What Are Good Communication Skills and Why Do We Need Them?

Recruiters and job seekers alike see the words “Communication skills” plastered on just about every job ad they read or write, and with good reason. It’s cited as the #1 desired soft skill among employers in a recent survey by the NACE. Everyone wants an employee that can communicate well in the workplace. But what does “communicating well” really mean?

Speaking Well

Online course-taking website Udemy’s blog offers a good rundown of what communication skills employers find most valuable.  They include:

  • Listening - using active listening to better understand what someone else is saying
  • Empathy - being aware of the needs of others through what they say to you
  • Patience - not losing your cool the second you send an email and don’t get a reply
  • Clarity - making sure your message gets across the first time
  • Honesty - be honest about your expectations of someone what they should expect from you
  • Self-improvement - being able to properly take criticism
  • Positive attitude - letting other people feed off your positive energy

We need to also consider body language, since it can often dominate a conversation more than our tone or words. Making sincere eye contact, dressing well, and having good posture can make the difference when asking for a raise, making a pitch, or working with a client, and employees aren’t getting a handle on it either.

Employers look for these skills because they can’t be easily taught in the workplace. The qualities that make up communication skills might seem simple to learn, but employers don’t see them in the workforce as much as they’d like to: 60% of employers noted in a recent survey that many applicants lack the communication and interpersonal skills needed to thrive in the workplace, and 44% noted in another survey that those same skills are the biggest skill gap they want to close. 

Communication skills are valuable, employers know that, and not enough candidates have them. But why are they so important? 

The Importance of Communication 

Communication is vital to getting work done in any field, and employees are recognizing this as well. Of the people who’ve identified their workplace as a bad place for communication, 34% of them have cited communication as a bottleneck for productivity. 30% say that they don’t have the information necessary to perform their job as best as they can. 86% say a lack of communication leads to project failure. If your workplace doesn’t have enough people who recognize the value of communication, chances are they won’t be able to disseminate the right information to the people who need it on time, leading to people waiting on emails and time wasted on employees answering follow-up questions.

It’s a problem that not’s going away, but not many employers are doing much about it besides actively looking for those skills when they hire. Only 27% of employees get communication training once they’re on board, and as few of them are confident about their ability to communicate in the workplace. It gets worse: only 18% of employees get evaluated for their communication skills during performance reviews. Employers clearly think communication skills are important to working in their offices, but they’re not affirming or reversing their first impressions of a candidate as much as they should. 

Implementing communication skills training is more than just a small-scale solution. 60% of employers who train employees in People Management Practices (PMP) see a positive ROI within three years. Even executives looking at landing jobs need to evaluate their communication skills.

Share on LinkedIn: "I like to ask people what they’ve read, what are the last three or four books they’ve read, and what did they enjoy about those. And to really understand them as individuals because, you know . . . you have to probe a little bit deeper into the human intangibles, because we’ve all seen many instances where people had perfect résumés, but weren’t effective in an organization.” — Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines (@Delta)

So we know that communication skills are, why employers value them, why employees need them, and have identified the problems they both have in learning, teaching, and developing them.

Bio: Sean Pomeroy, CEO

Sean has worked in the Human Resources industry since he graduated from Radford University with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After working in HR as a generalist for a government contracting company, he moved to the HR Technology arena and began assisting companies in the selection and implementation of HR software.

Tweet me at @VisSoft

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