I happen to be looking for a senior resource for an organization in the North of India. A contact had forwarded a profile to me and I found the resume showing relevant technical skills. I called this person and, in course of the conversation asked him if he knows more than 2 languages. He was from deep South and I was keen to know if he could get by in the North. He promptly told me he knows multiple languages – C, C++, Java, .NET; and, he was into learning the emerging languages too!
Nothing can be closer to the truth than the declaration that technology and HR speak two different languages. While jargon is the prevalent universal language, HR tends to balance jargon and English – customary language used for expression. However, technologists prefer to code and if at all there is a need to speak out, then a few uttered jargons would do the needful. It is amazing how one can get by with jargon alone. Give me a quick down load, this shirt is an enhanced version of the old brand, the point per se seems fine, this is FYI – oh, the list is endless. But what takes the cake is the statement made by a colleague (a programmer) when our networking executive finally identified the girl he wanted to marry. My techie pal advised- `think through buddy, you will not be able to upgrade later!’
A job interview paneled by a HR person and a Line manager will demonstrate that language & communication entail two entirely different perspectives. Human communication is defined as the process of making sense out of the world and sharing that sense with others through verbal and nonverbal messages. How two people, due to their nature of respective jobs, communicate with the candidate is a classic example. The HR manager will look at the overall personality of the candidate and focus strongly on communication skills like verbal proficiency, body language, and listening skills. To the technical managers, these aspects would seem fairly trivial as he/she would be testing the technical knowledge and application skills of the candidate. After all, the job is all about that, right? However, organizational Heads would look beyond this and want their people to possess balanced competencies in both functional and soft skills. I remember a Business Head’s assessment of a software engineer after interviewing him – excellent technical skills; however keep him one continent away from the client!
Of late, soft skills are gaining prominence and the need for linguistic skills along with technical knowledge is established. Now, all organizations, without exception, list communication skills as a core competency to check during job interviews. From front office executive to Finance Head, communication, the business kind, is the most important skill to possess. Long gone are the days when domain skills and softskills were regarded as mutually exclusive. Now companies want people who have a healthy attitude, possess eagerness to learn and demonstrate excellent communication skills. The objective is to bridge the gap between technology and language which has hitherto caused many a client to say, “You don’t speak my language,” This comment can be taken as a direct criticism of a professional who uses language ineffectively. Selecting language that is appropriate to the situation is crucial to success. The type of language used must be chosen on the basis of an awareness of the setting, the client’s disposition towards the existing external environment and the nature of the subject in question.
An individual’s type of communication and vocabulary used depends largely on how he/she stores data and processes information.
Three such frameworks have been identified by learning experts:
`Can you throw some light into this’, `I don’t see why we need to meet today’, `are you looking for a solution’ – these are by people who are focused on visual stimuli.
People who pay close attention to hearing are better students as they concentrate in class and absorb what is imparted by the faculty. Their typical vocabulary would be – `keep a ear to the ground’, `yes, that rings a bell’, `sorry, I don’t like the sound of your complaint’.
The third category is the kinesthetic variety of people. Primarily experiential, be it academic learning or work performance, these people like to get the `feel of the issue’ and are uncomfortable if they are not able to `put a finger on the problem’. They are literally `hands on’ professionals.
Language proficiency is only one aspect of communication. Listening skills, business etiquette, body language and emotional sensitivity are equally important.
Availability of options to learn is advantageous, yes, but at times proves detrimental too. By options, I mean the internet, television and so on as the knowledge and skill building media. The erstwhile learning methods were only through reading (the book variety) and listening. Both these aspects, critical to communication, were thus consistently honed. The advent of self paced learning and computer based knowledge transfer combined with the inherent impatience the youth of today profess, listening skills have taken a beating and the reading habit is almost lost. Communication is now a consciously cultivated skill.
Based on an understanding of needs, wants and attitudes between two communicators, effective communication hinges on comprehending the message and responding in terms that move the exchange forward to a preferred direction.
The gamut of communication skills covers written skills; proficiency in this can go a long way in a professional’s career. Language being a habit, spoken skills are picked up casually, and speech tics, conversational fillers, question tags and so on help cover the flaws in spoken language. In India, furthermore, we have the advantage of blending regional dialect and English to make a very comprehensive, unique, but deeply communicative language. To become players in the emerging global market we would need to correct our adopted and customized local language. Communication, with English in its pure form, would aid international interaction.
Almost all business communication is done through email. Writing emails may seem the easiest form of written language as a mail has to be brief, to the point and quick. Language skills or the lack of it may not be the challenge here. Emailing, nevertheless, has certain norms and boundaries as words have the power to impact thoughts and actions, and also have the power to make or break relationships. One needs to keep abreast of linguistic changes and adopt the designations, form of address currently preferred by the cultures of various countries. Email etiquette is the key become a professional and business communicator. Non sexist and neutral terminology, formal address (unless the person specifies form of address), relevant subject line, minimal jargon and absolutely nil sms-ese would comprise the fundamentals of email communication.
Use of symbols, specially emoticons, are of course a strict no-no. Imagine a HR person rising to the trendy manner of communication writes to a candidate who is not selected – We regret to inform you that we are not in a position to offer you a position in our organization:-. However this does not reflect on your competencies or experience .
Good communication is the lifeblood of organizations and good communicators make better executives/managers. To become an effective communicator one needs to recognize barriers and work to overcome them.
Technical skills, functional knowledge and domain expertise are professional competencies based on which one finds a job and grows in career. Beyond a certain level, these competencies do not suffice to discharge organizational responsibilities. One needs to profess sound communication skills as well as soft skills which are very pertinent to work with a team. To commence this learning path, one needs to learn to be a good listener, create focus in approach, cultivate logical thinking, build command over the language, practise crisp delivery skills, and lastly, be empathetic enough to see the receiver’s viewpoint.
Can you visualize the impact a sound technologist, with good body language, apt choice of vocabulary and excellent connect with audience, makes in his presentation? Well, he will have the client eating out of his hand.
Now, this would be the ideal example of visual, auditory and tactile (kinesthetic) framework!
Head – Training Division