Monday, September 22, 2008

International Conference on Soft Skills at BITS,Pilani

It was indeed an eye opener of sorts to attend the international conference on soft skills and present a paper.The conference graced by prestigious corporate professionals and academicians proved to be a hotbed for deliberating on lots of issues on soft skills.It was clear from the comments of experts from the USA, UAE and Indian professionals, that soft skills should be imbibed intrinsically into everything be it training on domain subjects, taking soft skills sessions or even any functional or collaborative effort in the industry.The conference was an excellent effort on the part of BITS-Pilani(Languages Effort)where people from various backgrounds could talk about their own perspectives on soft skills.For me it was understanding the present scenario existing in institutes of higher learning as far as soft skills is concerned and the important role my organization can play as a global knowledge transfer,management training and consultancy in value adding the endeavours of all institutes and organizations.I realized that our model of leveraging technology to improve the reach, quality, look and feel and the end result on the part of the trainees can go a long way in value adding as far as instilling soft skills in personality is concerned. The other major benefits I could clearly see is our knowledge transfer expertise would enable in formulating implementable soft skills strategies both for individual as well as institutional learners.
The endless debate on what to consist in soft skills and what to delete, is purely need based which has to be done only after a detailed training need analysis is done, however what I observed rather painfully is that most of the stakeholders involved in imparting soft skills training adopt a one size fits all.This culminates in the trainees understanding the soft skills in a piece meal fashion which in turn is negatively reflected in their professional and personal contact.Moreover, one way of imparting soft skills training has to be relooked every fortnight commensurate with the needs of different sectors as the business environment is highly dynamic and turbulent.Ingraining the same stuffs day in and day year after year does not add any value to the trainees as what is considered contemporary by the trainers, is looked upon as obsolete by the industry, entrepreneurs and job providers. A lot needs to be done especially on industry-institute interface, however kudos to BITS-Pilani to make the first move.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Training the Trainers recently

My experiences in training and trainers had been a mixed one.On one hand I encountered the group which were highly receptive with an attitude to unlearn and relearn, whereas on the other there were tribes who thought they were Mr. and Ms. Perfect. To my surprise the latter felt that trainer need to understand the tricks of the trade only once and need not require any updates periodically. Training people on management and soft skills which are my areas calls for an extremely versatile approach with an attitude to learn at every time.Business environment being turbulent and volatile a trainer cannot rest on past learnings, rather he has to upgrade himself with the changing times, which calls for unlearning and relearning which in turn is linked to the attitude of the trainer.A senisble trainer especially the ones in management and soft skills learns new tricks by only being a minute observer, the rest simple follows.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Celebrating my 350th Publication

Today, 25th of September 2008, I have achieved a small personal milestone, which would not have been possible without the support of all my well wishers.I write business case studies, management and allied articles, articles on career for leading national and international publication houses.Writing is my hobby and I often get up in the midnight and collate my thoughts as articles without even wiping my eyes.Most of my thoughts are generated instantaneously after observing people at work, people in business, people opting for careers and the like.I try to challenege myself by composing at least one article every second day, which keeps my burning thought alive for more learning.Being a part of a global knowledge transfer firm only adds to my apetite.Writing is also a stress reliever for me and often when I am disturbed while coming across unethical and wrong practices in the professional and personal life, I try to convert them into articles and management case studies so that I can share the same for the well being of others.Writing is my blood, but more than that, I developed a passion for it.I can stay without food for a few days, but cant without scribbling my thoughts.

Food for thought after BITS-Pilani Conference

The international conference on Soft Skills at BITS, Pilani has definitely given lot of food for thought. Theoritically soft skills looks very easy, however metamorphosing those into practice, that too for a diverse target audience like students on one hand and employees on the other calls for lot of soul searching.Imparting soft skills therefore has to be a blend of on job and classroom training mode.The biggest fallacy most of the soft skills trainer is to believe that soft skills can be taught in the classroom alone. While the theoritical reinforcement can be done in a classroom set-up, the practical implications can be understood only if it is followed up with the practical illustrations.On job mode may be easier for working executives, but the same style can be also be simulated in academic institutes, with active participation from all and sundry in the institute.
Soft skills to be effective for a student needs a 360 degree model which I have developed which calls for active participation of all stakeholders.The stakeholders are classified as direct and indirect and their nomenclature changes with the changing times. There are various parameters on which the stakeholders are classified as direct and indirect which in turn assigns them a role in the whole soft skills training process.

Training the in-flight cabin crews

The image of an airline is made on the sky.People love Singapore Airlines or Emirates or Qantas not because they have excellent aircrafts, but because they differentiate themselves on the basis of their core offering, which entails services. My travel to all parts of India and to overseas destinations made me believe that the brand equity of an airline is dependent on the cabin crews in a very big although the ground staff across departments also have a very significant role to play in that.One big reason why few airlines in spite of having the best of the aircrafts, inspite of offering heavy price discounts and loyalty programs fail, is due to the staff's behaviour which makes or breaks the image of an airline. Although the complete service package has many other issues involved, the lack of training in the front end ground staff and in-flight crews play a decisive role in the overall profitability of an airline.

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Calculating the TRoI

Money saved is money earned. All business organizations need to understand that they have to have systems and processes in place through which they can track on their returns in the investment made. RoI for functions like Sales, Marketing, HR(to an extent),Finance is already in vogue in most of the good companies, however, the training and development department spending their annual corpus generally dont have a full proof calculation mechanism which can enable them to realize the returns.The reasons are manifold, one the company only looks after the immediate return from the training exercise which is very difficult to evaluate as sinking in the training inputs and subsequently implementing those are not only time taking, but also calls for active management particiaption, which unfortunately is missing in most organziations

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Training Nitty-Gritty

Training nitty-gritty entails lot of approaches which are hitherto known to only a handful few trainers. The trainers plan for their training on broad parameters like topic, however, what needs to be done is an approach where the the topic is broken down in to modules, modules into Learning Objectives and Learning Objectives into slides and screens. This approach of zooming down has a better impact on the trainees as they have measured and defined takeaways after the completion of the session.

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Recent Experiences while Interacting with Budding Managers

My recent interactions with the budding managers, on th threshold of their career shift from learning to earning made me realize quite a few things-They are all bubbling with hope and enthusiasm especially after getting the first hand knowledge of industry while pursuing their summer jobs. I also understood the fact the students need the right blend of soft skills and domain knowhow while completing their summer jobs as inappropriate division, tilts the students either towards theory or soft skills sans the right blend, thereby making the fresh mind see his future challenges only from a unidimensional perspective.The importance of understanding the mix and in what proportion lie with the faculties especially when they are grooming their students first for summer jobs and then for final placements.Nurturing proverbial jacks is important as they happen to be the darling of all the modern day industries.