A Business Outlook survey of Fortune 1000 companies found that the average professional has 1,798 points of contact per day. From one-on-one conversations to emails, staff members receive deluges of information as they navigate their workdays. This survey also determined that executives spent at least 75% of each day communicating with others. Given these results, department managers, division leaders, and executives alike should ask “Why is business communication so important?”
The importance of business communication can be quantified based on financial losses and employee surveys. Business leaders should also intuitively seek the best methods of communication with diverse audiences. Managers and executives who take positive approaches to this important skill can pivot to deal with new challenges. The online MSc programme in business and management from Aston University trains students in presentation and problem-solving skills through effective communication.
The price of poor communication
Disconnects between managers and their teams can be the difference between business success or failure. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that small businesses experience an average loss of $420,000 per year due to poor communication processes. The SHRM also indicated that a survey of 400 large companies lost an average of $62.4 million per year due to communication issues. For all of these companies, clearer and more efficient communication can mean bigger profits and better public profiles.
The SHRM notes that these losses can be attributed to general deficiencies in communication skills among employees. In the typical workplace, writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills may be taken for granted as goods and services become the central focus. A review of national employee surveys regarding business communications should place these skills front and centre.
Employee responses to manager communication
Research by Bluesource and Interact/Harris Poll show that employees appreciate the importance of business communication. Data management company Bluesource gathered information on employees around the world to evaluate the state of business communications. These findings included:
- 205.6 billion emails are sent per day around the world
- 85% of employees use more than one device for business communications
- 60% of employees said their departments don’t measure the successes of internal communications
- 97% of employees believe communication skills are critical to success
- 74% of professionals use email as their main communication medium
Interact/Harris Poll surveyed 1,000 professionals about workplace productivity and communications. This survey found that 91% of respondents felt their managers lacked the emotional intelligence to relate to their staff members. Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s awareness of their own emotions and ability to empathise with other people. A majority of survey respondents cited the following reasons for their thoughts on communications from managers:
- Lack of recognition (63%)
- Lack of clear direction from manager (57%)
- Inability to meet with manager on a regular basis (52%)
- Refusal by manager to speak with direct reports (51%)
Bluesource’s data sheet should lead managers to consider how to incorporate new technology and multi-faceted processes into their communications. Inc.’s report on the Interact/Harris Poll concludes that managers can use specific praise, public recognition, and transparency to cultivate emotional intelligence. For managers asking “Why is business communication so important?,” understanding and responding to the most common communication types are important first steps.
Understanding communication types
In a 2018 Forbes article, entrepreneur Karl Sun explained the four communication styles typically found in workplaces. Professionals who use analytical communications rely on data to explore ideas and produce solutions. Intuitive communicators take blue-sky approaches to problems by focusing on long-term issues and overall direction. A functional communicator goes through existing processes for orderly and efficient contacts with staff members and clients. The personal communication category incorporates professionals who develop relationships and enjoy in-person communications.
Sun argues that successful companies incorporate employees in all four communication types to achieve success. He notes that 42% of employees see different communication styles as a source of inefficiencies and frustrations. However, Sun also says that 54% of employees like to work with colleagues with different styles. The key to managing these differences is remaining open to new ideas and tools. Sun pointed to a survey saying that 63% of employees want multiple organisational tools so that their colleagues can convey ideas within their comfort zones.
Developing communication skills
Managers who understand the communication styles and challenges of their staff members can advance to skill development. While online tools and new processes are helpful, leaders need to approach interpersonal skills as lifelong tracks. An executive who thinks they have solved the communications puzzle might be passed by upstarts with long-term views on professional development. Internal communications specialist Alison Davis presented 25 skills in a 2019 Inc. article that should be useful to managers.
Davis argues that there is a progression of five skill categories that reflect the importance of business communication. The most important category is the interpersonal skill block that includes listening, information delivery, responding, and verbal communication. Leaders interested in improving business management with communication can also acquire skill blocks with the following skills:
- Team skills like brainstorming, conflict resolution, and team recognition
- Comprehension skills including storytelling and coaching
- Process skills such as developing high-value meetings and interviews
- Leadership skills like building consensus and communicating change
To develop these skills, leaders at all stages of their careers should challenge themselves to new opportunities. Young managers should dive into new working groups and seek additional responsibilities to communicate with broader employee groups. Established leaders need to consider how their communication styles have evolved and understand how their teams best receive information. A graduate programme like the Aston University online MSc Business & Management degree can also be helpful in building these skills through a global network.