How to measure communication competence

12 Jan 2022

Many job descriptions include ‘good communication competence’ as a required skill (or some variation of communication skills, etc). It sounds reasonable to want candidates to have the ability to communicate. The thing is, if it is a requirement, we should know how to measure communication competence.

Do you know how to measure competence levels?

When we don’t know how to do something we usually turn to the internet. A quick search online will return lots of communication assessments. Each assessment offers a series of multiple-choice questions. The trouble is there is no consistency or standard metric. You could take three different tests and get three different results.

The lack of standardization makes it hard to provide tangible evidence of ability. Not only that, but many of the tests are not based on solid research. They are created based on what people believe to be good communication skills.

The good news is there is a way to measure communication competence. And it is a method based on well validated research. So if you’d like to know how to measure communication competence, read on!

There is one workplace communication competence model

Research into this topic provided a model for managers and employees to assess each other’s communication skills. The assessment is a simple 11 question survey answered using a five point scale.

The research produced and validated a model specifically about communicating at work. Monge, Backman and company removed all the interpersonal communication topics. They only focused on the ability for people to communicate clearly.

How to measure communication competence

The assessment can be completed by an employee assessing their supervisor. Alternatively, a supervisor can assess an employee. To complete the survey, answer each question with a score from 1 to 5. Where 1 means strongly disagree and 5 means strongly agree.

My immediate supervisor (or my employee):

  1. Has a good command of the language.
  2. Is sensitive to my needs of the moment.
  3. Typically gets right to the point.
  4. Pays attention to what I say to him or her.
  5. Deals with me effectively.
  6. Is a good listener.
  7. Is easy to understand when communicating in written form.
  8. Expresses his or her ideas clearly.
  9. Is easy to understand when he or she speaks to me.
  10. Generally says the right thing at the right time.
  11. Is easy to talk to.
  12. Usually responds to messages (memos‚ phone calls‚ reports‚ etc) quickly.

Next, add up the scores.

  • Less than 24 = very low communication competence. Training and support are needed. Skills rating 1 or 2 should be tackled first.
  • 25–36 = low communication competence. One or more skills is either at or above a competent level but some areas need improvement. Skills rating 1 or 2 should be tackled first.
  • 37–48 = high communication competence. One or more skills is rated highly or very highly. If any scores are below 3 these should be the focus for improvement.
  • 49+ = very high communication competence. One or more skills were scored at the highest rating. If any scores are below 3 these should be the focus for improvement.

How to use the results

The communication competence assessment provides a guide for areas needing focus and training.

If you scored low or very low on the assessment, don’t worry. A low score doesn’t mean you will never be a good communicator. Good communicators build skills, knowledge, and experience over a long period of time. No one is born with these skills, they are learned and improved over time. Use the assessment results to identify areas to focus on improving. Work on one area at a time because it is easy to be overwhelmed by trying to improve everything at once.

If you scored 3 or less on questions 3, 7, 8, and 9, then I suggest you take a look at my book, The First Minute. The book is all about clearly and concisely structuring messages to get to the point. You can also pick up a free copy of The First Minute Workbook (worth $30). The book guides you through lots of activities to help you get to the point quickly and clearly. Grab a copy here.

Use the assessment with your team

If you want to help your team become better communicators, spend a few minutes completing the assessment for each person. The results will show you where each person has communication strengths and weaknesses. When you know the areas with low competence you can pick targeted training to address the issues. If you’d like help with this please get in touch, I’d be happy to help.

Use the assessment yourself

If you’re looking to measure your own communication competence you have a couple of options. One option is you could complete the assessment about yourself. This is not ideal because our own view of our ability differs from how others perceive us. Alternatively, you can ask your supervisor to complete it for you. If you don’t want to ask a supervisor you can ask a colleague or peer with whom you regularly communicate. Ask them to be completely honest. You benefit more from a true assessment than from a sugar-coated result.

When you have the results you will know if you have area to improve. In addition, you’ll know if you have specific communication strengths. It’s always nice to know what our standout strengths are.

Use the assessment in an interview

Are you interviewing job candidates and want to assess their communication skills? Why not use the assessment? At the end of the interview you can rate the candidate for each question in the survey. That gives you a tangible measure of their communication competence level.


There you have it, now you know how to measure communication competence. The assessment can help identify specific ways to help improve your team’s skills. You can use the assessment to create a development plan for your communication skills. And when interviewing people you can identify their communication competence level.

The next question is what are you going to do with the results?

For more information about communication competence, check out the 11 most commonly asked questions about communication competence.