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How to strengthen your young employees’ communication skills  

Posted in Articles
interpersonal skills definition

As 2019 begins, organisations find themselves at a strange time in terms of how information is exchanged. Despite being more digitally connected than ever, young employees are beginning to lose touch with one of their most fundamental human skills: communication. By making it too easy to be virtually social, millennials are losing the ability to connect and communicate in the real world and in the workplace – something they simply can’t afford to lose as they begin their careers. What young employees need from their managers now, more than ever, is access to the tools that will help them actively improve their interpersonal skills.  

  Training a workforce lacking communication skills

University courses are often focused on hard or technical training, resulting in many young people entering the workplace with a gap in their soft skills. By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. It is employers who are given the important task of setting these young professionals up for success when delivering sales pitches, solving interpersonal conflicts, and potentially leading teams.

The best way for managers to encourage their young employees to proactively learn within an organisation is to provide current and future team members with access to easily accessible and fit-for-purpose learning content.

87% of millennials consider development within a company very important when choosing a job, but, often, millennials don’t see value in a job without a higher meaning for themselves or their community. This can make it difficult to motivate them to learn skills such as communication.

Because of this generation’s actively decreasing attention span, young workers need user-friendly training solutions presented in a way they are familiar with, such as easy-to-use digital platforms. If an app is not intuitive and user-friendly, young people choose a new one. Learning solutions must be presented in the same way learners use every-day apps and platforms.

A generation with a fear of communication

The influx of technology aimed to make communication easier allows us to spread our message far more quickly and widely than ever before, but it has also created a glaring gap in young people’s verbal communication skills. If millennials aren’t encouraged to improve these skills by the organisations they work for, we are headed towards a workforce of individuals who find it difficult to communicate in one of the most basic ways.

Due to a lack of experience communicating verbally, 81% of millennials feel they must ‘summon up the courage’ before making a phone call [1]. Chances are, other generations who aren’t developing their soft skills whilst continuing to increase the amount of time spent communicating through technology, are experiencing the same fear when faced with a phone call or face-to-face meeting. It is crucial for managers to encourage employees, who, in this tech-dominated world, favour email over verbal communication, to develop their speaking skills.

Hiring millennials

Effective interpersonal skills among young people are becoming increasingly scarce and now come at a premium. Embracing soft skills development in learning agendas has become an unmissable piece of any effective organisation’s people strategy.

Investing in the right skills

Strong communication skills across a company will continue to be an increasingly valuable asset for managers to focus on over the coming years. Technology is to blame for millennials’ lack of developed interpersonal skills, but it is also exactly what your young employees must be prepared to fight against for decades to come.

To compete with the incoming influx of technology in the workplace and to prepare young employees for success in the workplace, here are some important skills that should be part of every organisation’s training offering: 

Writing skills: The ability to communicate through writing is essential to building a successful career within a company. For instance, Amazon, one of the most innovative and technically proficient companies on the planet, credits a key factor of its success to its writing culture [3].

Speaking skills: Although a robot will be able to translate and spread a message in milliseconds, one thing we won’t be able to teach AI is empathy. A robot won’t be able to get together with a team and speak with raw passion and really inspire them. Mastering speaking skills will continue to grow in importance as technology expands.

Reading skills: In order to improve our communication skills, we will need to continue to develop our reading skills. Reading skills are expected to maintain importance in the future and is still the best way to learn quickly.

Listening skills: Not only is it important to focus on outgoing communication but another focus must be on inward communication. Being able to listen is an essential part of communication. Active listening is a skill that millennials, who are prone to distraction, tend to struggle with yet must develop. Becoming accustomed to communicating virtually can be a disadvantage as being able to read an email, message, or blog several times before responding does not prepare an individual for face-to-face communication. Young people will not have that kind of reflection time if asked a question in an interview or meeting.

Teamwork: Much of what we consider high-value work is done in teams. This will continue as more jobs become automated. The jobs of the future will not depend exclusively on knowing facts or crunching numbers but on human collaboration when it comes to designing work for machines to complete. The ability to collaborate as part of a team will act as a competitive advantage in the years to come.

  The future of jobs

A push from management to develop the above-mentioned communication skills today will also give millennials the distinct advantage over their future AI coworkers. According to a recent study by Oxford University [4], young workers will need as much communication training as they can get their hands on.

As artificial intelligence makes it’s way further into the job scene, 47% of jobs will be replaced over the next 20 years. That is an astounding number of people whose technical skills and training will become obsolete and is a strong indication that we must reassess the skills organisations choose to train and develop.

The jobs at risk seem to require little to no interpersonal skills and can be described as routine, repetitive and predictable [5]. Positions requiring ‘human’ or ‘soft’ skills such as communication and building complex relationships with clients and staff members alike will remain unthreatened. This is exactly why developing young workers’ human skills today is paramount. The proper training will give them the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, increasing their future success as well as talent retention within an organisation.

Soft skills, not software

When thinking of a robot’s skills, what likely comes to mind is complex coding and high-speed data analysis. The skills we possess as humans have far more potential than the pre-programmed number crunching of millennials’ future AI coworkers. With the proper training, young people can use their communication skills to inspire, empathise, lead and connect, something artificial intelligence will never be able to do.

If the robots are inevitably coming for our young employees’ jobs, then why are organisations focusing their training efforts towards becoming successful in the roles AI will be working? Instead, managers should stress the importance of young people honing the skills robots will never have. Many young people are encouraged to pursue hard skills such as web development, computer science, and mathematics [6], while the importance of human skills such as communication, problem-solving, team-building, empathy and leadership is being ignored.

Technical skills are still extremely important to the future of jobs and should not be dismissed. However, to compete with the ultimate tech expert, technology itself, organisations must proactively develop their young employees’ human skills. Millennials and other generations alike need access to fit-for-purpose training in soft skills and personal development at work.

A focus on the soft skills solution

To ensure the success of young employees and companies alike, organisations must prioritise providing their current and future workers with learning opportunities at the point of need. This will equip millennials with the specific skills they will need to thrive and develop in this ever-changing workplace.

Moving towards a culture of proactive learning and upskilling, especially when it comes to communication, will be essential to millennials’ survival in the future workplace. In short, for young people to become the successful, inspiring, hard-working, proud and passionate humans they can be, they will need to continue to be just that — humans.

[1] https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/why-millennials-ignore-calls

[2] http://www.hays.co.uk/blog/five-soft-skills-todays-employers-are-looking-for/index.htm

[3]https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

[4] https://medium.com/s/story/how-amazon-innovates-67747090c4d2

[5]http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/05/18/407648886/attention-white-collar-workers-the-robots-are-coming-for-your-jobs

[6] https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/careers-advice/10-best-degrees-graduate-2017

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