This is the first post in a new series in which we will revisit the fundamentals of business communication, from what it means and why it matters to tips and techniques for success. We’ll present the information in ways that you can share directly with your students, and we hope this information will enhance your lectures and class discussions.
As the fall term starts up in these unprecedented circumstances, we wish you and your students a healthy and successful learning experience—and we salute you for your heroic efforts to help students continue to develop in the face of these challenges.
Communication Is Important to Your Career
You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but they usually aren’t much good to your company or your career if you can’t express them clearly and persuasively. Some jobs, such as sales and customer support roles, are primarily about communicating. In fields such as engineering or finance, you often need to share complex ideas with executives, customers, and colleagues, and your ability to connect with people outside your field can be as important as your technical expertise.
If you have the entrepreneurial urge, you will need to communicate with a wide range of audiences—from investors, bankers, and government regulators to employees, customers, and business partners.
If you move into an executive role or launch your own company, you can expect communication to consume the majority of your time. Top executives spend most of their workdays communicating, and businesspeople who can’t communicate well don’t stand much chance of reaching the top.
The changing nature of employment is putting new pressure on communication skills, too. Companies such as Uber and Lyft are the most visible in the gig economy, where independent contractors work without many of the advantages or disadvantages of regular employment. Many other companies now supplement their permanent workforces with independent contractors who are brought on for a short period or even just a single project. Chances are you could spend part of your career as one of these independent freelancers, working without the support network that an established company environment provides. If you take this path, you will need to “sell yourself” into each new contract, communicate successfully in a wide range of work situations, and take full responsibility for your career growth and success.
Telecommuting and virtual teamwork are becoming the normal mode of work for many people in these challenging times, and working at a distance puts even more pressure on communication skills.
No matter which direction your career takes, keep in mind that the world is full of good marketing strategists, good accountants, good engineers, and good attorneys—but it is not full of good communicators. View this as an opportunity to stand out from your competition.
Communication Is Important to Your Company
Aside from the personal benefits, communication should be important to you because it is important to your company in three essential areas:
- Operations. Every company needs fast, effective communication between managers and staff, within departments, between departments, and between the company and its external business partners. Communication carries everything from high-level strategic plans down to minute technical details, and any bottlenecks or breakdowns can reduce operational efficiency and create problems with quality or safety.
- Intelligence. Companies need to keep a constant “ear to the ground” to be alerted to new opportunities, risks, and impending problems—both internally and externally.
- Relationships. Just as in personal and social relationships, business relationships depend on communication. Effective communication strengthens the connections between a company and all its stakeholders, any persons or organizations significantly affected by the company’s business decisions and operations. Stakeholder groups include employees, customers, investors, creditors, suppliers, and local communities. Individuals within companies also rely on communication to foster the emotional connections that create a healthy work environment.
Put simply, no business can function without effective communication, and the better the communication, the better every part of the company is likely to run.
Adapted from Courtland L. Bovée and John V. Thill, Business Communication Today, 15th Edition, 2021, pp. 4–5. This topic is also addressed in our titles Excellence in Business Communication, Chapter 1, and Business Communication Essentials, Chapter 1.