Three years ago, sitting in an audience listening to musician, artist and innovator will.i.am at Dreamforce 2016, I was pushed into a new reality. He described what motivates some of his philanthropy. In short, he recognized that children from schools with minimal funding and, therefore, minimal equipment and innovation, would have limited career choices. If schools couldn’t introduce them to current technology, they’d be left out of the work world we have created … and continue to create. From a young age, they would be consigned to a life restricted by fewer job choices and lower wages.
Today I know this does not only apply to skills related to technology but also includes other vital life skills … and I’m committed to seeking change. What are these other life skills? And how does this impact you?
Data from multiple sources indicates a shift in the skills most demanded by the world’s largest companies. Across all industries and in every country, companies are scrambling to find individuals with excellent communication skills – skills that allow employees to be valued leaders, trusted team members and consistent creative contributors. These skills are now becoming more vital in the hiring process than completed degrees and certifications.
Why are these companies scrambling? It’s an unintended consequence of technology. While we are all sending more “messages”, fewer of us are actually speaking to each other … having real-time conversations. The skills necessary to concisely convey an idea, generate excitement and create cohesion on a team are simply not being consistently cultivated.
Two years ago this truth appeared before me in a workshop. Working diligently with an engaged team on how to get a phone conversation started, I was about to move on to a new topic when the mood in the room suddenly changed. I looked up from my notes to see puzzled, anxious faces.
“What?” I asked everyone. “What’s happened?”
One brave soul phrased it perfectly: “We understand the skills you’ve taught us,” he said. “But what we don’t know how to do is keep the conversation going.”
For a different group of clients, I’ve been included in a lot of anecdotal evidence that communication skills – presenting in front of others, attending meetings, talking on the phone – are causing such increased anxiety that many individuals are seeking medical support in the form of propranolol.
How is this impacting you? Likely you’ve encountered this issue when on the phone with a customer service agent, or when speaking with a sales associate at a retail store, or even in your own home while your family members are focused on their phone screens.
What’s the possible future impact? This is the gap we should all want to avoid. I very much believe it is the same as what will.i.am described to the audience years ago. Those with excellent communication skills will have more career options; they will be sought out for the best paying, the most interesting work. The choices for those without communication skills will remain limited and lack financial prosperity. The gap between those that “have” and those that “have not” will continue to widen.
What’s the solution? There’s many but here are a few:
- If you have children, encourage them to learn and use their communication skills as much as possible, i.e get them to order pizza with a conversation instead of a text.
- If you are a teacher, professor or principal, encourage the inclusion of communication skills in the curriculum – everything from public speaking and writing to phone calls and in-person conversations.
- And if you own a business, give your staff access to communication training. Here at The Phone Lady we offer a wide range of courses and are aiming to have much of it online by 2020 to give everyone easy access. And a new Halifax-based company, Speakr, is working to provide everyone with an easy way to improve their public speaking and presentation skills.
I know there are more opportunities out there. Please … share your thoughts and ideas and links below. Let’s make sure the future includes more great communicators and more widely available opportunities.