The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which tracks trends in the hiring of college graduates, recently announced the results of its 2011 Job Outlook survey. Like their counterparts in previous years, employers who participated in the survey rated “verbal communication” the most desirable skill that a college graduate on the job market can possess.
While I’m not sure exactly what the label “verbal communication” was intended to mean (as opposed to what—body language?), the response definitely validates what we do. You can share this fact, along with similar results of many other surveys, with skeptical bosses or students as the need arises.
You might find it interesting that the additional top five “soft skills” valued by employers were
2) a strong work ethic
3) teamwork skills
4) analytical skills
According to the NACE press release, employers were “very satisfied” with the teamwork and analytical skills of new college graduates but less satisfied with their communication skills, initiative, and work ethic.
Needing too much guidance and not working hard enough are traits that pop up in virtually every book and article that describes today’s young employees (a.k.a. Generation Y, or the Millennials). I believe that, as bcomm teachers, we can and should not only strengthen our students’ communication skills but also address these other two weaknesses as well.
For example, we can give assignments that require our students to take initiative—to find information, to make decisions, to be creative problem-solvers—and then reward that initiative. And we can also stand firmly by our quality standards, helping students understand that we represent their future employers, who will expect them to do what it takes to get the job done well—even if that means an extra revision or another hour or two of research or teamwork.
Because communication is so central to business and so integral to one’s professional behavior, our job has always been, to some extent, to teach students not only about how to communicate at work but also about who to be. The more we can connect communication with the related skills that will make them valued, successful employees, the better.