In today's competitive workforce, employers are looking for a new breed of professional. Ideal candidates need more than the required technical skills for the job. Soft skills are the new power skills in demand by employers across industries. Emotional intelligence, effective communication, the ability to manage conflict, and the desire to be self-reflective, are just a few types of soft skills necessary for creating and maintaining productive professional relationships.
Kettering University Online recognizes the importance of highlighting soft skills for professionals in all industries. As such, MicroSkills: Soft Skills for Today's Workforce is a new collection of blogs focusing on the skills professionals can incorporate into their daily best practices.
Today's blog is about choosing the best channel to deliver a message.
If you are a fan of the show Sex and the City, the phrase “I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me.” will bring you right back to the moment when the main character, Carrie’s, boyfriend breaks up with her via a post-it note with those words, stuck to her television screen.
While this is an example of one of the worst ways to break up with someone, it also highlights both the importance of and consequences from messages delivered through the wrong channel. Personal and professional messages sent through channels appropriate to the message increase the odds of the message and its intended meaning being successfully understood by the receiver.
The Communication Process and Types of Channels
Many factors are involved in the complex process of communicating with others. At its most simplistic, messages are encoded by senders, sent through one of a number of possible channels, and decoded by receivers who then attach meaning to the message.
Communication scholars use the word “channel” to describe the medium the sender chooses and uses to transmit a message. In addition to the content of the message itself, receivers also attach meaning to the channel used, i.e. how the message was sent.
Historically, there were few channels from which to choose for delivering a message – talking with someone in person or maybe sending a letter by Pony Express. Now, with the proliferation of technology, the choice of channel has widened. Following are examples of channels:
- Phone call
- Instant messaging
- Video chat
- Posting on social media
- Other forms of mass communication like public speeches, billboards, TV commercials, or advertisements
Choosing the Most Appropriate Channel for the Message
“The communication channel being used can affect the way a receiver responds to a message. For example, a string of text emojis probably won’t have the same effect as a handwritten expression of affection, and being fired from a job in person would likely feel different from getting the bad news in an email” (Adler, 2018, p.12).
For most people, choosing the right channel to deliver a message is intuitive, but there are some cases, where this choice can be tricky and require additional thought. Guffey & Loewy (2019) note that messages, when sent through the wrong channel, can be less effective, misinterpreted, or wholly misunderstood.
Consider the following examples and the potential consequences of the channel chosen:
1. Joan’s colleague Peter has a habit of answering personal phone calls at work. His phone conversations are usually lengthy and his voice is always louder than necessary. For months, she boils with frustration and talks about him to her co-workers but never talks with him directly. She decides to bring this matter to his attention through copying him on a memo to his boss.
2. A manager would like to point out something an employee did really well, and so posts a message about the employee’s success on the company’s social media page.
3. There has been a change of procedure for a particular office policy. The change is outlined and posted on the bulletin board in the employee lunchroom. In the first example, if you guessed that a more effective way for Joan to handle the situation with Peter would have been for her to speak to him personally before escalating the situation and involving their boss, you would be correct.
For the second example, while singling out those who do a good job on social media makes sense, it will not mean anything to the employee if he or she does not see it. In this case, posting to social media is a good idea AFTER the manager delivers the message to the employee in person.
Finally, in the third example, perhaps the best way to ensure ALL employees are made aware of procedure and/or policy changes would be to send a mass email. Again, at times, it can be tricky to guess what the appropriate channel should be for delivering a particular message. Guffey & Loewy (2019, p. 43) suggest that after one identifies the purpose of the message, he or she should consider the following factors to determine the most appropriate channel:
- Importance of the message
- Amount and speed of feedback and interactivity required
- Necessity of a permanent record
- Cost of the channel
- Degree of formality desired
- Confidentiality and sensitivity of the message
- Receiver’s preference and level of technical expertise
The Richness of the Channel
Another layer of complexity to the channel selection process, is consideration for how “rich” a channel is. Richness is defined as “the extent to which a channel or medium recreates or represents all the information available in the original message. A richer medium, such as a face-to-face conversation, permits more interactivity and feedback. A leaner medium, such as a letter or an e-mail, presents a flat, one-dimensional message” (Guffey & Loewy, 2019, p. 43). Sometimes when people use a less than appropriate channel to send a message, it is the result of thoughtlessness, haste, or emotion. Other times, it can be intentional.
Consider those who dislike conflict, are passive, or avoidant. People with these prevailing characteristics might send messages like emails or texts because they are trying to avoid a face-to-face conversation. In these cases, the messenger is putting their own needs before that of the receiver and will likely have to deal with the consequences of the medium or channel they chose in addition to the content of the message itself.
Perceptive and effective communicators take all of these choices and decisions into account BEFORE sending a message, therefore ensuring the message and the medium are in alignment.
Corporate Training Available
Kettering Global recognizes the challenges employers face in attracting, developing, and retaining high-quality talent while staying competitive in an ever-shifting corporate landscape.
As such, Kettering Global is now positioned to partner with companies to meet these challenges through developing tailored training and programs with the same quality content as their award-winning STEM courses.
As your company prepares training and development opportunities for 2020 and beyond, consider the need for comprehensive, effective, business communication skills training.
Invite Kettering Global’s team of qualified, award-winning, training experts to design a program that will recharge and refocus your employees’ ability to communicate clearly, speak assertively, and navigate conflict productively. Communications training can lead to increased motivation, morale, and the ability to meet your company’s strategic goals.
Adler, R.B., Rosenfeld, L.B., & Proctor, R.F. (2018). Interplay: The process of interpersonal communication. Oxford University Press.
Guffey, M.E. & Loewy, D. (2019). Essentials of business communication. Cengage.