Good Communication

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Good communication matters because business
organizations are made up of people. As Robert Kent, former
dean of Harvard Business School has said, “In business,
communication is everything.”

Research spanning several decades has consistently ranked communication skills as crucial for managers. Typically, managers spend 75 to 80 percent of their time engaged in some form of written or oral communication. Although often termed a “soft” skill, communication in a business organization provides the critical link between core functions. Let’s examine three reasons why good communication is important to individuals and their organizations.

Reason 1. Ineffective communication is very expensive.

The National Commission on Writing estimates that American businesses spend $3.1 billion annually just training people to write. The Commission surveyed 120 human resource directors in companies affiliated with the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from U.S. corporations.

According to the report of the National Commission on Writing:

People who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired, and if already working, are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion.
Eighty percent or more of the companies in the services and the finance, insurance and real estate sectors—the corporations with greatest employment growth potential—assess writing during hiring.

Two-thirds of salaried employees in large American companies have some writing responsibility.
More than 40 percent of responding firms offer or require training for salaried employees with writing deficiencies.

In a New York Times article about the Commission’s findings, Bob Kerrey, president of New School University in New York and chair of the National Commission on Writing, put it this way: “Writing is both a ‘marker’ of high-skill, high-wage, professional work and a ‘gatekeeper’ with clear equity implications. People unable to express themselves clearly in writing limit their opportunities for professional, salaried employment.” The ability to communicate was rated as the most important factor in making a manager “promotable” by subscribers to Harvard Business Review.

Reason 2. The changing environment and increasing complexity of the 21st century workplace make communication even more important. Flatter organizations, a more diverse employee base and greater use of teams have all made communication essential to organizational success. Flatter organizations mean managers must communicate with many people over whom they may have no formal control. Even with their own employees, the days when a manager can just order people around are finished. The autocratic management model of past generations is increasingly being replaced by participatory management in which communication is the key to build trust, promote understanding and empower and motivate others.

Because the domestic workforce is growing more diverse, an organization can no longer assume its employee constituencies are homogeneous. Employees reflect differences in age, ethnic heritage, race, physical abilities, gender and sexual orientation. Diversity is not just a matter of social responsibility; it is also an economic issue. Companies are realizing the advantage of making full use of the creativity, talents, experiences and perspectives of a diverse employee base.

Teams are the modus operandi in the 21st century workplace. In a recent survey of Fortune 1000 companies, 83 percent reported that their firms use teams; teams are all about communication. The...
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