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The effect of soft skills and training methodology on employee performance

Rosli Ibrahim (Faculty of Economic and Administrations, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Ali Boerhannoeddin (Faculty of Economic and Administrations, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Kazeem Kayode Bakare (Department of Educational Foundation, Al-Madinah International University, Shah Alam, Malaysia)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of soft skill acquisition and the training methodology adopted on employee work performance. In this study, the authors study the trends of research in training and work performance in organisations that focus on the acquisition of technical or “hard skills” for employee training and evaluating work performance. This study was conducted to redirect the focus of employee training and development goals to the acquisition of soft skills, which have a very high and lasting impact on improving employee performance.


This study adopted a quantitative research approach. Questionnaires were administered to selected managers and executives of a few Malaysian private companies. The questionnaire was specifically designed to examine the competencies of various Malaysian-based company managers, executives and supervisors who had undergone a soft skills training programme over a period of a few weeks or months. These soft skills training programmes were not conducted consecutively, but rather with a break or “time-space” in between each session. The target population in this study consisted of 810 employees from nine companies. The sample size was 260 trainees who were selected from the population with a 95 per cent confidence level within 0.05 risk of sampling error.


Using regression analysis, this study estimated the relationships between employees’ acquisition of soft skills, the training methodology adopted by the trainer, and work performance. The results indicate that the two predictors – soft skill acquisition and training methodology – significantly predict employee performance. The authors propose the need for employers to redesign the methodology for training employees in soft skills. Based on the findings, “time-spaced learning” is highly potent in undermining the hindrance associated with training transfer.

Practical implications

The findings of this study help to raise the awareness of employers, human resource managers, professional and industrial experts and the government to rethink the need to improve soft skills training methodologies. Specifically, this can be achieved by giving the trainees “space” or breaks to practice, apply and internalise what they have learnt intermittently during the training programme. This will enhance employee performance, and consequently, organisational performance. These findings also inform company managers that the time-spaced learning method enables employees to acquire soft skills more effectively, which will invariably bring about positive behaviour changes in employees towards their work and co-workers.


The originality of this research is based on the fact that the results are peculiar to Malaysia, whereas most of the literatures on training methodology especially the time-space and soft skill have focused on developed countries. Furthermore, the study emphasised that time-space learning training methodology helps employees in transferring knowledge acquired during training to their work. The research also emphasised that soft skills acquisition brings about increase in employee work performance. This research shows 14.5 per cent increased employee work performance in the selected companies because of their employees’ acquisition of soft skills and a 27.9 per cent increase in employee performance is based on time-space training methodology. This makes the investigation on the effects of soft skills acquisition and the training methodology adopted on employee performance very important for organisational survival.



Ibrahim, R., Boerhannoeddin, A. and Bakare, K.K. (2017), "The effect of soft skills and training methodology on employee performance", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 41 No. 4, pp. 388-406.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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