of management support (Mullins, 2007). Employees will hardly ever implement new skills and knowledge without it in the workplace. Failure to include and credit other influences and processes apart from training that may have influenced the business outcomes may also be a good reason of failure. Some businesses invest little in training because they don’t have enough funds. Other reason is the fear that individuals will leave and move to other companies at some later stage. Few organisations consider recruitment process sufficient and rely on the natural skills of employees rather than training (Harrison, 2005).
It is HR manager’s role and responsibility to develop and implement training strategies and policies. He/she is also involved in people management activities like developing organization, recruitment and selection, talent management, learning and development, human resource planning, knowledge management, reward management, etc (Hyde et al. 2009). Depending on the business nature and size of the company, the HR managers not just have responsibility of training and developing employees but for performance management as well.Training processes take place in the context of internal and the external environment of the organization. Human Resource Managers need to realize the training and development’s nature and process to be able to facilitate learning and development within the organisation (Watson, 2006). While providing training, the managers need to recognize the importance and effects organization structure and design because these describe tasks and responsibilities, roles and relationships, work and channels of communication (Mullins, 2007). Structure is clearly important for any organization, whatever its size. The aspects that determine how the company functions in relation to its eternal and external environment are its structure and the processes that operate within it. Structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees. It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities (Hyde et al. 2009).
Human Resource Development (HRD) is a name which signifies the newest evolutionary phase in the long custom of training, educating and developing employees. It focuses on the principle of contributing to the success of individual, organisational and societal objectives. According to McLagan (1989 cited in Wilson, 2005) it is the incorporated use of training, career development and development of a company to improve organisational and individual value. HRD gives the business benefits assisting the ability to increase revenue. Companies need to develop a learning culture that responds quickly to the ever changing environment. HRD policies can help the organisation to obtain this objective (Nixon, 2004).
2.3. Soft Skills
There are two versions of HRM as explained by Storey (1992). He made the distinction between the soft and hard HRM approaches and describes that although both approaches to HRM emphasise on employees and consider them important for achieving competitive edge that has to be attained, developed and organized in ways that benefits the business. Soft version further focuses on communication, leadership and motivation and lays emphasis on people’s skills, commitment, adaptability and performance (Armstrong, 2006). Organisations that have a mixture of both approaches tend to endure and grow in the competitive business environment.