According to a study conducted by LinkedIn, communication was the most commonly required skill in job opportunities posted to the platform in June and July of this year. While demand for candidates with strong communication skills was once specific to industries and roles that were public or customer facing such as corporate communications or sales there is a growing recognition of the importance of communication skills in almost any corporate setting.
Many forget that communication is a two-way process and communication is not just about being able to talk with total clarity and being able to inspire and motivate a team it is also about listening. I’ve always emphasised the importance of listening especially to the voice of discontent.
If a boss is surrounded with ‘yes’ people, they will never receive the full picture. In such a situation the boss only hears what others think the boss wants to hear and as a result much of what is critical when it comes to decision-making does not get aired.
Dan Brodnitz, the head of content strategy for LinkedIn Learning, says the already growing appetite for candidates with effective communication skills has only accelerated since the 2020 pandemic. In fact, over the past six months the number of hours that users dedicated to communication related courses on LinkedIn Learning increased threefold.
“In this moment of dramatic change that affects how we communicate, you’re going to see a heightened need for training,” says Brodnitz.
“As our interactions become more complex, the need for higher-level communication skills becomes more obvious and essential.”
While the pandemic is partially responsible for the increased demand for training, Brodnitz anticipates employers now increasingly realise the value of soft skills as well as traditional, job-specific skills.
“In our research we found that 92 per cent of hiring professionals tell us that soft skills are just as important as hard skills,” says Brodnitz.
“That means how people work is just as important as their technical ability and ability to deliver on the work.”
Employers of all shapes and sizes are now seeking candidates that demonstrate certain core competencies, but among the various attributes that fall under the umbrella of “soft skills”, effective communication is by far the most popular.
“AI and machine learning and automation are all about replacing the easy work; soft skills are the part that will be the competitive advantage of humans in the coming years,” says Jobbland.se founder Martti Kuusanmäki from Helsinki in Finland.
Martti explains that as technology advances, and as automation takes over many of the repetitive tasks that once fell to humans, employers will continue putting a greater emphasis on those quintessentially human capabilities.
He goes on to say, “In leadership and management, the styles are changing, and I think one of the drivers, which is now expanding to the whole workforce, are team skills, and one of the most vital parts of that is communication skills; it’s becoming a buzzword; you basically have to have it now.”
Finally, I’ll leave you with a quote from Peter Drucker, the man who is credited with inventing management: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at [email protected]