Business Communication Competencies Needed by Employees as Perceived by Business Faculty and Business Professionals

Article excerpt

Implementation of total quality management and continuous process improvement require validation of competencies by an institution's customers. This study was designed to determine if business faculty and business professionals perceive (a) business writing skills, (b) oral/interpersonal skills, (c) basic English skills, and (d) other business communication abilities with the same degree of importance. Four one-way analyses of variance revealed no significant difference between 35 business professionals and 30 business faculty concerning the four areas. However, when the 50 competencies within the four areas were ranked, some visible differences occurred in using the telephone and intercom, asking questions, and applying confidentiality.

The increased emphasis toward total quality education, student and faculty accountability, and outcome-based education require evaluation and validation of the content of the undergraduate business communication course. During the past six years, Central Missouri State University (Central), a mid-sized regional institution, has adopted a new educational paradigm, Continuous Process Improvement (CPI). This paradigm espouses many of the principles of the total quality management (TQM) movement which is currently prevalent in business and industry. Two of several principles common to CPI and TQM include (a) explicitly stated outcomes (b) that have been validated by the organizations customers. Prospective employers and faculty members who are part of this study are some of the university's customers; others include students and alumni. The implementation of CPI and the total quality education process mandates that curriculum be validated by internal and external customers (faculty members and employers), hence the need for this study.

Research emphasizes the need for excellent communication skills in the workplace (Barton & Kirsch, 1990; Carnevale, Gainer, & Meltzer, 1988; Chaffee, 1988; Nellermoe, 1992; What Work Requires of Schools, 1991), but exactly which skills should receive the most emphasis in the business communication classroom? Should some skills be added and others deleted from the curriculum? Changes must be based on information that has been received from the customers. When faculty know exactly what is needed, then they can develop explicit outcomes. Business communication instructors at Central Missouri needed empirical evidence that revealed which skills and abilities need the most attention.

Additionally, do business faculty and business professionals agree on which skills should be taught? Only a limited amount of research exists that examines the perceptions of business faculty and business people concerning their agreement on the importance of specific business communication skills. Current research was needed at Central to fulfill an essential step in the CPI process, that is, to evaluate and validate the current business communication curriculum.

The purpose of this study was to determine if business faculty and business professionals perceive business communication competencies with the same degree of importance. The following four areas were examined:

* business writing skills

* oral/interpersonal skills

* basic English skills

* other business communication abilities

Second, within the skills and abilities areas previously stated, should some business communication competencies receive more attention than others? To ensure quality education and accountability, business communication faculty must know which skills and abilities business faculty and business professionals consider essential in business communication courses.

Business persons, instructors, and students in Kentucky have significantly different perceptions about what should be taught in business communication when skills and knowledge were grouped as "written-related items," "verbal-related items" "grammar-related items," and "other related items" (Adkins, 1982, p. …