No matter what generation you were born into, it's likely you want to find meaningful work that challenges and interests you and enables you to grow as a person. Business is, at its core, about people connecting with people. Significant relationships--forged in and out of the workplace--can only flourish when built upon clear and collaborative communication.

But for many Millennials, and those in younger age demographics, authentic communication can be a challenge. Social media, texting, and other short form communication are partly to blame for this issue, often pulling people away from social settings and creating more isolation.

A recent survey by the Hay Group shows that 80 percent of the HR directors they spoke to reported that it was a struggle to find graduates equipped with the requisite social and emotional skills to be successful in their careers. Conversely, 69 percent of the Millennials surveyed felt that soft skills "get in the way of getting the job done." Finally, the graduates who did not strive to improve social and emotional skills on the job were less likely to excel in their organizations, according to 83 percent of the HR directors surveyed.

It's important to note that communication is one of the most highly prized soft skills in the workplace, and many Fortune 500 companies echo this concept. Giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Disney are taking action, providing staff development programs through coaching, and implementing in-house Toastmasters clubs--both touted to be helpful in enhancing workplace communication and leadership skills.

Ineffective interpersonal relationships affect co-workers on multiple levels, including miscommunication, lack of trust, and poor collaboration between team members. So what can you do to improve your communication skills at work? Try these four steps:

1. Make personal connections a priority.

You don't build relationships in sound bites. Texting and social media have seemingly replaced authentic, one-on-one communication, which may lead to miscommunication. Shortened sentences in emails may come across as abrupt and be misconstrued. Trustworthy relationships are built upon two-way conversations. Meet with people face-to-face when time permits, or speak to them over the phone to avoid misinterpretation of your message. When you take time to meet with someone in person, you are more likely to make a lasting, meaningful connection.

2. Engage in active listening skills.

Listening mindfully and with respect shows that you care about the other person's message. Active listening will help you improve your relationships and have your own needs met. Being fully present and pausing between statements, as well as before answering, are key behaviors. Observe the person's responses and strive to create a rapport. Most importantly, be inquisitive. Ask questions for clarification, paraphrase the other person's statements, and at the end of the conversation, be sure to summarize your understanding of the issue. These steps will save time in preventing endless emails, back and forth, attempting to interpret what is being communicated.

3. Practice self-awareness.

It is easy to identify the faults of others without asking yourself how your actions might have contributed to a problem or demanding situation. Self-reflection can be a springboard for positive change and lead to more meaningful relationships. If you don't commit to evaluating who you are, idleness can follow. Ask for feedback from trusted advisers to identify your strengths and areas that need development so you can make positive changes. Then be sure to take the necessary steps to consistently polish your communication style and how you present yourself to the world.

4. Remain accountable.

One of the most important attributes HR directors look for in prospective employees is accountability. Do you want a raise? Make sure you approach it with evidence of why you've earned it. Take personal responsibility for your part in any conversation. If you misunderstand something or make a mistake, admit it. You cannot control what anyone else says or does, but you can control what you do and say.

Published on: Oct 3, 2016