As your company budgets for the next year, it probably has line items related to communication, including technology to assist in communication, internal communication programs, and marketing initiatives. You might even have an entire communication department. With all those resources it seems impossible that your company could have a communication gap. And yet…
In 2015, Burning Glass Technologies analyzed millions of job postings across the U.S. looking specifically at “baseline skills,” which are general skills not exclusive to a particular job description. They found that, hands down, the baseline skill companies seek most is communication. The #2 most desired skill is organization and #3 is writing, communication’s trusty steed.
Those findings shouldn’t be shocking. Communication is a critical skill in nearly every job description. What’s troubling is that it’s not being fulfilled. Burning Glass also assessed which of those same baseline skills were most often under-supplied in the talent pool. Communication was #5. Writing was #1. America has a communication skills gap.
Companies are demanding communication skills but the workforce is failing to deliver. Unless your company has a revolutionary process for finding great communicators, you’re in the same boat. And ultimately it’s dragging down your operations as well as your bottom line.
So how do you fill the communication gap? You can’t hire only Communication majors because the problem exists across all job categories.
The key is to think of it not as a gaping hole, but as a series of cracks that creep into many parts of your foundation. Individually they won’t collapse your business, so they’re often tolerated and/or ignored. But if you’re having trouble reaching your goals, you can probably trace the problem back to a communication gap you didn’t realize existed.
Read “How to drive meaningful change through communication”
The second step is to identify those communication gaps that prevent things from running as smoothly as they could. Here are a few basic questions to help you get started.
What’s the most complicated aspect of your business? And how important is that aspect to your bottom line?
If you answered “all of it” and “extremely,” then being able to overcome complication is crucial to your success. Even if you can reduce your list to one or two complications, simplifying them may not be an option. The solution is to clarify them through better communication tools and processes. Business is complicated. Your employees and customers are dealing with it every day. This is your opportunity to stand out. Refine your communication materials and processes until the proof shows in your performance. Don’t settle until your first impression is clearer than all the noise.
What is your employees’ level of job satisfaction? Do you even know?
Countless studies and articles show that higher job satisfaction leads to higher productivity, higher quality, better customer service, etc. There are many ways to gauge this, from anonymous surveys, to group feedback sessions, to third party coaches. At ThoughtForm we use a process called “Fast Feedback” as well as where we can give and receive feedback in a nonthreatening environment. We have mentors with no direct role in our career advancement. However you plan to improve job satisfaction, start with listening. Andrew Carnegie preached this decades ago as the key to success on a personal level. Imagine the impact it could have if engaged across an enterprise.
Do your people know what happens downstream from them? Do they know how their actions affect people in other departments, or do they make decisions in a vacuum?
I meet many people who say they feel “out of the loop” or they “have no idea what happens in other parts of the company,” but if they did it would affect how they communicate. Departmental silos are an age-old obstacle. Virtual teams and offices only make it more problematic. The solution doesn’t require in-depth cross training. It just takes a small investment in time and communication tools to increase understanding. A simple process map is a good place to start. A cross-functional task force would take it to another level. The result is improved communication along with a sense of value and community when people know where they fit.
These three questions may be the biggest, but when it comes to uncovering communication gaps, they’re just scratching the surface. In brainstorming for this article I came up with at least 9 more. So as you plan for 2017, don’t settle for missed client opportunities or clichés like “the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.” Budget some extra time and effort to those areas of communication that are usually ignored. Because you do have a communication gap, and it’s hiding in splinters all around you.
Continue reading. Take a look at “Analyzing the communication challenge”