Posted June 9, 2020
In 1992, an engineer in Chicago tried to warn his supervisor of the risk of flooding in a freight tunnel just a few weeks before a massive flood unleashed 250 million gallons of water. But the engineer communicated his message poorly. The supervisor didn’t understand the implications of the problem, so no action was taken.
The result: $2 billion in damages.
Communication, of course, is one of those vague but essential abilities that employers call a “soft skill.” But this phrase undersells the importance of good communication. Rather than a “soft” skill, we would call it a critical skill.
Good communicators minimize misunderstandings. They facilitate cooperation and collaboration. They improve productivity. And of course, good communication facilitates more sales to customers and clients, generating better overall business results.
Here’s the scary part, though: communication doesn’t have to be outright bad to erode performance and productivity and cause problems. It just has to be inadequate.
Chicago learned that lesson the hard way.
While the 1992 flood is a particularly devastating example, this basic scenario repeats itself endlessly at businesses every day. HR Technologist reports that 69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with employees in general. At the very least, that will impede cooperation and collaboration within and between teams. So, it’s no wonder nearly half (39%) of employees believe that people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough, according to research from Queens University.
That, in turn, causes significant problems. According to a survey from sales platform Salesforce, 86% of employees and executives believe inadequate collaboration or ineffective communication contributes to workplace failures.
So, how can organizations set the stage for success in a world in which communication is so fundamental?
Train every employee to be a better communicator.
Thankfully, communication is a skill that can be developed and strengthened. Start at the point of hiring. The only way to ensure that every employee has at least baseline proficiency in critical skills – and furthermore that all employees within the organization are trained in the same way – is to make that training universal.
But communication skills’ development shouldn’t stop at onboarding. Everyone needs a refresher every so often. It’s important to polish communication skills at certain points in the employee lifecycle. Promotions, for example, represent key moments where employees need to develop their skills to a higher level.
Ultimately, communication is simply too critical to the success of an organization to leave it to chance. The only way to take control of this aspect of a company’s productivity or operations is to train everyone to be the best communicators they can be.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations. Links: Wikipedia, EdwardTufte.com, HR Technologist, Queens University, Salesforce