Towards a Communication Proficient Workforce

The Author:Telephorus Chigwenembe, a communications specialist and senior consultant at CCPR, a Lilongwe based communications & public relations agency

That almost all activities in organisations are realised through communication is a reality some people are not aware of. Little wonder not many organisations are keen on investing in this indispensable tool.

Communication is every organisation’s lifeblood. Through communication, leadership is exercised and such other organisational activities as planning, directing, assessment of staff and many others are executed.

Without communication, how could organisational leaders ever appreciate their team members’ contribution towards the attainment of organisational goals? How could organisational conflicts and other challenges ever be resolved without communication?

Some organisational leaders have challenges demonstrating leadership due to their inability to communicate effectively. In this context, communication transcends writing or speaking skills, which are, of course, important. The concept should be understood to include communication consciousness, that is, some level of theoretical appreciation of this important human activity.

In today’s dynamic and increasingly sophisticated business environment, only employees with informed communication consciousness and cutting edge communication skills effectively foster positive work relationships, help drive business, enhance organisations’ reputation, contribute to organisational effectiveness and report on work progress with greater clarity.

However, gaps in communication consciousness and skills among employees at different levels at work places, including top management team members, seem endemic. In my view, there are a number of conspiring factors.

First, it is formation. Students’ exposure to organisational communication in training institutions and colleges is limited. What most are introduced to in colleges and universities are language and communication skills courses for academic purposes only, with such courses limited to the first year of study.

That has the potential to prevent students from acquiring work place related communication skills, let alone organisational communication consciousness. With limited knowledge of, and proficiency in, communication, the very tool meant to facilitate their performance at the work place throughout their careers, a lot of college and university graduates are ill prepared for the world of work despite their acquisition of ‘technical’ expertise in their fields.

The existence of communications offices or departments in organisations is another factor that aggravates the problem. In some organisations, the view, explicit or implicit, is that it is personnel in communications offices that should be worried about the quality of communication. Personnel outside communications can as well ‘do without’ communication and still perform, so is the misconception.

The third culprit are communications personnel themselves. Everyday offers evidence that suggests some practitioners act in a manner that propagates this ill-informed view. A lot of communication practitioners limit their efforts to the visibility of their organisations instead of also promoting organisational communication consciousness which is key in the management of numerous corporate issues.

Another reason is organisational leaders’ failure to realise the power that lies untapped in their communications personnel. Consequently, communications practitioners are denied the latitude for unleashing the powerful artillery they possess and contribute meaningfully to the effectiveness of their organisations.

Overcoming these challenges is possible, nevertheless.

The first solution is the full integration of organisational communication courses in all college or university studies, especially in the final year of study, regardless of one’s specialisation. That would prepare students for meaningful communication execution in any type of work environment.

Secondly, if, at the time of their recruitment, staff demonstrate limited communication consciousness and weak communication skills set, employers need to expose such personnel to short term programmes designed to turn their employees into value-adding workforce. The workers’ specialist expertise in their field alone is inadequate.

Organisational leaders should also create space for personnel in their communications offices and departments to lead in promoting best organisational communication practices for effectiveness and efficiency.

Last but not the least important, it is also time various professional bodies and organisations put organisational communication on their professional development agenda and programmes. Organisational Communication should be given space at professional body conferences, team building sessions, staff retreats and other fora that bring professionals and other workers together. Professionals in engineering, finance, health, HR etc should be constantly reminded of the need to continuously improve their organisational communication knowledge as well as their practical communication skills.

The pursuit of these initiatives could be all we need to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of some of our organisations, after all.

About the author: Telephorus Chigwenembe is a communications specialist and senior consultant at CCPR, a Lilongwe based communications & public relations agency.