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The perceived importance of core soft skills between retailing and tourism management students, faculty and businesses

Scarlett C. Wesley (Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA)
Vanessa Prier Jackson (Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA)
Minyoung Lee (Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 3 January 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

Soft skills which are a combination of personal qualities and interpersonal skills that help an employer perform their job are an increasingly important concern to businesses and academia, the purpose of this paper is to determine how students ranked the importance of soft skills and compare their rankings to retailing and tourism management faculty and businesses.

Design/methodology/approach

A cross-sectional survey of students, faculty and industry leaders was conducted using an existing survey instrument validated by Crawford et al. (2011). Faculty who were members of retailing and tourism management professional organizations were solicited to participate in the study. Retailing and tourism management students from the researchers’ university were sent a link to complete the survey. All participants were asked to rank the order of importance of the soft skills and their characteristics.

Findings

Variations in the importance of soft skills were reported between the three groups. Variations in the importance of the soft skills characteristics were also identified between the students, faculty, and industry leaders. While communication was identified as the most important soft skill by all three sample groups, experiences was the least important for students and leadership was the least important for faculty and industry leaders.

Research limitations/implications

A limitation of the study was the variation in the sample sizes between the student, faculty, and industry sample. The strength of this study lies in the ability to provide evidence for the need to compare soft skills research results for retailing and tourism management students. Soft skills are found to be important to all three groups, but differences indicate faculty and industry need to work together to clarify exactly what soft skills students need to successfully compete for employment in the retailing and tourism management field.

Originality/value

As the work world continues to change, employers seek workers who have soft skills that support their knowledge base. While technical skills are a current part of educational curricula, soft skills need to be emphasized at the university level so that students gain expertise that prepare them to be successful in this changing workplace.

Keywords

Citation

Wesley, S.C., Jackson, V.P. and Lee, M. (2017), "The perceived importance of core soft skills between retailing and tourism management students, faculty and businesses", Employee Relations, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 79-99. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-03-2016-0051

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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