You are the solution to better communication skills

15 Mar 2021

Communications skills are important for any job. But, who is responsible for improving employee communication skills? The employee or the employer? The answer is you — you the employer and you the employee. You are the solution to better communication skills.

In a previous article, I wrote about how companies contradict themselves on communication skills. First, they say all jobs need good communication. Then they limit training to the highest positions in the company. This puts the employee in a difficult position. Do they find their own training to help them rise up in the company? Or do they work their way up the ranks in the hope of eventually getting the communication training?

Given this, who is responsible for improving employee communication skills? The employer, or the employee?

There are two parts to the solution to better communication skills.

  1. Companies can provide communication training to all employees, regardless of the level.
  2. Employees should seek their own training from outside their companies.

Solution 1: Train all employees, regardless of the level

Providing communication skill training to all employees would ensure a companywide improvement. This sounds good in theory, but it is not so simple to achieve. Most communications skills training involves small groups or one-to-one coaching. On a per head basis, this is an expensive service.

It doesn’t make sense for companies to provide one-to-one coaching for all employees. Besides the huge expense, it would be enormously time-consuming. But, learning a skill doesn’t need to happen one-to-one. The best learning comes through instruction followed by deliberate practice and ongoing support.

The increased availability of online courses might be the solution employers need. Online courses make it cheaper and more convenient than ever to get training for the masses. Training doesn’t have to bring people together in the same physical location.

You may be wondering if this will provide value. Is it worth training everyone?

The old adage about an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure holds true in this case. Training to entry and mid-level roles helps avoid people getting into bad habits. In turn, this will reduce the need to retrain leaders to remove their bad habits. That means the communication training given to senior leaders would be even more valuable. It can focus on skills specific to their roles rather than on the fundamentals.

Solution 2: Employees should manage their own training

Professional development isn’t only the responsibility of the employer. More and more people are finding they must take charge of their own development. This means finding training courses outside their current employer.

Self-driven training is increasingly popular. The availability of affordable online courses is opening up a world of possibilities. Especially to people who are willing to drive their own learning.

Skill specific education is available at a lower cost and a higher convenience than at any time in the past. We no longer have to arrange childcare to be able to attend an evening class or take time off work to attend a seminar. Online courses can be completed on a laptop or a mobile phone from the comfort of your own home.

Employers are also picking up on this. They are looking to hire people who have proven they already have a desire to learn for themselves.

As Pat Wadors wrote for the Harvard Business Review: ‘As a leader, when you’re hiring, look for lifelong learners. Look for talent who has demonstrated the ability to learn new skills to advance their career’. Companies will start looking for people who are self-driven learners. Gone are the days of expecting an employer to give us the skills we need to progress in our careers.

We need both solutions

So, which is the right answer? Should we develop our own skills in the hope that our employers will notice? Or should we work hard and hope that our employers will provide the training they want us to have? The solution to better communication skills is a combination of both.

Companies need communications skills from people joining the company. This, coupled with the high level of competition for jobs, mean we need to find ways to stand out. Taking steps to develop our own communication skills is a great way to do this.

It also makes sense for employers to start training employees early in their careers. No company ever failed because its employees communicated too well. So, what steps will you take to improve the communication skills in your company?