In corporate America employee communication skills are often referred to as “soft skills” and this label is inaccurate, misleading, and can hurt an organization’s bottom line.
A survey of Fortune 200 company vice presidents on communication practices and areas of miscommunication found that miscommunication can be costly (Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 2004). Companies spend $5 to $10 million annually on communication training to increase effective communication among employees and reduce costly errors (Strategic Finance, 2005).
When companies do not provide adequate communication skills training, the amount of paperwork generated increases and productivity decreases. Not surprisingly, the same survey of Fortune 200 vice presidents indicated that employee performance reviews were often based on communication effectiveness.
Labeling communication skills “soft” implies that these skills are easily obtainable and less important than other skills. Ask employees about the most difficult aspect of their jobs and they will undoubtedly say it is communicating with their work colleagues and establishing productive relationships. Redefining communication as a hard skill may be the first step needed to change peoples’ perceptions about communication and motivate them to improve their skills.
The question then becomes where, when, and how do employees acquire these hard skills needed to succeed in their profession? Many corporate job position notices list “communication skills” as key in their hiring choices. If employees enter the work force without those skills, employers often find themselves with a need to provide internal communication skills training—costly to employers in not only providing the training, but in the lost work hours. Others may encourage employees to take graduate coursework in this area, and the Canisius College Masters Program in Communication and Leadership is a direct response to this need.
Jill Kelly, Vice President of Human Resources at API Heat Transfer Inc and graduate of the Canisius College MS in Communication and Leadership, speaks highly of this program: “It provided me with a sophisticated understanding of communication theories, concepts, and research that I apply daily to help me navigate both my work and personal lives.”
Canisius College’s MS in Communication and Leadership addresses the role of communication in managing and leading people in organizations and establishing relationships with internal stakeholders and external constituents. Our graduates acquire the hard skills needed to succeed in the workplace. To learn more about the MS in Communication and Leadership degree, visit www.canisius.edu/comlead.
Dr. Melissa Wanzer