Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

A Managerial Perspective: Oral Communication Competency Is Most Important for Business Students in the Workplace

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

A Managerial Perspective: Oral Communication Competency Is Most Important for Business Students in the Workplace

Article excerpt

Yesterday's predictions, such as reduced layers of managers, wider spans of control, decentralized decision-making, work teams, empowered employees, reengineering, and continuous improvement are reality in today's business organizations. Recently, business schools have been criticized for failing to provide students with the competencies and skills required in the new workplace (Applebome, 1995). The importance of needs assessment for identifying competencies and skills is taught in training courses, and the concept of customer focus is taught in management classes; yet, research indicates that management faculty are not utilizing these tools to develop the management curriculum. Some have even suggested that a liberal arts education is more valuable than a degree in business (Byrne, 1993; Schaefer, 1990; Scheetz & Stein-Roggenbuck, 1994).

Numerous articles suggest that business schools are failing to help students develop needed competencies and skills; however, a number of problems exist with this stream of research. Many recent articles are based on data collected in the 1970s or earlier (for example, Buckley, Peach, & Weitzel, 1989); some are based on small samples (Thompson & Smith, 1992, sample n=20); others do not use rigorous methodologies. The most serious problem is the failure of researchers to properly define, categorize, and distinguish among skills, competencies, abilities, and personal attributes, thereby limiting the development of meaningful conceptualizations and operationalizations of the nature of managerial jobs (Kunango & Misra, 1992). Hence, it is necessary to produce a conceptual framework which distinguishes between skills and competencies so that a systematic approach can be developed for recruiting and training managers (Kanungo & Misra, 1992).

The studies presented in this article use Kanungo and Misra's (1992) definitions of skill and competency. A skill is the ability or capability to engage in specific behaviors, including overt behavior and cognitive activities, to accomplish specific routine tasks. Skills are learned from training and experience. In contrast, competency is the ability to engage in nonroutine cognitive and intellectual activities. Competencies are used to cope with uncertainty in the environment. Competencies are transferable across a wide array of situations, and are generic in that they apply to many different types of jobs (Kanungo & Misra, 1992).

This paper reports the results of two studies, both conducted in 1995, that identify the competencies, characteristics, and skills that managers consider when selecting graduates for entry-level positions. Study 1 which is based on a sample of 354 managers, identifies the competencies and characteristics, and Study 2 identifies specific oral communication skills that are important for entry-level business graduates.

Literature Review

Many business schools profess to "prepare men and women for positions of managerial responsibility" (Buckley, Peach, & Weitzel, 1989, p. 101). To accomplish this objective, business schools must have an understanding of the competencies and skills required for success in a managerial position today. Fayol (1949), one of the first researchers to investigate the nature of managerial work, identified the five classical management functions of planning, organizing, commanding, controlling, and coordinating, which are presented in most management texts (Carroll & Gillen, 1987). A different classification scheme was presented in 1955, when Katz (1974) first published his findings of observable skills of executives. He classified managerial skills as technical, human, and conceptual. A later study by Stewart (1967) reported that managers spend the majority of their time interacting with other people and, thus, need people skills, such as interpersonal sensitivity and communication skills.

Mintzberg (1973) continued this investigation and proposed ten managerial roles, five of which clearly represent communication capabilities: liaison, monitor, disseminator, spokesperson, and negotiator. …

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