Administrative employees' training preferences and their perception of soft skills' importance and self-assessment, in the context of a public distance learning higher education institution.
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The importance of soft skills training and development in improving employees’ performance is highlighted and argued in several studies, in various disciplines, by both employers and employees. However, developing employees’ soft skills can be quite challenging as these skills are intangible skills that are usually domain-independent and can apply to different disciplines and job sectors. For this reason, thorough investigation of employees’ training needs regarding soft skills is required by Human Resources Management (HRM), before designing and developing a related training program. This dissertation aims to shed some light to this field by identifying the training preferences and soft skills perceived importance and self-assessment of a public distance Higher Education Institution’s, the Open University of Cyprus (OUC), administrative employees, in order to detect their training needs in soft skills training and development. Following a postpositivist worldview philosophy and a quantitative research approach, the research design of this dissertation follows a nonexperimental design that uses survey as the method of data collection. The overall population of this study were all OUC administrative employees (n=71, excluding executives/managers) and the respondents (n=41) included employees from all departments and job positions, both male and female. The results of this study argue that OUC administrative employees perceive soft skills as important for their job and that there are needs for soft skills’ training and development for all of them. In addition, it is supported that: i. blended learning methodologies should be employed for their training (both face-to-face and online delivery), ii. the higher OUC employees perceive the importance of most soft skills for their job, the higher their self-assessment rate of development and vice versa, iii. there are different soft skills’ training needs for each employee and iv. considerations should be made in terms of which skills OUC management should prioritise and for which departments and for which employees should training programs be offered, as there were discrepancies observed amongst employees in respect to some skills.