Employees who receive promotions when others seem to languish in entry-level positions and those who move up the corporate ladder quickly and attain leadership positions have one thing in common: the ability to communicate effectively. While having the required skill set might get you the job, the ability to communicate will help you attain the leadership roles you desire.
Importance of Communication
Strong communication practices are essential for employees and employers, and they are the foundation of every successful business. Good communication in the workplace fosters productivity and efficiency. It’s not only important for team members to communicate openly and effectively, but it’s also important for managers and supervisors to communicate expectations to employees, keeping them engaged and informed.
A company with good communication has several advantages. Effective workplace communication helps with diversity by reducing cultural and language barriers. It also improves operations and productivity. And strong communication is essential for team building. Teams run more efficiently, there is more trust, and members work together more harmoniously. Teams that communicate well show increased integrity and responsibility.
There is a direct correlation between good workplace communication and strong employee morale. Open lines of communication from the top down garner trust from employees and are essential to keeping personnel happy and productive.
Do You Have Strong Communication Skills?
The hard skills students learn in college — skills that are tangible and measurable such as computer programming, web design or accounting — are important for landing an interview and may even get you a job. However, according to Business Insider, communication skills are most often cited by employers as lacking in recent college graduates. Soft skills such as interpersonal and oral communication skills are cited in study after study as deficient in these employees.
Good communication skills are so deficient in today’s job pool that possessing strong communication skills can transform an average job candidate into a must-hire. However, most students surveyed have a higher opinion of their skills than employers do. “Sixty-two percent of students surveyed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities said they were well prepared in the area of oral communication,” according to USA Today. “Just 28% of employers felt the same way.”
While verbal skills are at the top of the list of skills most lacking, poor written communication skills are also a problem. According to the Houston Chronicle, good communication skills go beyond conversations. Employees must know how to communicate well in written reports and emails, for both internal and external audiences. Researchers at PayScale studying workforce preparedness stated that deficiencies in written communication are a growing problem: “Our data indicates that 44 percent of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among recent college graduates.” Public speaking was a close second at 39 percent.
What Are the Benefits of Good Communication?
When an employer has two equally qualified applicants, both meeting all the job requirements and possessing all the hard skills necessary, the one who is the better communicator will most likely get the job. “Decent interpersonal skills — the ability to converse, to make eye contact, to speak in complete sentences, to recognize one’s responsibility, to listen to another perspective — equal fairly decent job prospects,” says Lee Burdett Williams, dean of students at Wheaton College. Good communicators will outshine other job applicants, and they will be on the fast track to advancement once the job is secured.
Why is it so important to be a good communicator? No matter what industry you work in and no matter your place in the chain of command, the ability to communicate effectively with colleagues, supervisors, staff and external clients is critical to success.
- Good communicators are adept at explaining their ideas to colleagues and managers.
- Good listeners meet the needs of their employer. The ability to listen to the input of colleagues as well as feedback from supervisors will garner respect and appreciation.
- Good listeners make good problem solvers. Listening to others helps you gather information so you’ll know the appropriate action to take and how to explain your decision-making process.
- Good communication skills will increase your value in the workplace. Possessing any type of information is useless if you can’t articulate the information to others.
When you can communicate well in speech and in writing, your value will increase, which can boost your chances for promotions and advancement to leadership roles.
How Can You Improve Your Communication Skills?
According to “How to Be a Better Communicator in the Workplace” from U.S. News & World Report, there are specific steps you can take to be a more effective communicator:
- Know the outcome. What do you want the outcome of your communication to be? Plan ahead when you know you’ll be expected to communicate.
- Build a reputation. Every interaction, from email responses to meeting input, contributes to how people view you. Make a good first impression and assume people’s perceptions of you are constantly evolving.
- Avoid flaunting power and intellect. Effective communicators aren’t show-offs. The tone with which you speak communicates as much as the words. Avoid condescension.
- Be confident. Confidence is not arrogance. Speak with authority. Use strong action verbs. Avoid fillers like “um” or “ah.” Look your audience in the eye.
- Show awareness of others. Understanding your audience is key to conveying an effective message. Consider what is important to your audience. Building relationships is part of good communication.
- Consider timing. This goes back to an awareness of others. Everything has a time and place. As you consider when to share your message, be aware of what’s going on with the person you want to communicate with.
- Master the art of listening. How often are you thinking about how you are going to respond to someone instead of listening to what they are saying? Avoid interjecting or interrupting the speaker. Ask questions when they pause. It shows you are listening.
While communication comes naturally to some people, it’s also a skill you can learn over time. Don’t avoid situations where you’ll be expected to communicate; to improve your skills, put yourself in positions where you might feel uncomfortable to practice the art of effective communication. Eventually, as you gain experience, you’ll gain confidence, which is the hallmark of all good communicators.
Learn more about the FIU online MBA program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.