Tags: job | communication | skills | work force

CNBC: Communication Skills Are Lacking in the Labor Force

By Kristin Caliendo   |   Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 08:07 AM

Unemployment is still on the rise, yet companies keep adding new job postings on a daily basis. Job seekers are looking for work and companies aren't hiring them.

Why the disconnect?

Employers are frustrated because the applications landing on their desks aren't qualified for the openings they need to fill.

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Even though technology is so rampant, job seekers still need to be able to communicate and write clearly — a skill that seems to be vanishing even among those with higher-level-education degrees.

Experts have differing opinions on the reasons candidates are lacking effective communication skills.

"With Gen X and Gen Y, because everything is shorthand and text, the ability to communicate effectively is challenged," explains Bram Lowsky, an executive vice president of Right Management, the work force management arm of Manpower. "You see it in the business world, whether with existing employees or job candidates looking for work."

Others are placing the blame on colleges. The Association of American Colleges and Universities published a survey of 318 employers and found that 80 percent said colleges don't focus enough on written and oral communication, CNBC reports.

Further, some experts point the finger at grade-school-level education. William Ellet, an adjunct professor teaching writing at Brandeis International Business School, cites data from the Department of Education that only 24 percent of eighth and 12th graders were proficient in writing in 2011.

From colleges on down, he says, "nobody takes responsibility for writing instruction."

Having taught at Harvard Business School, Ellet tells CNBC that the problem persists even into business school and that technology isn't always to blame.

"Most new technology is text based," he notes, adding that students explain that their working relationships are with people they have never met and a majority of their business is conducted through email.

"Thirty or 40 years ago, using writing for that wouldn't have been possible," Ellet explains. "Businesses get that, but I don't think universities do."

Ellet tells his students, "Recruiters and companies are saying, 'Send us a writing sample, and if you don't meet our standards for communication, we are not hiring you."

This view from the point of the employers is not necessarily a threat, but a reality that should get students to take their education more seriously and administration to take notice.

A 2011 survey of corporate recruiters by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the organization that administers the standardized test for business school, 86 percent of the respondents said strong communication skills were the most desirable skill set.

For job seekers whose writing skills might not be up to par, there's still hope, as companies are investing in career development solutions for their employees. Lowsky notes that Right Management has seen an increase of 20 to 25 percent in the number of clients helping their employees improve their communication skills.

A recent survey by Adecco Staffing US shows 92 percent of 500 top executives polled responded that there is a gap in job skills among job seekers and among them is communicating, CNBC reports. 

"Many of them are saying they are getting applicants who aren't prepared for the workplace," says Janette Marx, senior vice president of Adecco Staffing US.

Whether it's education, technology or a combination of the two that contributes to the quality of job candidates, the fact remains that one of the most important skills is being tossed to the side and employers aren't settling for mediocrity.

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