When you're hiring someone for a job, you look at a resume, cover letter, references, professional achievements--anything that can help prove why this person is qualified and would be an asset to your company. But other, less-apparent characteristics play a huge role in determining a person's success within a company. We call these characteristics "soft skills," and they are just as relevant to a person's career as technical skills or experience. Indeed, the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation found that only 25% of long-term job success depends upon technical skills; 75% depends on soft skills mastery.
Some soft skills are adaptability, punctuality, critical thinking, and leadership, but the soft skill paramount for every industry is communication. A manager's ability to communicate expectations to employees is vital, giving employees the guidance they need to succeed in their role. Just as important is an employee's ability to communicate their needs to managers and colleagues.
If an employee doesn't have a mastery of soft skills, it can be difficult to succeed in their career, regardless of technical proficiency. Clearly, communication skills are necessary. Few schools teach communication and conflict resolution skills, and many parents don't model positive communication for their children. Therefore, many adults grow up not knowing healthy ways to express emotions and interact with others.
The good news is that communication skills, and other soft skills, don't have to be innate--they can be taught and learned.
The benefits of good communication are widespread.
Successful companies understand it is in their best interest to invest in their employees' communication skills. The benefits extend to the company, the employee, and the customer:
- Benefits to the company. The company benefits from improved communication by reducing conflict and attaining better clarity on goals, objectives, and requirements, leading to increased productivity and revenue. In fact, research from Harvard University, Boston University, and University of Michigan's Ross School of Business found workers with soft skills training "are 12% more productive than those who did not receive the training in soft skills." Improved communication also increases employee retention, improves employee engagement, and promotes team morale.
- Benefits to employees. Employees benefit from improved communication with increased confidence, reduced stress, and avoiding burnout. Relationships improve both professionally and personally.
- Benefits to customers. Finally, customers benefit from better interactions with employees--which can lead to repeat business and brand loyalty.
Learning the fundamentals of communication is critical for business and your overall quality of life. In a 2017 podcast, Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO David Solomon reflected on his 35-year career on Wall Street. He credited his alma mater, Hamilton College, with giving him the communication skills he needed to succeed. The evidence is clear: Mastering communication skills will substantially impact your career and your company's bottom line.