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Effective communication skills gap to widen in the workplace

Posted by Joanne on February 2, 2013 Comments Off

In the article “Is the Internet bad for us?” (The Star, Fri Dec 28 2012) Josh Tapper, the author, notes that:

  • CommunicationThe average Canadian spends more than 45 hours online each month. (ComScore, a global internet use tracker)
  • More the one-third of wired Canadians use internet-ready digital devices before getting out of bed in the morning, and nearly 50 per cent click away right before falling asleep. (Angus Reid/Vision Critical poll conducted for the Star)
  • In June 2012, Canadians sent nearly 270 million texts per day. In 2005, the monthly average was 4.1 million. (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association)

Research also suggests that large amounts of time spent online results in a decrease in self-esteem, increase in stress and anxiety, decrease in attention span, decrease in how efficiently we multi-task, and a decrease in communication skills. The article goes on to suggest that the skills gap is even more pronounced among teenagers and young adults of the Gen Y generation.

Gen Y is broadly defined as those born in the 1980s and 1990s. While it is never a good idea to over-generalize for any generation, Gen Y bring many new skills to the workplace. These skills include being tech-savvy, socially connected (on-line), and collaborative, all of which are great skills to have in the workplace. But as more Gen Y enter the workplace, the communication skills gap widens. It is ironic that the on-line skills that are a strength seem to result in a skills gap when it comes to face-to-face interpersonal communications skills.

In Grown Up Digital: Gen-Y Implications for Organizations, Fonda D. Na’Desh writes that “Gen Y lacks communication skills.” She shares that participants in a study described Gen Y coworker’s communication styles or communication limitations as a negative characteristic, stating that Gen Y coworkers were not diplomatic in conversations, impatient with explanations and questions, needed to practice tact, were very outspoken, and were bluntly honest. It’s easy to see why there is a communication skills gap, especially with face-to-face communications, when this generation has grown up communicating by text, and online. There is no way that online interactions and texting allow the participants to adapt their communication style based on feedback received through tone of voice, eye contact, and body language.

Gen Y will comprise more than 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) There will be a huge wave of Gen Y in the workplace and the interpersonal communication skills gap will continue to widen.

Perhaps at some point we will all work virtually and face-to-face or verbal communication skills will not be necessary, and indeed, our brains will become rewired. But in the immediate future, effective interpersonal communications skills are essential for success. Thankfully, interpersonal communication skills can be learned, and improved through practice and education.

What are you doing in your workplace to ensure your Gen Y workers have the interpersonal communications skills necessary for success? Are you investing in the development of this essential skill for all your people in your workplace regardless of generation?

Photo Credit: Istock – Purchased for use on this site only


Royce & Associates offers an Effective Interpersonal Communications program and Generations at Work workshops to diminish the interpersonal communication skill gap. If your workplace would benefit from our programs, please contact us for a complimentary one-hour review of your learning and development needs. At that time, we will also share with you the key characteristics of effective communicators. In the meantime, please review our blog archive series on the interpersonal communication skills of active listening and meeting personal and practical needs.

Related blog posts:

Are you a good listener? Active listening skills 1/5

Are you a good listener? Active listening skills 2/5 (Attending behaviours)

Are you a good listener? Active listening skills 3/5 (Open-ended questions)

Are you a good listener? Active listening skills 4/5 (Paraphrasing)

Are you a good listener? Active listening skills 5/5

Generational communications preferences – Gen Y and Boomers

Meeting personal needs for effective communication

Meeting practical needs for effective communication

Effective interpersonal communications workshop


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 Joanne Royce

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