Back to Basics: Understanding What Employers Expect from You

This is the third post in a new series in which we 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.

Today’s employers expect you to be competent at a range of communication tasks that reflect the value of effective business communication. These capabilities can be grouped into four general categories:

  • Acquiring, processing, and sharing information. Employers expect you to be able to recognize information needs, locate and evaluate reliable sources of information, organize information into cohesive messages, and use information ethically. This collection of skills is often referred to as digital information fluency. Information fluency includes critical thinking, which is the ability to evaluate evidence completely and objectively in order to form logical conclusions and make sound recommendations.
  • Using communication to foster positive working relationships. This capability includes listening, practicing good etiquette, resolving conflicts respectfully, and communicating with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Representing your employer in the public arena. Employers expect you to act responsibly and professionally on social media and in other venues and to follow accepted standards of grammar, spelling, and other aspects of quality writing and speaking.
  • Efficiently using the tools that your employer provides. Aside from in-person conversations and meetings, every instance of business communication involves some level of technological assistance, so employers expect a level of proficiency with the tools they provide you to use.

As you advance in your career, either by moving up in an organization or perhaps by starting your own company, the first three groups of competencies become increasingly important. When top executives are looking for the next generation of leaders for their organizations, they will observe how their employees use information, develop relationships, and represent the company to the public. Shortcomings or poor habits in any one of these areas could stall your career prospects, so keep all these skills in mind as you find your footing early in your career and map out how you would like to progress over time.

Adapted from Courtland L. Bovée and John V. Thill, Business Communication Today, 15th Edition, 2021, pp. 6–7. This topic is also addressed in our titles Excellence in Business Communication, Chapter 1, and Business Communication Essentials, Chapter 1.


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