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The Importance of Soft Skills for Postgraduates Upon Entering the Work Field

In: Business and Management

Submitted By AshleyWashie
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COLLEGE OF BUSINESS MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTING
KAMPUS SULTAN HAJI AHMAD SHAH

RESEARCH PROPOSAL

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOFT SKILLS FOR POSTGRADUATES UPON ENTERING THE WORK FIELD

RESEARCH METHOD
QNTB 313

Prepared by:
ASHLEY LOW PIT YEAN (MT 089693)
SECTION: 2 BM
Prepared for:
NORA YUSMA BT MOHAMED YUSOF
TABLE OF CONTENT

1. CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION Page 2.1. Background of the Study 3 2.2. Problem Statement 4 2.3. Research Objectives 5 2.4. Significance of the Study 5 2.5. Scope of the Study 6

2. CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 3.6. Introduction 7 3.7. Previous Studies of Literature Review 7

3. CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY & DATA SOURCES 4.8. Introduction 11 4.9. Data Resources 11 4.10. Data Collection Method 11 4.11. The Measurements of Variables 13 4.12. Procedure of Data Analysis 14 4.13. Research Framework 17 4.14. Determinants of Variables 18 4.15. Research Hypothesis 19

4. REFERENCES 20

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study
These days there is a huge number of unemployed post graduates. Post graduates are students who recently received professional or academic certificates, or other qualifications for which a first of a Bachelor’s degree. Regardless if the students come from IPTA or IPTS, prestige or local universities, a majority of them finds it really difficult to find a job. There is no surprise anymore that a student who graduates with a CGPA of 3.0 and above is unemployed. What else for a student that graduates with a CGPA below 3.0. The competition amongst post graduates has drastically increased in this era. The workplace is one of the most important social spaces other than the home, constituting “a central concept for several entities: the worker and his/her family, the employing organisation, the customers of the organisation, and the society as a whole”. Once a person enters the work field for the first time, they will find that their whole lifestyle changes. Adapting to the work life is not easy especially for fresh graduates. Being a student you do not have fixed working hours, you could have assistance from seniors or lecturers, and there is room for making mistakes and improvements. Where else, in the work field you have long working hours to fill in, you are to complete tasks on your own most of the time, and your future lies in the hands of your employer based on your performance. Soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities. Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with co-workers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.

The relationship between all these is that a fresh graduate should have soft skills in order to have a higher potential in getting hired compared to the others. For this reason, soft skills are increasingly sought out by employers in addition to standard qualifications. It has been suggested that in a number of professions, soft skills may be more important over the long term than occupational skills. Soft skills are behavioural competencies. Also known as Interpersonal Skills, or people skills, they include proficiencies such as communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building, influencing skills and selling skills, to name a few.

1.2 Problem Statement The competition amongst fresh graduates in getting hired is rapidly increasing these days. Upon getting a job, it is wise to know about the company and the position you are applying for. On the other hand, it is also important to know the employer’s perception towards an employee’s level of soft skills. An employee should be aware that their level of soft skills would play a vital role during a job interview. During the interview and regardless of your CGPA, the interviewer will take this opportunity to filter out the best candidates. One of the most crucial things that the interviewer would take note is the presence of soft skills. Postgraduates may also find that they would face difficulties in getting employed if they lack of soft skills. While postgraduates who have a higher level of soft skills has a higher chance of getting employed. Without soft skills, an individual may also have trouble in communicating regardless with their boss, colleagues or customers. This is essential as communication is the key to success.

1.3 Research Objectives
The objective of this research is to study the importance of a postgraduate to obtain soft skills as they are about to enter the working life. The specific objectives of the study are: * To investigate the employer’s perception towards an employee’s level of soft skills * To determine the possibilities of a postgraduate getting hired * To measure the postgraduate’s level of communication abilities

1.4 Significance of the Study The result of this research will become significance for both fresh graduates and employers as soft skills these days are crucial. Fresh graduates these days whom have soft skills are prioritized in getting a job regardless of their CGPA. This is because an employer would rather hire an employee with soft skills so that the company do not have to waste time and money on providing training for the new employee without soft skills. The study is to prove that even though an individual may not excel academically, but what matters most is their ability to perform and excel in what they are doing. In addition, this study could help postgraduates or students to be well prepared beforehand in gaining the required soft skills upon entering the work field. Employers could also benefit from this research by getting a guideline on filtering for the best employees during interviews.

1.5 Scope of the Study The scope of the study is to investigate the importance of having soft skills for students that have recently graduated and is seeking for jobs. The research will be carried out among employers and fresh graduates in Malaysia. The purpose is to find out about the employer’s perception on the level of soft skills obtained by an employee. Besides that, this study is also to determine the chances of a post graduate in getting a job. Plus this study will also show the measurement of the level of communication abilities by the postgraduate. These people are targeted because their demographics are suitable to support the data for this research. Therefore, they will assist in completing this study.

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 Introduction The definition of literature review is the process of reading, analysing, evaluating, and summarizing scholarly material about a specific topic. The result of a literature review may be compiled in a report or they may serve as a part of a research article, thesis, or grant proposal. This section will review the previous studies that are related to the issue addressed in this study from the selected journal. The discussion paper has come from several authors that related with this research. Literature review is used as the reference in completing this paper as well as to support any evidence in this proposal. The purpose of this chapter is to know about problems and solutions studied by researchers that are related to the importance of soft skills. 2.2 Previous Studies of Literature Review Bancino, R., & Zevalkink, C. (2007) - There are three driving forces behind business leaders' increasing demand for a broader skill set from technical professionals: necessity for improvements to the bottom line; increasing competition; and globalization. Increased competition puts pressure on companies to operate more efficiently and effectively and show a positive return on technology resources and investments. This increased pressure on the bottom line translates into a requirement for a higher rate of project success. But technology-intensive projects, for example, tend to have high failure rates. When "failure" is defined as a project that is never completed, or completed significantly over budget or beyond deadline, industry studies put the failure rate somewhere between 40 percent and 70 percent. That translates to wasted resources, a shrinking of the bottom line, and in extreme cases, a loss of competitive advantage in the marketplace. A recent survey of more than 250 technical leaders cited the biggest reason for project failure as a lack of soft skills. When nontechnical skills are developed to complement technical skills, personal productivity, collaboration and synergy are increased. This translates into improved project success rates, sustainable competitive advantage and increased profitability. Historically, soft skills have been less important in many technical disciplines. In today's fast-paced, global marketplace, they are more important than ever. Companies are using technical capabilities not only to operate more efficiently, but their strategy is derived from, and integrated with, their technical competencies. This increased strategic focus raises the stakes and puts pressure on technical professionals to master a broader range of skill sets.
Also, many of the jobs that have historically been more "back room" or "heads down" are now outsourced to companies that can provide these services more cheaply by leveraging economies of scale and focus. The technical jobs that are not outsourced have moved higher up the value chain, demanding more interface with the overall business and more collaboration with other technical and nontechnical professionals. Finally, technical disciplines historically have been poor at grooming future leaders for their own disciplines as well as for corporate leadership positions. In order to move into management or supervisory positions, candidates must show that they have skills in such areas as communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork and leadership. Sheila M. Smith (2002) – The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in its 1997 survey of 4,500 manufacturers stated 88 percent are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers, 63 percent indicated improvements are needed in workers’ basic skills, 60 percent reported workers lack math skills, and 55 percent stated workers are deficient in basic writing and comprehension skills. Over 60 percent of the NAM companies surveyed reported that their current workforce possesses poor job attitudes (timeliness, absenteeism, staying at work all day). In addition, workers have serious deficiencies in basic math, written language, and problem-solving skills. In addition to the traditional concerns about the quality of educational attainment, many employers report a lack of employees with good behavioural skills (Cappelli, 1992b; Kelly, 1992). Behavioural skills have been defined as listening and interpersonal skills as well as work habits and attitudes. When asked to identify the primary sources of job performance problems, employers single out the behavioural skills of their employees. Cappelli (1992b) stated that among the high school graduate population workforce productivity problems were primarily caused by lack of behavioural skills, not academic skills. Zemsky (1994) stated that young people lack discipline; they expect to be catered to; they do not want to do the dirty jobs; and they do not respect authority. Cappelli and Iannozzi (1995) reported that employers listed work attitudes, such as punctuality, following instructions, and showing a genuine concern for task outcome, as the primary causes of poor job performance. More than 75 percent of the corporate respondents in the 1996 Olsten Corporation’s survey listed employees’ lack of interpersonal communication skills as a critical deficiency. Smith, Jones, and Lane (1997) found a need for improvement in academic skills; however, employers reported a greater need for improvement in behavioural skills among both high school and college prepared entry-level employees. Employers in the study perceived a greater gap between desired behavioural skills and current skill level than the gap between desired academic skills and current skill level. According to Cappelli et al. (1997) employers stated that only 50 percent of recent high school graduate applicants are qualified for entry-level positions. Cappelli et al. found behavioural skills as the most important deficiency among entry-level applicants. Employers reported interpersonal skills and poor attitudes towards work as the most serious deficiencies. William J. Wilhelm (2002) – Despite the acceptance of these skills and competencies by employer groups, these same groups continue to express dissatisfaction with job applicants. The dissatisfaction expressed is not on the basis of applicants’ technical abilities but rather because of the competencies in other areas (Alpern 1997; Murnane and Levy 1996). The skills most frequently mentioned are knowing how to learn; competence in reading, writing, and computation; effective listening and oral communication skills; adaptability through creative thinking and problem solving; personal management with strong self-esteem and initiative; interpersonal skills; the ability to work in teams or groups; leadership effectiveness; and basic technology skills (Imel 1999; Clagett 1997; McNabb 1997; Murnane and Levy 1996; Oliver et al. 1997)

Arkansas Department of Education (May, 2006) - Soft skills are defined as everyday life/social skills and will include work ethic, verbal and nonverbal communication, attendance, interview abilities and attitude, amongst others. The complaints of the business leaders were dominated by soft skills. Though employers touched on certain hard skills that could be improved, the majority of their complaints revolved around soft skills. As one employer said, “We want somebody who shows up on time, somebody who works hard and someone who’s trainable.”

Kishore, S. (January, 2013) - In the developing country like India, the output of graduates from higher educational institutions is high. But, the major concern is that majority of graduates are not employable, especially from rural areas for want of skills expected by the employer. The soft skills, communication skills and multidisciplinary knowledge are essential to become employable. Michelle Van Noy and James Jacobs (March 2012) - Employers’ views of the qualities they expected in credential holders and sought in technicians in the Detroit and Seattle labor markets provide several important insights for colleges. Employers commonly expected both associate and bachelor’s degree holders to have technical skills and knowledge, thinking skills, communication skills, and discipline. Community colleges should consider building on their strengths in these areas and should continue to emphasize the development of these competencies in their students. The specific qualities that employers expected to find in associate degree holders provide an indication of how they valued this credential. While hiring managers believed that positive qualities were associated with the degree, they also expected some degree holders to possess negative characteristics. While it may be difficult for colleges to reverse widespread perceptions, they can increase their outreach efforts, cultivating stronger and more targeted relationships with specific employers interested in hiring their graduates. Colleges can promote the positive attributes of their students, such as their hands-on skills and their specific technical abilities, but fundamental changes in attitudes would likely require public relations campaigns on an institutional level.

CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY & DATA SOURCES

3.1 Introduction
In this chapter, there will be information on method that will be applied in this study. It will also provide the definition and a brief explanation about the variable use for this study, including the sampling of the data, the technique, data analysis and hypothesis starting with sources and descriptive of data as well as background of the data. Subsequently, the process of collecting data is clearly describe the types of data collected and will be used and the methodology provide more details about types and methods of test performed.

3.2 Data Resources
In order to gather more information of this study, most of the journals will be collected from Uniten library, Thompson Reuter’s database, Bursa Malaysia and the companies’ own websites. The articles and journals are basically related to this study as my reference and theoretical as literature review of this study.

3.3 Data Collection Method
Stated in the book named ‘A Simple Guide to IBM SPSS Statistics for Versions 18.0 & 19.0’ there is two types of research methods that is qualitative and quantitative research. Each of the methods has different in approaching methods, which are determined on the kinds of data being collected.

3.3.1 Primary Data
Questionnaire is a technique of data collection in which each person is asked to respond to the same set of questions in a predetermined order. Relating with my research, it will be distributed to the chosen employers and employees. The questionnaires will be distributed to 200 respondents (100 employers and 100 postgraduates) by using clear layout of the questionnaire form to get results for our objectives. The respondents will be from companies and postgraduates in Malaysia.

3.3.2 Secondary Data
Our main method is questionnaire as stated in primary data above. So our secondary data will be from Uniten Muadzam Shah’s library. From there we can get the information from the internet, newspaper, books report, magazine and etc. to get the result for the researchers.

3.3.3 Sampling Technique
This category is for techniques for statistical sampling from real-world populations, used in observational studies and surveys. For techniques for sampling random numbers from desired probability distributions
In reality there is simply not enough; time, energy, money, labour/man power, equipment, access to suitable sites to measure every single item or site within the parent population or whole sampling frame.
Therefore an appropriate sampling strategy is adopted to obtain a representative, and statistically valid sample of the whole.

3.4 The Measurements of Variables
Variables are first defined by conceptual definitions. These are definitions that explain the concept the variable is attempting to capture.
For example, the variable "work effort" can be defined conceptually as the amount of effort required to do the work, including speed, hardness, effort, dexterity, and repetitiveness. Each of these aspects must have an operational definition if it is to be measured. The measurement of the questionnaires, the researcher will use Rating Response Strategy. The answer consists strongly agree to strongly disagree. This method helps the researcher to observe, measure and analyze the data easier. This questionnaire will use the five point Likert Scale. For example, number 1 represent strongly agree (1= strongly agree), and number 5 represent strongly disagree (5= strongly disagree). The objective by using Likert scale is to estimate Cronbach's Alpha coefficient for internal consistency reliability for any scales (Gliem & Gliem, 2003).
3.5 Procedure of Data Analysis
The procedure of data analysis will occur after the questionnaires been collected from the entire respondent that is 200 people which consists of 100 employers and 100 postgraduates. The researcher need to arrange the collected result based on category of employers and postgraduates from the front page of the questionnaire to ease researcher to finalize the data then the results will be keyed in and analyze it using SPSS also known as Statistical Package for the Social Science application from the book. This program is used to calculate frequency distribution, cross tabulation, and also correlation and multiple linear regressions for hypothesis testing.

3.5.1 Frequency Distribution Analysis
In statistics, a frequency distribution is an arrangement of the values that one or more variables take in a sample. Each entry in the table contains the frequency or count of the occurrences of values within a particular group or interval, and in this way, the table summarizes the distribution of values in the sample.
When the raw data is collected, the researcher should use the descriptive statistical tools from the SPSS program to analyze the data. Tabulation consists simply of counting the number of cases that fall in various categories. From tabulation of the data, the researcher is aim to determine the frequency distribution of the variables in the question.
Example is to show results of an election, income of people for a certain region, sales of a product within a certain period, student loan amounts of graduates, etc. Some of the graphs that can be used with frequency distributions are histograms, line graphs, bar charts and pie charts. Frequency distributions are used for both qualitative and quantitative data.
3.5.2 Reliability Test
In the psychometrics, reliability is used to describe the overall consistency of a measure. A measure is said to have a high reliability if it produces similar results under consistent conditions. For example, measurements of people’s height and weight are often extremely reliable. In general, reliability less than 0.700 are considered to be poor, a range around 0.600 is acceptable and coefficient Alpha over 0.900 is considered good. The closer the reliability or coefficient Alpha is to 1, the higher the internal consistency reliability.

3.5.3 Correlation
In statistics, dependence is any statistical relationship between two random variables or two sets of data. Correlation refers to any of a broad class of statistical relationships involving dependence.
Familiar examples of dependent phenomena include the correlation between the physical statures of parents and their offspring, and the correlation between the variables. Correlations are useful because they can indicate a predictive relationship that can be exploited in practice. For example, an electrical utility may produce less power on a mild day based on the correlation between electricity demand and weather. In this example there is a causal relationship, because extreme weather causes people to use more electricity for heating or cooling; however, statistical dependence is not sufficient to demonstrate the presence of such a causal relationship
The researcher will obtain the data for each of the variables from the questionnaires. This statistical correlation will be measure by using coefficient of correlation (r).

3.5.4 Correlation Analysis (R)
In studying the relationship between two variables, one can use correlation analysis. To measure the relationship using correlation analysis, the researcher will use coefficients of correlations (R). There are two types of coefficients of correlation, the Spearman rank coefficient of correlation and the Pearson products moment coefficient of correlation. The coefficients of correlation give strength for the relationship.
Denoted as R, the coefficient ranges from -1 to 1. A value of 1 show that a linear equation describes the relationship perfectly and positively, with all data points lying on the same line and with Y increasing with X. A score of -1 shows that all data points lie on a single line but that Y increases as X decreases. A value of 0 shows that a linear model is inappropriate - that there is no linear relationship between the variables.

3.6 Research Framework Independent Variable Dependent Variables |

Figure 1: The diagram above shows the relationship between the presence of soft skills with the employer’s perception, the possibilities of getting hired, and communication abilities.

3.7 Determinants of Variable In my study, there are 3 variables that will be used which are the employer’s perception, the possibilities of getting hired, and communication abilities.
Employer’s perception is how an employer regards, understand or interpret the level of soft skills that is acquired by an employee. As for this case, the employees referred to are the ones who are already working in the company and as well as potential employees which are the postgraduates
Possibilities of getting hired is referred to the chances of a candidate (postgraduate) being employed in a company. If a candidate acquires a high level of soft skills, thus the individual has higher possibilities of getting hired compared to a candidate who acquires a lower level of soft skills.
Communication abilities are crucial for an individual to acquire especially in the work field. It is important to communicate well with your boss, fellow colleagues, and as well as customers in order to ensure optimum performance. Lack of communication abilities could hold an employee back from excelling and may sometimes lead to getting fired.

3.8 Research Hypothesis I. Hypothesis 1:
H0: The level of soft skills acquired by an employee does not affect an employer’s perception.
H1: The level of soft skills acquired by an employee does affect an employer’s perception. II. Hypothesis 2:
H0: The level of soft skills acquired by a postgraduate does not affect the possibilities of getting hired.
H1: The level of soft skills acquired by a postgraduate does affect the possibilities of getting hired. III. Hypothesis 3:
H0: The level of soft skills acquired does not affect a postgraduate’s ability to communicate.
H1: The level of soft skills acquired does affect a postgraduate’s ability to communicate.

References

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