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JOURNAL OF EDUCATION FOR BUSINESS, 87: 112120, 2012

C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC


Copyright 
ISSN: 0883-2323 print / 1940-3356 online
DOI: 10.1080/08832323.2011.576280

Identification and Instruction of Important Business


Communication Skills for Graduate Business
Education
David Conrad
Augsburg College, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

Robert Newberry
Winona State University, Winona, Minnesota, USA

Despite academias best efforts there still remains a gap in communication skills desired
by business practitioners and those delivered by new graduates. The authors suggest that
this may be the result of practitioners demanding outcome-based skills and academia teaching
basic non-business-specific fundamentals of communications. An examination of the literature
suggested that outcome-motivated skills can be successfully taught, but that comprehensive
outcome skills sets do not exist. Thus, the authors conducted a thorough review of the literature
to identify those outcome-based communication skills that management experts, leadership
theorists, business education professionals, communication skills researchers, and business
development writers have stated are in greatest need in business organizations. They conclude
with recommendations and implications for business management and education.
Keywords: business, communication, education, importance, management, skills

Business communication is the sending and receiving of verbal and non verbal messages within the organizational context (Murphy, Hildebrandt, & Thomas, 1997; Ober, 2001;
Roebuck, 2001). Hanna and Wilson (1998) expanded on this
definition, indicating business communication is a process
of generating, transmitting, receiving, and interpreting messages in interpersonal, group, public, and mass communication contexts through written and verbal formats. Hynes
(2005) stated effective business communication is the key to
planning, leading, organizing, and controlling the resources
of the organizations to achieve objectives, and it may be
formal and informal in nature. Argenti (2007) discussed
business communication functional aspects and found that
over half of the heads of corporate communication departments oversee business communications functions that include media relations, online communications, marketing,
special events, product and brand communications, crisis
management, employee and internal communications, com-

Correspondence should be addressed to David Conrad, Augsburg College, Department of Business, 3415 Chalet View Lane, Rochester, MN
55901, USA. E-mail: conradd@augsburg.edu

munity relations, and product and brand advertising. The


expanse and importance of business communication underscores the need for business academia and business management to collaborate in preparing business majors for the
workplace.
There is general agreement on the importance of business
communication skills and on the need to include them in
the business curriculum. Yet, there continues to be research
showing there is a substantial number of inadequately prepared entry-level employees. As an example, a study by the
National Commission on Writing (NCW; 2004) found that
a significant proportion of firms reported that one third or
fewer of their employees, current and new, possessed the
writing skills that organizations value. The NCW study also
estimated that $3.1 billion per year is spent by firms on remedial training in writing. Last, the NCW study noted that a
vast majority of firms assess writing skills when considering
hiring and promotion decisions, that writing skills of recent
graduates are generally considered unsatisfactory, and that
writing skills are essential for individuals desiring to achieve
higher level salaried positions.
Regarding oral communications, Maes, Weldy, and
Icenogle (1997) found that oral communication was one of

IMPORTANT BUSINESS COMMUNICATION SKILLS

the top three competencies needed to succeed in a managerial


position. Yet, numerous studies over several decades have
demonstrated the unsatisfactory oral communication skills
of recent graduates (Bolt-Lee & Foster, 2003; Reinsch &
Shelby, 1997). Thus, it appears that successfully preparing
students communication skills for the managerial workplace
has room for improvement.
Although there are many possible explanations for this
disconnect, one may be academics emphasis on theories
and models versus practitioners emphasis on skills and
abilities that produce practical outcomes. In addressing this
gap, several studies have suggested a lack of focus in the
business communication curriculum on skills that relate to
practical outcomes. Pfeffer and Fong (2002) concluded that
the focus should be the practical use of skills, not theoretical understanding or abstract knowledge. Pittenger, Miller,
and Mott (2004) proposed teaching communications with
an emphasis on real-world standards and operational skills
outcomes.
Numerous studies suggest that business educators must
better understand and teach the communication skills that
are considered important in business. Tanyel, Mitchell,
and McAlum (1999) found significant differences between
the attitudes of prospective employers and faculty regarding the importance of expected communication skills and
abilities among recent graduates. Ulinski and OCallaghan
(2002) found that MBA students and employers generally disagree on the order of importance of communication
skills.
Business communication skill instructional methods are
widely discussed. Kirby and Romine (2009) promoted embedding communication assessment in course content, suggesting outcomes that are useful skills that employers want.
Du-Babcock (2006) stated that teaching business communication theory and models without associated application
materials is inadequate and will lead to students not being capable of applying communication skills in the future.
As early as 1999, Murranka and Lynch demonstrated that a
competency-based communication course focused on skills
applications could be successful. To respond to this call for
outcomes that produce skills requires the identification of
base constructs and specific skills that appeal to academicians and practitioners.

METHOD
Several studies have revealed that success in business requires communication skill competency and shows that business instructors and programs must be sensitive to and understand the communication skill needs of business. Accordingly, ongoing research is needed to ascertain which specific
business communication skills are considered important. To
this end, we have identified a set of constructs and specific
skills that may form the foundation for discussion.

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Identifying Communication Skill Constructs


In business communication research, the most common constructs utilized include reading, writing, oral presentations,
and listening (Ober, 2001). Arguably, these basic skills alone
fail to capture the nuances of skilled business practitioners.
Evidence to support this contention is embedded in the research suggesting that graduates still lack the communication
skills necessary to be successful in business despite educations emphasis on the basic skills (Lanier, Tanner, Zhu, &
Heady, 1997; Roebuck, 2001: Tanyel et al., 1999). Examination of over 200 articles and books, and numerous discussions with practitioners, revealed that the skills business most
sought from their employees should be defined by communication behavior outcomes, such as the ability to negotiate
a solution between two conflicting parties. We conducted
research to determine if such a set of outcome-based skills
existed in the business communication literature and no comprehensive skills set was found.
Thus, we conducted a literature review to identify communication skills that management experts, leadership theorists, business education professionals, communication skills
researchers, and business development writers state are most
needed in business organizations. During the review, it became obvious that a broad set of constructs was needed to
frame the identification of the myriad individual skills that
might be deemed necessary. Thus, the first step in identifying the skills set was to formulate broader constructs, thus
forming the structure for identifying the individual critical
skills.
Ober (2001), Angell (2004), and Roebuck (2001) have
authored college undergraduate business communication
skills textbooks and have determined that business communication skills fall in to three basic categories: organizational
communication skills, leadership communication skills,
and interpersonal communication skills. Organizational
communication skills are those skills an organization uses to
effectively communicate with all internal and external stakeholders permitting coordination among people and organized
behavior; leadership communication skills are those skills
that allow business leadership to effectively communicate
with employees and key external constituents employing
communication methods, including stories, informality,
metaphors, openness, and strategic dialogue to create trusting
and supportive relationships among colleagues and staff; and
interpersonal communication skills are those skills that allow
business organization members to effectively communicate
to internal and external constituents on a personal, intimate,
and one-on-one basis, exchanging thoughts in face-to-face
verbal and nonverbal contexts by sharing information, providing feedback, or simply maintaining a social relationship.
Identifying Communication Skill Subsets
Once established, each construct was researched independently to assure that the communication skills cited were

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D. CONRAD AND R. NEWBERRY

only the skills that make up that particular construct. For this
study, 217 publications were reviewed for the identification of
business communication skills. In all, 98 organizational and
managerial publications, 77 leadership publications, and 42
business communication skills publications were reviewed
to accumulate the most frequently cited business communication skills needed in business.
Within the organizational communication literature, the
topics investigated included organizational communication
theory and research, supervisor and employee communications, communications planning, corporate communication,
workplace communication, information and knowledge management, communication networks, conflict and negotiation,
media, interviewing, business speech and presentations, business writing, and employee performance appraisal.
Within the leadership communication literature, the topics investigated included motivation, leading teams, power
and influence, leading change, cultivating trust, creating collaboration, leading through crisis and turmoil, mentoring, inspiration, leadership theory including styles and techniques,
relationship building, servant leadership, leadership communication strategies, and self-awareness and discovery of leadership styles, traits, and abilities.
Within the interpersonal communication literature, the
topics investigated included cultural context, cross-cultural
communication, self-concept, relational development, building rapport, listening and perception, active listening, empathic listening, verbal and nonverbal messages, types of
relationships, the one-on-one communication process, smallgroup discussion, gender communication, assertiveness,
emotional intelligence, gesturing, overcoming differences,
holding conversations, and demonstrating respect at work.
Writers contributing to the communication skills inventory included recognized communication skills writers such
as leadership experts Warren Bennis, Stephan Covey, John
Kotter, Jim Kouzes, and Barry Posner; management theorists
Peter Drucker, Richard Daft, and Peter Senge; and business
communication skills writers Deborah Roebuck, Scot Ober,
and Pamela Angell.
Following the guidelines of Miles and Huberman (1994),
a literature reduction process was used to select and simplify
the literature content. Further processing was used to
make decisions on how to code the literature within each
construct and organize the findings so that the conclusions
could be reasonably drawn and verified. Three stages of
content analysiscontent reduction, content display, and
conclusion drawing and verificationformed an interactive,
cyclical process. As Miles and Huberman illustrated, the
coding of identified communication competencies found
in the construct-related literature (data reduction) was
accomplished by use of a matrix that included the skill
constructs, the communication competencies cited in the
literature (phrases, key words), and notations of frequency
of citation. From the reduction process salient competencies

were subsumed in a larger pattern and emerged as the most


important business communication skills.
For example, interpersonal communication skills literature and research repeatedly noted the following abilities:
understanding, interpreting, and evaluating what is heard;
listening attentively; listening and responding to others; focusing attention on the speaker; suspending judgment and
avoiding other internal mental activities to fully attend to
the speaker; listening for feelings, with listeners needing to
restate, in their own language, their impression of the expression of the sender; clarifying and confirming what is heard;
deeply listening; and repeating, paraphrasing, and reflecting
what was heard. These cited communication abilities were
interpreted and coded as listening components and aggregated as common constructs of the skill, active listening. To
validate that the abilities were in fact constructs of active
listening, the term active listening was researched independently to confirm that researchers in this area included these
abilities in their definitions of active learning.
Admittedly, the determination of inclusion and exclusion
on the skills list was a bit arbitrary, but overall the inventory
is representative of those skills most frequently referred to
in the literature. A complete reference list is available by
contacting the authors.
The inventory includes 24 skills that emerged from this reduction process: nine organizational communication skills,
eight leadership communication skills, and seven interpersonal communication skills. The skills covered a range of
business communication competencies in several business
disciplines such as human resources, management and leadership, stakeholder relations, information management, communication technology, and specific verbal and written skills.
Organizational communication skills included a) initiating
open discussion, b) resolving conflict, c) creating information
networks, d) teaching important skills, e) using information
technology, f) providing performance feedback, g) negotiating, h) writing business correspondence, and i) Making
convincing presentations. Leadership communication skills
include a) arousing enthusiasm, b) being a change catalyst, c)
creating group synergy, d) building team bonds, e) expressing
encouragement, f) being persuasive, g) being persuasive, and
h) building optimism. Interpersonal communication skills
included a) active listening, b) building rapport, c) demonstrating emotion self control, d) building trust, e) relating to
people of diverse backgrounds, f) demonstrating respect, and
g) building relationships.
We created the definitions of each skill but derived them
from the most commonly used language, the context under
which the skill was discussed, and the usage of the skill as
presented in the reviewed articles. Our goal was to derive
the skills and abilities from the literature rather than by an
exhaustive search of the literature, seeking accurate terminology. Tables 1, 2, and 3 list the skills sets and define each
communication skill. Note that each skill is defined based

IMPORTANT BUSINESS COMMUNICATION SKILLS

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TABLE 1
Organizational Communication Skills
1. Initiating open discussion: the ability to create discussion and dialogue, explore opposition by individuals who advocate their positions, and convince others
to adopt those positions through logic, argument, or debate
2. Resolving conflict: the ability to employ a range of processes aimed at alleviating or eliminating sources of conflict through processes including
negotiation, mediation, and diplomacy
3. Creating information networks: the ability to design and institute formal or informal systems for managing the flow of information and providing
person-to-person relationships through which information flows
4. Teaching important skills: the ability to provide skill remediation to employees in areas such as job performance, technical competency, interpersonal
communication, and problem solving
5. Using information technology: the ability to employ equipment (usually computers) that enables managers and staff to access ongoing and relevant
company information including reports, planning data, and employee and customer feedback
6. Providing performance feedback: the ability to assess employee performance and provide performance feedback as a review of employees performance,
which helps to set targets for future performance targets
7. Negotiating: the ability to produce an agreement on courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy
various interests
8. Writing business correspondence: the ability to produce written communication used in business including letters, memos, bulletins, and reports
9. Making convincing presentations: the ability to provide informal or formal talks delivered to decision -making groups to convey information or make a point

on desired communication outcomes versus traditional nonbusiness-specific communication abilities.

Therefore, among the most important and vital linkages for


any organization are

Organizational Communication Skills

internal communication, between management and employees as well as from employee to employee; and
external communication, between the companys staff and
clients, suppliers, vendors, and other key stakeholders.

Most experts on organizations, management, and leadership


assert that effective communication is foundational for any
type of organization. Theorists assert there cant be too much
communication, but research shows some managers misinterpret communications to be the same as paperwork or bureaucracy, so they are averse to expanded communications.
Studies show that as leaders and managers gain experience,
they become more sensitive to the need to convey and receive
information quickly and accurately, and efforts to be competent communicators (internal and external) increase substantially. Effective communication and managers communication skills are an extremely important issue for effective
organizational behavior, relationships, and work processes.

The research and articles examined stressed the need to


debate, discuss, and dialogue; to accumulate, store, and disseminate information; to train and review employees; to be
effective presenters of information and concepts to various
stakeholders verbally and in written form; and to maintain
order within the organization. In that vein, the most important
organizational communication skills are skills that enhance
the organizations ability to meet those needs.
Our review of the literature identified the foundational
communication skills needed in organizations, which include
all forms of verbal, written, and data technology methods that

TABLE 2
Leadership Communication Skills
1. Arousing enthusiasm: the ability to inspire a whole-hearted devotion to an ideal cause, study or pursuit, or merely being visibly excited about what ones
doing
2. Being a change catalyst: the ability to initiate change through providing information to employees that will convince them of why a change is necessary and
will compel them to embrace it
3. Creating group synergy: the ability to compel organizational members to interact and produce a joint effect that is greater than the sum of the members
acting alone
4. Building team bonds: the ability to establish team cohesiveness, which is the extent to which members stick together and remain united in the pursuit of a
common goal
5. Expressing encouragement: the ability to provide support and confidence, raising or increasing an individuals self-esteem and confidence to make choices
and decisions
6. Providing motivation: the ability to move a person or group toward desired goals by increasing his or her willingness to exert effort and energy to achieve
the goals
7. Being persuasive: the ability to guide people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and logical means relying on appeals rather than
coercion
8. Building optimism: the ability to create a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most
favorable outcome despite obstacles and setbacks

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D. CONRAD AND R. NEWBERRY


TABLE 3
Interpersonal Communication Skills

1. Active listening: the ability to employ an intrapersonal and interactive process to actively focus on, interpret, and respond verbally and nonverbally to
messages
2. Building rapport: the ability to create a harmonious relationship, bond, or kinship based on mutual respect, friendship, camaraderie, or emotional ties
making someone feel comfortable and accepted
3. Demonstrating emotion self control: the ability to display balanced moods through retaining, mastering, and dominating ones reactions provoked by
pleasant or unpleasant emotion
4. Building trust: the ability to construct the reciprocal faith in others intentions and behavior through a shared belief that you can depend on each other to
achieve a common purpose
5. Relating to people of diverse backgrounds: the ability to recognize and respect differences in people and communicate appropriately in verbal and
nonverbal exchanges
6. Demonstrating respect: the ability to show esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something
considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability
7. Building relationships: the ability to establish a relatively long-term association between two or more people based on liking, trust, and respect creating
regular business interactions, interdependence, or some other type of social commitment

can assist the organization to communicate and manage information effectively. Authors reported that organizational
membersespecially managersmust possess the ability to
present ideas clearly, document accurate and explicit records
and notations, and create information flow channels within
and outside of the business to link all vital stakeholders. Results indicated that authors perceive writing skills, speaking
skills, technology-mediated communication, team and group
communication, and negotiation skills to be of most importance.
Through the literature review we found that the ability to
present information, write effective business correspondence,
and provide constructive performance feedback to individuals is necessary and vital for organizational effectiveness.
Also important is the ability to create internal communication structures that provide unlimited venues and channels
for open individual and group communication flow. Findings
show that many organizational positions require the ability
to communicate clearly with clients, management, and employees; superior writing and presentation skills; the ability
to communicate objectives and goals; the ability to write
proposals and quotations; and basic usage of computerized
information technology.
The review of the literature concluded that organizational
communication vehicles, whether written or verbal, must be
learned and implemented to address the ever-changing organizational challenges. Most writers asserted that sound communication environments must possess the ability to provide
needed education and knowledge to staff, disseminate information that is interpretable and free of misunderstanding,
and effectively link strategy to performance, and further concluded that not investing in the technology or the people who
can maximize the effectiveness of the technology will result
in lost customers, sales, and share of market.
Research on internal organizational communication reveals that successful networks are evident when organizations can communicate to personal, group, organizational,

and interorganizational dimensions of the firm in key communication activities such as performance reviewing, decision
making, problem resolution, and data management. Broadly
speaking, theorists supported an organizational structure that
meshes technology with personal communication to ensure
that all who must hear information receives it and all who
receives the communication receives the same consistent
message.
The review of organizational communication skills also
found that information sharing is effective when systems and
networks enable managers and employees to have the right
information at the right time to do their jobs, share opinions
and discuss ideas, and circulate best practices, thus learning
from each other. In that vein, writers believed that organizational members have to develop two primary communication goals: being heard and being understood, revealing a
need for clarity in communication, whether in oral or written
form.
Building on the repetitive assertions of researchers
and writers of reviewed articles, the following list of
communication skills emerged as most important to meet
organizational communication demands.
Leadership Communication Skills
The review of the leadership communication literature generally indicated organizational leadership must be effective at
using communication skills to communicate mission, vision,
and values. Writers recognized the importance of communication skills to drive effective leadership including, the ability
to communicate openly and honestly, use a persuasive approach, and vividly describe a picture of the future. Broadly
speaking, leadership competency is dependent on key communication skills organizational leaders must develop and
implement in all stakeholder communications.
It was found leadership communication writers placed the
learning and application of communication skills at the heart

IMPORTANT BUSINESS COMMUNICATION SKILLS

of the competencies that leaders must develop and use. All


writers value a leaders ability to communicate energy, inspiration, motivation, and enthusiasm. Finally, the literature
concluded that these skills are teachable and that the failure
to develop them will diminish the performance of new and
even veteran organizational leaders.
Writers believe leadership communication skills include
the ability to inspire others, build confidence, draw conceptual pictures of the future, and keep the vision at the forefront
of all interactions. Theorists specifically pointed to skilled
persuasion as the influence proficiency that all leaders must
possess. Many saw any communication from leadership that
is not convincing, but rather only opinionated, not based on
fact, or unreliable in origin, as detrimental to the leaderships
ability to effectively communicate.
Our review concluded that the behavior of leaders needs
to be consistent with what they are saying, both formally
and informally, and their actions must support the business
mission. In addition, when it comes to rallying team effort and
contributions, the review concluded that leaders must be good
at communicating the business story convincingly to bond
and energize teams for increasing collective performance.
In this vein, most writers added that inspiration builds
team synergy and momentum, and also motivates members to
exceed previous performance levels. Furthermore, theorists
and researchers contend that leadership communication must
be exhilarating while defining the purpose, goals, and objectives of the firm in futuristic, forward-thinking language and
conceptualizations. A number of works warned that communication without this people-focused element will possibly
be construed as command and control orders.
Emotional intelligence was seen as the competency that
determines achievement in business according to numerous
writers. The ability to influence, initiate change, create group
synergy and boding, and motivate with integrity characterize
some of the abilities of people with emotional intelligence.
Writers believed that emotional intelligence, utilized in leadership, is shown through communication skills that excite
peoples imaginations and inspires them to move in a desired
direction. Scholars believe business leadership is dependent
on communicating the future in optimistic yet realistic terms,
and empowering people to help build this future. Almost all
authors stated that effective business leadership communicates openly, honestly, and passionately about possibilities
and encourages employees to share in the task and responsibility of building the future state. Most leadership communication theorists believed that learning the communication
skill of inspiring change and addressing objections and resistance is vital for transformation desired, noting change leadership requires sound communication skills that can clarify,
elucidate, and define change aspects in specific, simplistic
language.
Scholars asserted that leaders must express an open mind
for possibilities, fully gather ideas and insight from others,

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and build the confidence needed to create the necessary transition desired by the firm. They believed that employees look
to leaders for those shining indicators of confidence, integrity,
and optimism to nurture their own sensations of stability and
purpose.
Research shows that organizational leadership must be
able to communicate a vision of the future that is strategic in
nature, and will energize and recharge employees who may
have become weary from the current business environment.
In that vein, strategic vision builds confidence and it is widely
believed persuasion, positive motivation, and enthusiasm are
communication techniques that bond teams, inspire individuals, and send messages to external stakeholders that the company is focused and committed. It was commonly stressed
that employees crave security and optimism about the future, and urged that all internal and external communication
present powerful messages that detail stability, camaraderie,
and conviction of purpose.
Findings illustrated that culture building is a business necessity and that it is achieved through inspirationally delivered communications that encourage performance, positive
morale, and building for the future, and sell employees on
the value of commitment, collaboration, culture cohesiveness, and collective identity.
Building on the beliefs and assertions of leadership communication skill writers and researchers, the following list of
communication skills emerged as most important in leadership communication.

Interpersonal Communication Skills


The review of interpersonal communication skills literature showed numerous writers believe in the need to manage emotions and concentrate on controlling reactions to
stressful situational factors, thereby communicating stability
and encouraging harmony among organizational staff. They
overwhelmingly chose listening, emotional control, and the
interpersonal communication skills of building relationships
establishing mutual trust, and initiating close, one-on-one
meaningful dialogue as the critical skills needed for the management of organizations.
Other writers expanded on emotional intelligence and social intelligence as the ability to build relationships, inspire
trust, control emotions, and express empathy through the art
of listening. Theorists believe that interpersonal influence
is dependent on the ability to communicate to the heart of
the audience through understanding the relationship components that move each individual. They see human bonding
as achievable through skilled development of the awareness
for communication needs, the development and implementation of communication that reduces barriers and conflict,
and sustaining a trust environment that is inviting for further
communication and deeper dialogue.

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D. CONRAD AND R. NEWBERRY

Scholars expressed that interpersonal communication


skills can and must be learned and are essential for influencing people and business progress, and suggested that business
communicators can practice a blend of humor, humility, and
honesty combined with nonverbal skills such as eye contact,
appropriate facial expression, and correct body language to
be optimally effective. They also assert the ability to demonstrate empathic and active listening is extremely convincing,
and displays a respect for the listener that then opens the
doors for heartfelt, sincere, and genuine dialogue.
A number of works identified the skills necessary to
build relationships as learnable, common-sense humanistic
attributes such as gaining the attention of people, building
rapport, providing evidence to support claims, and showing
a sincere interest in others. The literature suggested that to
establish ongoing trust and confidence, business communicators must also handle all complaints and objections thoroughly through skilled questioning and listening, and knowing when it is time to apply either one.
Recognizing that interpersonal communication skills are
essential to business success, not surprisingly theorists indicated that firms must develop people who can speak and
write well. However, the literature went further emphasizing
that employees and management must be able to relate to
people, build credibility and trust, and fully understand that
message content, intent, and its possible hidden meanings are
key considerations in interpersonal communication success.
Various authors reported there is a crucial need to develop
communication skills that will help organizational members
relate to diverse audiences to establish friendships, close relationships, and mutual trust. Most believed that the ability to
communicate across cultures is necessary for effective business and further related that meaning and intentions must
be made clear, understandable, and nonoffensive when communicating. In that vein, writers stated that organizational
members must understand cultural dynamics and diversity
sensitivities in their desire to communicate effectively. This
suggests that respecting diversity and understanding diverse
backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and styles when communicating in business will enhance the ability to secure warm
friendships, mutual respect, and solid relationships.
Showing respect and understanding are effective communication skills, and are necessary for influence in
business communications. Writers recommend that business
communicators take time to listen and truly hear what others
say without injecting untimely judgmental feedback, thus
opening the door for true dialogue encouraging reciprocated
openness.
The review of literature found that, of all interpersonal
communication skills assessed, interpersonal skills including
listening, building trust, showing and demonstrating respect,
and speaking genuinely and sincerely were rated as most important. Many writers believed that most business personnel
do not take the time to first build rapport when seeking to
persuade and that people tend to make random statements,

which, rather than influence, end up confusing individuals


or making them feel they do not possess enough information to effectively make a decision. Clearly, communicators
are challenged to first reflect on their message to determine
how it sounds and how they would respond if they heard it
from someone else. It was often noted that people will regard
communication with suspicion if the communicator seems
unsure or displays a nervous regard about the validity of the
message itself.
Writers argue that the ability to stay calm under crisis
provides a foundation that may compel others to stay calm.
Studies report that people are always judging others in crisis
situations to determine their level of control and will feel
confident if they see that people can stay analytical, keep
emotions in check, and seek to maintain calm and order, and
prevent chaos.
Based on this analysis the following list of communication skills emerged as the most important for interpersonal
communication effectiveness.

IMPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESS AND


BUSINESS EDUCATION
The purpose of the previous literature review and resulting
business communication skills inventory was to offer an alternative view for curriculum development and future research
to the critical issue of business communication readiness of
college graduates. The literature supports the lack of preparedness of new graduates with respect to business communication skills despite a consensus among practitioners and
academia of those skills sets importance. Thus, based on a
recent emphasis on outcomes-based skills, we set out to provide structure that otherwise was vacant from the literature.
The art of communication is often taken for granted, and
it is easier to understand the principles than to develop the
skill required. However, investment in the guiding values
of communication will benefit individuals and lead to more
effective business processes and ultimately performance.
Managers spend a great deal of time communicating in
a variety of forms, including face-to-face and written. The
observation, understanding, and instruction of these key skills
can improve the often underrated art of communication,
which is the common thread weaving throughout every working day. Some argue that the richest communication method
is face-to-face, in which the entire range of information (verbal and nonverbal) is available and, therefore, in which the
accuracy of the information can be checked. Others contend
that written communications are the most important, due to
the growing use of electronic communication pathways, including the plethora of social media platforms available.
The components for effective communication and these
guiding skills contribute to the quality of verbal communication and by association, the outcome. These skills are useful
within any kind of business communication context, but par-

IMPORTANT BUSINESS COMMUNICATION SKILLS

ticularly within employee appraisal, motivation, coaching,


and team development processes.
The skills sets proposed in this review could be useful in
creating college course and company training materials that
address outcome-based communication skills. At the very
least, business faculty and trainers should consider the types
of skills defined in this study as those that would serve students and organizational staff when pursuing their business
careers. Most certainly, the creation of curriculum that includes skills such as these should be explored and tested, and
results should be published to enhance the discussion and
to offer guidance to those teaching business communication
skills.
It may be argued that many of the communication skills
cited in this study cannot be taught within a classroom or
organizational training environment. It is our contention that
the preponderance of literature investigated reveals that all of
these skills are, in fact, teachable and learnable. Not only have
the various authors cited the importance of these skills, but,
in many cases, stressed the urgent need to learn, develop, and
implement the skills. Consequently, it is the responsibility of
academia and business organizations to assess the communication competency of their respective constituencies and
develop a means to remediate the gaps and deficiencies. In
addition, there are a plethora of for- and nonprofit business,
leadership, and interpersonal communication skill consultancies including Toastmasters International, Dale Carnegie
Training, and Franklin Covey that instruct and develop vital
communication skills.
While busy teaching all of the technical and quantitative
skills required in business, instructors may forget to deal with
a critical component of any industry: people skills. The soft
skills include techniques and methods of developing written communication, oral communication, leadership communication, team skills, listening skills, presentation skills,
global/cultural awareness, and interpersonal communication.
Although these soft skills are important for people in any profession, they are of utmost importance for managers. In fact
evidence suggests that employers in all occupational fields
place greater value on employees communication skills than
they do on their technical skills (Du-Babcock, 2006). Be it
marketing, human resources, operations, or financial-related
functions, good people skills are essential for a manager to
succeed and work effectively. Accordingly, MBA and undergraduate business academia is encouraged to assess communication skills education within their curriculum and consider
outcome-based skills when developing curriculum. It is also
apparent that business and academia do not always understand and agree on the critical skill competencies. The expressed needs of business and the sensitivity of academia to
understand these needs are critical for a collaborative planning approach that can design curriculum that adequately
prepares students for effectiveness in satisfying the expectations of business organizations.

119

The communication skills identified in this review of


the literature do not cover every communication skill important in business, but the designated skills do provide a
compelling framework for understanding the salient skills
perceived to be most important in business settings. If business instructors and business practitioners believe everyone
can improvethus the reason for educationit is crucial
to understand what should be improved. The reality is that
members of an organization can possess brilliant ideas for
company growth and expansion, product development, or
groundbreaking innovations, but to succeed they must be
able to communicate those ideas. So the challenge is obvious, it is up to organizations and academia to provide more
than training in broad communication theory or even detailed
non-business-specific skills, but rather to provide training in
those communication skills that lead to successful business
outcomes.

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