The Number One Skills Gap in the United States

Posted on May 2nd, 2018 by David Lewis

You’ll never guess the number one job skill lacking in the U.S., according to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. Drum roll please! The answer: communication skills.

During a recent interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Weiner said, “Not surprisingly, there continues to be an imbalance with regards to software engineers. But somewhat surprisingly, some people may not realize, interpersonal skills is where we’re seeing the biggest imbalance. Communications is the number one skills gap across those major cities in the United States….”

Companies recognize the need. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning & Development Report, the number one priority is training for soft skills. That begs the question – Why is effective communication lacking and what can we do about it?

Here’s the opening quote in our new book, The Bullseye Principle:

When an archer misses the mark… failure to hit the bullseye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim, improve yourself. – Gilbert Arland

We use this quote as a metaphor for effective communication. The bullseye is your objective, the arrow is your message, and intention is how you launch the arrow (how you communicate your message). Like archery, effective communication takes work. If you want improve yourself, here are three things you can do today to be a more effective communicator:

Communicate with Intention

The dictionary defines intention as “an aim that guides action.” Intentions are strong, one-word verbs that offer the opportunity for a high emotional connection – empower, involve and excite. A strong intention, activated properly, will inform all aspects of your communication—body language, facial expressions, vocal dynamics, and the rest.

Here’s why communicating with intention is critical:

Implementing a strong intention with your communication will double the likelihood that you will achieve your goal, according to Grant Halvorson, a Columbia University professor who has studied the importance of intention.

“When you send an intention, every major physiological system in your body is mirrored in the body of the receiver,” wrote Lynne McTaggart in her book The Intention Experiment.

Communicating with intention penetrates both sides of a listener’s brain, according to a series of experiments conducted by Dr. Sophie Scott at the University College London. When we listen to another person speak, we divide the person’s message into sections and store (and remember) each part in a different part of the brain. Words are processed and placed in the left temporal lobe while the vocal dynamicshow the words are delivered – are processed and placed in right side of the brain – the area also associated with music and visual images. This is why the words alone are not enough. Lack of vocal intentionality will cloud your message and leave your audience (at best) confused and (at worst) unmoved.

Become a body language detective

When you and a coworker are talking, take in all of their communication. Pay attention to their nonverbal communication, their facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice, as well as the actual words they are speaking. Our bodies are billboards constantly communicating information. The messages they are communicating to you verbally and nonverbally contain very important information. Warning signs your audience is disengaged or bored include how frequently questions are asked, avoiding eye contact, blank stares, doodling or disengaged body language such as slouching, crossed arms or yawning.

Communicate with Congruence

Congruence requires all three channels of communication are in sync – verbal (what you say), vocal (how you say it) and visual (how you look) – according to Albert Mehrabian’s landmark study on communication at UCLA. A congruent message will create alignment, clarity, and consistency of message and subsequently increase the likelihood your audience will understand it. Incongruent messages send mixed signals to an audience increasing the likelihood your message will be misunderstood.

If there is “a gap between intention and action…between thought and speech, between meaning and words—the gap is a black hole that words fall into,” according to essayist Emma Hardman. The ability to communicate clearly is vital to ensure that an audience receives a message in exactly the manner it was intended. If you are not clear why your message is important to them, your audience won’t be either.

It doesn’t matter your role or the topic you’re discussing, if the message is a metaphorical arrow and it does not hit its intended bullseye, you will have fallen short of the mark as a communicator. Effective communication doesn’t happen easily. It requires effort. To be a more effective communicator, start with yourself.

To learn how we can help your company with the number one learning priority, improving communication skills, contact us.

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