While the core occupational competencies of engineers are inherently technical, exceptional soft skills, especially in communication, greatly benefit engineering professionals and their organisation. Conversely, poor communication skills can impede the prospects of both the individual and organisations.
Adam Le Good, Principal Consultant, Fundamental Training & Development, points to frequent shortcomings in the verbal communication skills of engineering professionals, which he believes are rooted in training priorities during the tertiary education process as well as the culture of employing companies.
“Verbal communication receives little or no emphasis in the formal education of engineers, and students receive very little exposure to effective presentation and communication skills during their training,” said Le Good.
“It’s not a high priority in the workplace either, with little focus in engineering firms on interpersonal skills training.”
Members of the engineering profession at both the junior and senior levels have expressed their concerns to Le Good about the deficit in verbal skills amongst their peers, and the highly deleterious impact that this can have on business.
“Managers often talk to me about how young engineers are joining the workforce with poor communication skills,” said Le Good. “Many are unable to articulate themselves to managers, or assert themselves with clients.”
Given the critical role that clear communication plays in the successful performance of projects, strong verbal skills are essential to all organisations.
A key factor of project success is that communications are delivered and received with clarity. When colleagues fail to communicate clearly or employees who receive instructions are uncertain of their precise meaning or required actions, and lack the confidence to ask for clarification, it can jeopardise the outcome of a complex engineering project.
Good communication skills can also increase the ability of engineering companies competing for contracts against their peers in the marketplace. Thus play a critical role in the long-term survival of a business.
“I would go so far as to say that the engineering company that can communicate effectively with clients and shareholders will eventually win the day.” When it comes to individual engineers, verbal communication skills can make the difference between securing a job or successfully persuading managers of your position on a project.
Individuals that possess strong verbal skills set themselves apart from their peers who possess equal technical competence, which is a vital for long-term career progress.
“The vast majority of leaders in the engineering field are excellent communicators,” said Le Good. “So many engineers already possess outstanding technical skills, but it’s the ones who can communicate that who are going to get ahead in the industry.”
Given the pivotal role that effective communication plays in the ongoing success of both businesses and individual professionals, it is imperative that engineers take time during their careers to sharpen and fine-tune their ability in this area.
“Communication is referred to as a soft skill, as opposed to the hard skills of a technical field like engineering,” said Le Good. “For some people, however, effective communication is far harder than a challenging technical task like preparing an effective engineering plan, as well as being far harder to teach.”
“For this reason it’s extremely important for engineers to pursue training in verbal communication should they require improvement in this area.”
Adam Le Good explores the importance of good communication and key techniques to improve your communication in the Effective Communication, Influencing and Negotiation Skills and Managing Yourself and Others courses.