Soft skills deficits in Scotland : their patterns, determinants and employer responses

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2009
Thesis identifier
  • T12358
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • This thesis examines the incidence of soft skills deficits in Scotland, the pattern of these deficits, why these occur and how employers respond to them. The examination of these issues is achieved through the examination of, in the first instance, the macroeconomic Scottish Employers Skills Survey (ESS) which was then used to inform the selection of in-depth organisational case studies reporting differing levels of soft skills deficits in different sectoral contexts. For comparability, case study establishments in service sectors were examined as one particular service sub-sector, hotels and restaurants, was the worst affected by soft skills deficits in the Scottish economy. The approach allowed the economy wide pattern of soft skills deficits to be examined as well as the manner in which particular organisational and sectoral contexts affected the presence or not of soft skills deficits. The study found that soft skills deficits were most likely in sectors and occupations where interactive service work was the predominant activity and constituted a `core competency' (in for example, customer facing occupations in hospitality and retail). Soft skills do, however, appear to be an important skill set throughout the economy. Whether or not soft skills deficits were actually reported depended on context specific factors especially the degree to which management strategically selected staff in line with organisational requirements and engaged in appraisal and informal, regular, feedback to identify and respond to soft skills problems within their workforce. There was also limited evidence that some employees withdrew soft skills because of breaches in the psychological contract. The thesis also strengthens the conceptualisation of soft skills as `skills' by confirming that they are more than traits and dispositions and rely on broader social experience alongside mastery of certain organisational contexts. The true extent of skill employees were allowed was, however, also reliant on work organisation.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Scholarios, Dora
  • Thompson, Paul
Resource Type