The ability to communicate with people both inside and outside your organisation is a key characteristic of successful business builders.
Effective communication strengthens the connections between a company and all of its stakeholders and benefits businesses in numerous ways: Stronger decision making and faster problem solving; earlier warning of potential problems; increased productivity and steadier workflow; stronger business relationships; clearer and more persuasive marketing messages; enhanced professional images for both employers and companies; lower employee turnover and higher employee satisfaction; and better financial results and higher return for investors.
The need for communication skills
The importance of communication is not surprising when you consider the staggering amount of time people spend communicating on the job. One study, published in Business Outlook, based on the responses from over 1000 employers at Fortune 1000 companies found that workers send and receive an average of 1798 messages each day via telephone, email, faxes, papers, and face-to-face communications. Some experts have estimated that the average business executive spends approximately 75% to 80% of the day engaged in oral or written communication.
The need for communication skills is important in virtually every career. Practitioners in Big Six accounting firms spend 80% of their work time communicating with others, individually and in groups. Likewise, engineers spend most of their professional lives writing, speaking, and listening.
Communication ability can result in better chance of promotion
Technical people with good communication skills earn more, and those who are weak communicators suffer. William Schaffer, international business development manager for computer giant Sun Microsystems, made the point emphatically: “If there’s one skill that’s required for success in this industry, it’s communication.”
Over 90% of the personnel officials at 500 US businesses stated that increased communication skills are needed for success in the 21st century.
Subscribers to the Harvard Business Review rated “the ability to communicate” as the most important factor in making an executive “promotable,” more important than ambition, education, and capacity for hard work. Research spanning several decades has consistently ranked communication skills as crucial for managers.
One twenty-year study that followed the progress of Stanford University MBAs revealed that the most successful graduates (as measured by both career advancement and salary) developed their communication skills by choosing courses such as business writing, leading, persuading, selling ideas, negotiating, interviewing, conducting meetings, resolving conflicts and working with cultural diversity.
Training employees in communication for improved profitability
The National Commission on Writing found that American businesses spend 3.1 billion dollars (approximately R30 billion rand) annually training people to write. At least 80% of companies in finance, insurance, real estate and services assess writing skills during their hiring processes. Nearly half of the businesses surveyed said they paid for writing training programs for salaried employees with writing inefficiencies, highlighting the need for effective workplace communication. In an interview with the “New York Times” Bob Kerrey, chairman of the National Commission on Writing, said, “Writing is a ‘marker’ of high-skill, high-wage, professional work. People unable to express themselves clearly in writing limit their opportunities for professional, salaried employment.”
Whether you are competing to get the job you want or to win the customers your company needs, your success or failure depends to a large degree on your ability to communicate. If you learn to write well, speak well, listen well and recognise the appropriate way to communicate in various business contexts, you’ll gain a major advantage that will serve you throughout your career. Moreover, because your communication plays a key role in efforts to improve efficiency, quality, responsiveness and innovation, your communication affects your company’s success.