Social Skills and Competencies as the Driving Force of SME Development in Russia

Social Skills and Competencies as the Driving Force of SME Development in Russia

Natalya Totskaya (Laurentian University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3648-3.ch004


This chapter provides an overview of social skills contributing to SME development in the Russian Federation. Building upon prior research and using the data collected by the most recent World Bank Enterprise Survey, the author summarizes the main social skills demonstrated by Russian SMEs. The indicators published by the 2012 and 2019 Enterprise Survey are further supported by analysis of entrepreneurial “success stories” of entrepreneurs published by Russian web-based media. Social skills required to run a successful SME correspond to those identified from the Enterprise Survey data, and they are evenly distributed among skills comprising the “ways of thinking” and the “ways of working.” The chapter concludes with directions for future research and implications for practice.
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Researchers have widely recognized social skills as essential contributors that help individual entrepreneurs to achieve and maintain their business success (Baron & Markham, 2000). In recent years, the universal applicability of these skills and related competencies has become a focus of post-secondary education around the globe. Workplace skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving, as well as the ability to learn and innovate are essential not only in the field of entrepreneurship, but also in various professions, industries, and countries (Griffin & Care, 2015). Specific models and approaches linking academic and practical components of education may vary across academic programs and countries, yet all of them recognize the need to develop the toolkit of skills to enhance the employability and career success of graduates (Abeysekera, 2006; Jackson, 2015; Makarona & Kavoura, 2019; Orrell, 2011).

This chapter will discuss social skills and competencies that are of great importance for owners, managers, and employees of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), with particular focus on emerging economy of Russia. First, Russian SMEs represent an under-investigated segment of emerging economies. Countries of former Soviet Bloc, often referred to as transition economies, constitute a small, yet essential part of global economy. Some of transition economies have successfully integrated in the European Union, whereas others still struggle to redesign their socio-economic systems while dealing with obstacles such as economic and political turbulence, crime, and corruption. Second, Russian higher education has been practicing work-integrated learning for over fifty years (Khohlov, 1994; Fedko & Dolgun, 2004). Institutions of higher education have tailored mandatory “placements” to specific academic programs, and they exposed students to real-life workplace environments and experiences. In recent years, Russia has been moving its experiential and work-integrated education towards developing more interdisciplinary skills and “cross-professional” or general competencies required in the modern, innovative, and service-oriented economy (Bogoudinova & Kazakova, 2018; Morozova & Suzdalova, 2014). New educational standards combine traditional placements with multiple elements of experiential learning aimed to build interdisciplinary and general competencies. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that Russian graduates may have more social skills than previous generations when entering the workforce. Graduates have some professional experience and personal contacts; and perhaps they have faced the need to learn and develop new skills fairly quickly. Therefore, it would be interesting to identify specific social skills and competencies that contribute to success of Russian entrepreneurs and SMEs.

This chapter will continue with brief review of the literature on skills and competencies that are instrumental in advancing entrepreneurship and SME development in emerging markets. The author presents a summary of the recent World Bank Enterprise Survey report highlighting the main characteristics of Russian SMEs, with particular focus on topics related to social skills and competencies. The author further illustrates key social skills by analysis of interview data on SME “success stories.” Finally, this chapter will conclude with discussion of findings and implications.

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