Why Communication Matters

As a professional, you work with people.  You may interact with customers in a store or office, or with clients in a human services agency.  You may mange and supervise others, or write instructions or programs for others to use.  You may report medical results to patients who have just had a procedure, or you may support managers as an administrative professional. You may need to connect with a company or service to straighten out an error or clarify information. The ways in which you interact with others on a professional basis are endless.

Communication is that interaction between people. A communication might be in the form of an email, a memo, a formal report, a shared photograph, a letter, a tweet, a blogpost, a meeting, or an informal discussion, but as long as one person is sending a message and another person is receiving it, communication is occurring.

The successful professional communicates effectively.  Effective communication happens when your audience understands your meaning in the way in which you meant it to be understood. Consider this very simple example.

A restaurant’s menu offered the following choices for breakfast: sausage and eggs, pancakes and bacon and bacon omelette

When you read the menu list, did you pause a bit and wonder about the omelette?  (e.g., Is it something unusual and creative – a pancakes and bacon omelette? Are the pancakes meant to be a separate item? Is it a special double-bacon omelette?).  The omission of one little comma, which should have been inserted after the first mention of bacon, creates potential confusion for the reader and creates a situation in which the reader may not understand the meaning in the way it was originally intended. You can see that, even in this one small case, communication matters to the many customers and employees who need to understand and explain what the restaurant actually offers.

On a larger scale, according to Weise, et al., communication is one of the main skills employers most value in professionals:

Advancements in machine learning and deep learning have sparked alarmist predictions of massive job obsolescence, ranging anywhere from 8 percent[1] to 47 percent[3] of the jobs in the U.S. workforce. McKinsey estimates that about half of the work currently associated with $15 trillion in wages globally will become automated.[3] Workers are going to have to prepare not only for a much longer work life, but for a more turbulent one, too. In a new learn-earn-learn cycle, workers will need to return to learning throughout their work lives. They’ll need to be flexible and agile, able to shift and grow over the course of their longer work lives. It’s also increasingly clear that the skills that cannot be easily automated—such as systems thinking, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication—will be the ones needed to succeed in the future. The World Economic Forum anticipates that “[m]any formerly purely technical occupations are expected to show a new demand for creative and interpersonal skills.”[4] (pg. 6)

Take communication. In Emsi’s analysis of over 36 million job postings in 2018, skills like leadership, research, communications, writing, and problem solving are among the most in-demand human skills. (pg. 16)

Communicating well, so that others understand your meaning, has multiple benefits for professionals and their workplaces.  If you search online for “benefits of effective workplace communication,” you’ll find many recent articles that identify a variety of benefits to having good communication within an organization:

  • employee satisfaction
  • increased productivity
  • effective problem-solving and conflict management
  • good customer relations

The following video, although geared toward advertising a service, offers a brief overview of the benefits of good workplace communication.

Communication matters not only to the functioning of an organization, but also personally, to you as a professional.  Those who communicate clearly and appropriately are more apt to have their ideas and comments heard and respected. Professionals who communicate clearly and appropriately are more apt to be sought after and chosen for a project, a grant, or many different types of benefits.

Another personal benefit of learning about effective professional communication is the set of transferable skills that you can apply to other aspects of your experience, from talking with your child’s teacher, to asking for a refund for a less-than-advertised product, to writing emails and blog posts.

This text will focus on characteristics of, and strategies to produce, effective professional communications.