Job Advice

Soft Skills Gap and Effective Communication

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November 23, 2011
textingI hit a milestone birthday a few months ago and am trying not to let that big day make me feel old.  I have to admit, however, that I am seeing a growing gap between myself and the younger generation coming into the workforce.  Am I the only one that is having a hard time communicating with the younger generation?  I see it at work as well as with my teenage son who will soon be 18 yrs old. 

Those of you who know me well know that my son is actually my stepson but he has been in my life since he was 3 and he calls me “Mom”.  He has been raised by his father and myself so if I want to point any fingers at anyone, I might as well point to myself.   He and I have such a difficult time communicating and I simply chalk it up to him being a teenager.  I have found recently, however, that when I talk to some young adults in their 20’s, I have a similar conversation challenges.  I believe the reason the younger generation does not communicate effectively has a lot to do with Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. 

This younger generation has been brought up by technology rather than with face to face conversation which means they answer questions in short, disjointed sentence fragments full of abbreviations and code words. They are used to interrupting so they can be heard when they have something to say.  Many times, I find they don’t listen long enough for me to articulate my point.  This generation is comfortable throwing their words out to the other person via text without considering how the words will make the other person feel.  It is missing the non verbal clues that are given off in a normal conversation so it doesn’t allow our younger generation to learn the basics of effective communication.  So, what happens during conversations with my son and some of the younger generation?  Either their voice jumps up several pitches because they are starting to get frustrated after a couple of sentences or they start to shut down and don’t say anything at all.
I recently came across a video segment that made me feel like I am not alone in my point of view.  J. Michelle Sybesma was featured on Inside INdiana Business Television on November 14th to discuss an issue many Hoosier companies are facing: lack of "soft skills" in job candidates. She says the ability to communicate, work in teams and show up for work on time seem to be in short supply.  You can see the video clip here:

So what am I doing about it personally?  I try to explain to my son every day that he isn’t communicating effectively and try to teach him how to do so.  I am not sure it will work, but at least I am going to try.  As a matter of fact, every person that does not work out on an assignment is an example that I give to him of what not to do when he enters the workforce.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that effective communication is one of many things I can successfully teach my children!

So here is the question, do you think I am just venting about my soon to be 18 yr old, or do you have the same struggles?