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Journal of Education for Business

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Identification and Instruction of Important Business Communication Skills for Graduate Business Education
David Conrad & Robert Newberry
a b a b

Augsburg College, Rochester, Minnesota, USA Winona State University, Winona, Minnesota, USA

To cite this article: David Conrad & Robert Newberry (2012) Identification and Instruction of Important Business Communication Skills for Graduate Business Education, Journal of Education for Business, 87:2, 112-120, DOI: 10.1080/08832323.2011.576280 To link to this article:

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JOURNAL OF EDUCATION FOR BUSINESS, 87: 112120, 2012 Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 0883-2323 print / 1940-3356 online DOI: 10.1080/08832323.2011.576280

Identication and Instruction of Important Business Communication Skills for Graduate Business Education
David Conrad
Augsburg College, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

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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-specic 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 denition, 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:

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 signicant proportion of rms 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 rms on remedial training in writing. Last, the NCW study noted that a vast majority of rms 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



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 signicant 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 identication of base constructs and specic 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 specic business communication skills are considered important. To this end, we have identied a set of constructs and specic skills that may form the foundation for discussion.

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 dened by communication behavior outcomes, such as the ability to negotiate a solution between two conicting 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 identication of the myriad individual skills that might be deemed necessary. Thus, the rst 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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only the skills that make up that particular construct. For this study, 217 publications were reviewed for the identication 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, conict 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 inuence, 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 ndings so that the conclusions could be reasonably drawn and veried. Three stages of content analysiscontent reduction, content display, and conclusion drawing and vericationformed an interactive, cyclical process. As Miles and Huberman illustrated, the coding of identied 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 conrming what is heard; deeply listening; and repeating, paraphrasing, and reecting 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 conrm that researchers in this area included these abilities in their denitions 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 specic verbal and written skills. Organizational communication skills included a) initiating open discussion, b) resolving conict, 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 denitions 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 dene each communication skill. Note that each skill is dened based

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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 conict: the ability to employ a range of processes aimed at alleviating or eliminating sources of conict through processes including negotiation, mediation, and diplomacy 3. Creating information networks: the ability to design and institute formal or informal systems for managing the ow of information and providing person-to-person relationships through which information ows 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-specic communication abilities.

Therefore, among the most important and vital linkages for any organization are 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. 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 identied the foundational communication skills needed in organizations, which include all forms of verbal, written, and data technology methods that

Organizational Communication Skills 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.

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 condence, raising or increasing an individuals self-esteem and condence 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


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

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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 ow 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 ow. 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 rm 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



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 condence, draw conceptual pictures of the future, and keep the vision at the forefront of all interactions. Theorists specically pointed to skilled persuasion as the inuence prociency 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 dening the purpose, goals, and objectives of the rm 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 inuence, 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 dene change aspects in specic, 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 condence needed to create the necessary transition desired by the rm. They believed that employees look to leaders for those shining indicators of condence, 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 condence 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 inuence 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 conict, and sustaining a trust environment that is inviting for further communication and deeper dialogue.



Scholars expressed that interpersonal communication skills can and must be learned and are essential for inuencing 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 identied 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 condence, 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 rms 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 inuence 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 rst build rapport when seeking to persuade and that people tend to make random statements,

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which, rather than inuence, end up confusing individuals or making them feel they do not possess enough information to effectively make a decision. Clearly, communicators are challenged to rst reect 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 condent 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 benet 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-



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 dened 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 deciencies. In addition, there are a plethora of for- and nonprot 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 elds place greater value on employees communication skills than they do on their technical skills (Du-Babcock, 2006). Be it marketing, human resources, operations, or nancial-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.

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The communication skills identied 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-specic skills, but rather to provide training in those communication skills that lead to successful business outcomes.

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