Dimuat di the Jakarta Post tgl 23 JUli 2011
Soft Skills (SS) are well-known in the business and industry world. Employee SS in the workplace is a set of skills that influence how he or she interacts with each other to perform their daily jobs. SS includes effective communication, creativity, flexibility, openness, change-readiness (adaptation), problem solving and leadership skills.

Professional employees, of course, should have technical competencies (hard skills), but without SS an employee cannot be a star performer. Therefore, SS is an important aspect in developing human resource quality.

The performance of SS is well recognized when someone attempts to conduct social contact and interactively deals. Since an operational period, as stated by an expert, Piaget, that a baby is initially aware when there is a set of objects surrounding him and is treated as tools of interactiion. Children show their mastery of SS in relation with such objects. The longer the number of days the SS capabilities become higher due to various social interactions.

During the adolescent period people initially are faced with a numerous social activities that require various maners of adaptation. When they enter the workforce, they will face the need of not only hard but also soft skills. They will then see how important it is to master the SS competency for employees in undertaking their daily tasks.

The term Emotional Intelligence (EI) was popularized by Daniel Goleman in 1995 through his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. EI itself is an “engine” for SS, which means that the high potential of someone’s EI will enhance the ability of his or her SS. There is an interrelation between EI and SS. EI cannot give any meaning unless it is frist transformed into Emotional Competence (EC). EC consists of a set of skills that we can call as SS.

Training programs focused on SS are conducted in many companies for their employees. From the development perspective, an EI indvidual can improve if they are supported by a conducive environment.

To create an emotionally intelligent organization, either in a classroom or the workplace, the following conditions should be taking place prior to conducting a training program such as avoiding authoritarian behavior in an organization, encouraging an open climate and trustworthiness among members, enhancing empathetic skills and understanding others, appreciate people achievement and getting good relationships with each other. When we are able to maintain the above mentioned conditions well, the EI quality improvement is a necessity thing.

Initially most ordinary people see that individual success is related with the IQ level of individual. The higher the IQ, the more success they will have. Later, there was more in findings that have shown interest in the role of other aspects to determine success, including the aspect of Emotional Intelligence (EI).

This finding has shown that intelligence can be broader for not only intellectual ability, but also emotional competence. Moreover, from research and findings there is a significant correlation between emotional competence and job performance. In fact, the success of an employee to be a top performer, more than 80 percent of success is attributted to EI, while the remaining 20 percent comes from IQ factor.

This is not to say that we do not need IQ, because IQ, or intelectual ability, is needed to master the technical aspects of the job. Therefore, employees should also be capable of technical competence, or what we call hard skills.

Furthermore, the goal of SS training is to give opportunity to learn and practice new patterns of behavior and in so doing to enhance human relations that are needed for a conducive working climate.

However, the result of respective SS training program can be of useless whenever the following conditions appear, such as authoritarian behavior of the management practitioners, as well as there is no open, transparent and fair climate, no empathy, trustworthy and never appraise employees’ achievement due to unclosed relationship.

According to Daniel Goleman (1997, 2000) through his book on Working with Emotional Intelligence, the management should also avoid these following conditions: Work overload (many tasks but little support); lack of autonomy (the rigid regulation and new things are not accepted); skimpy reward (small amount of compensation but plenty of assignments); loss of connection (employee work in a remote or isolated area); unfairness (the management implement the “like and dislike” ways of treatment); and values of conflict (a conflict which appears between personal interest and the demand of work).

Therefore, a job seeker who wants to have a job should provide his or her competency with SS. In this case, the academic curriculum policy maker of education institutions in Indonesia should pay more attention on the implementation of SS competency. So far, such institutions put much focus on academic, technical or hard skills rather than SS.

Most fresh graduates in Indonesia prefer to get a job rather than create a job. They prefer to work either in private companies or state owned enterprises. The ability of hard or academic skills of job seekers will not guarantee themselves success in the workplace. They usually do not possess soft competencies that are needed to perform their jobs well.

Developing EI can be managed in many ways, for instance through training, internship programs and providing constructive criticism. EI is an important factor for leading an individual to success.

The education policy makers should be more concerned about the development of the students’ SS. Final exams (Ujian Nasional) should focus on assessing the students’ cognitive side. Therefore, we need to develop the students on SS by designing and applying proper instructional methods and evaluation procedures.

Finally, the development of soft skills in advance will be fruitful for both universities and the industry. In such a way, we will close the discrepancy that occurs between the quality of fresh graduates and the company’s competency requirements in the workforce. More than that, the nation will also benefit from the advantage of improving the quality of Indonesian human resources.

The writer is a postgraduate student on Education Management at Islamic State University (UIN Maliki) Malang. He is also a visiting lecturer at Economic Faculty of Brawijaya University.

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