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Americans think communication is the most important skill to get ahead are we right?
The ability to communicate, whether written or spoken, was recently noted by the Pew Research Center as the skill Americans think is most necessary to be successful. - photo by JJ Feinauer
The ability to communicate, whether written or spoken, was recently noted by the Pew Research Center as the skill American adults think is most necessary to be successful.

Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic, Pews Sara Goo said in her write-up of the report.

Science fell somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Americans saying it was important.

The fact that communication took the top spot may not seem that surprising especially considering the wide range of skills that fit into such a broad category but with all the fuss as of late about the need for more emphasis on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related skills, one might expect a stronger reflection of that in Pews survey.

But thats not to say that STEM skills were overlooked entirely.

Math came in third place (79 percent of respondents marked it as an important skill) and science still had a pretty decent showing with 58 percent, putting it in seventh place.

But still, nine out of 10 people surveyed said communication is most important. Why? One reason is probably because communication is closely associated with leadership.

When LinkedIn asked roughly 1,400 of the United States most influential hiring managers, Which of the following skills would you consider to be the most important and least important in order to hire a young professional, strong communication skills came in fourth and fifth place. Forty-five percent of respondents voted in support of strong oral communication, and 22 percent said written was important.

But when the two factions of communication were lumped into a single category, the overall percentage of business leaders who say communication is among the most important skills comes out on top, beating out problem solving and adaptability.

The same survey also looked at the personality traits most important to employers, and the top spot went to a communication related trait the ability to work well with others.

I would argue that soft skills, like communication, empathy, teamwork and negotiation are almost more important than technical skills, Matt Brosseau, director of information technology at Instant Alliance, told CIO earlier this month. Especially in leadership or executive roles.

Perhaps, as Brosseau asserts, Americans value communicative skills so much because they are so closely related to leadership positions. While math and reading skills can get you in the right door, the ability to communicate will help you climb the right ladder.

Everyone is part of a team if they work for an organization, and that team has to work together to solve problems, Bloombergs Dan Schawbel wrote in a piece on the importance of soft skills, such as communication, in 2013. Without soft skills, taking future leadership positions will prove to be difficult.

And there is a very strong, very real anxiety about millennials ability to communicate.

A widely cited study by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College found that employers believe a shortage of workers with knowledge and skills is the second most prominent barrier to employment expansion," with the first being economic conditions."

What skills are lacking, according to the SLTCC study?

Communications remains the most cited shortcoming, the study says, and customer service was cited most frequently by employers as a skill shortage in a functional area.

Under this narrative which is pretty widespread millennials have taken on an almost mythic role for being lazy and entitled.

Countless articles have been written about how to communicate with the smart-but-playful youngsters who are so addicted to their smartphones that actual verbal communication is now lumped together with other thrilling activities, such as public speaking and bungee jumping.

But whether or not this narrative is true may be beside the point, because its out there and its everywhere.

"Weve taken a global, wildly diverse group of people and bundled them together in nonsensical trends presentations that we all nod in agreement at because we want to make sense of the world," Tom Goodwin, the senior vice president of strategy and innovation for Havas Media, wrote in The Guardian on February, 12.

"The only thing clear about millennials," he continued, "is that they are just about as unique as everyone else."
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