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Section 4 – In the Job Requirements! Here we’ll look at some fairly practical skills, which are considered essential skills for general employment. To an employer, good communication skills are essential. In fact, employers consistently rank good communication skills at the top of the list for potential employees. When you are in a job, the two-way interaction between team members and your manager will be vital. Feedback is also a part of this so this section will look at how you can comfortably give feedback, and take constructive feedback too. Not only that you’ll need to be able to build a network around you for support and development, be able to use digital skills in this day and age, and problem-solve effectively too! Effective Communication. Communication skills are important to everyone - they are how we give and receive information and convey our ideas and opinions to those around us in a positive way. Communication comes in many forms: verbal (sounds, language, and tone of voice) aural (listening and hearing) non-verbal (facial expressions, body language, and posture) written (journals, emails, blogs, and text messages) visual (signs, symbols, and pictures) It is important to develop a variety of skills for both communicating TO others and learning how to interpret the information received FROM others. Knowing our audience and understanding how they need to receive information is equally important as knowing ourselves. Face-to-face Communication The average person spends 45% of their time listening, but sadly 75% of oral communication is lost and the remaining 25% is forgotten within weeks. Listening is an active process. Here is a useful mnemonic for better listening skills: L - Look interested - give encouraging signs I - Inquire/ask questions/take notes S - Stay on the subject T-Test your understanding - paraphrase and summarise E - Evaluate the message - what is being said and how it comes across. N - Neutralise your feelings - keep an open mind. Don’t forget to look interested in sitting forward. Don’t doodle or do anything other than listen and take part in the communication. The process of face-to-face communication can be summarised in this mnemonic: WASP Welcome – greet the person Say – say what you need to say Ask – ask what you need to know Part – part on good terms with clear actions and next steps for both parties Communication in Meetings Generally, meeting move group actions forward. We call this a task focus. To do this, participants do two things in meetings: They present information to others. They collaborate - review, evaluate, discuss, problem-solve, decide - with each other. This is an appropriate and positive behaviour to display. People also meet for social reasons: The need to belong and to network The need to achieve and make an impact. A desire to communicate, build and share a common reality. In planning a meeting, remember that for the task needs to be met, the social needs must be met and for the social needs to be met, the task needs must be met. The meeting content will address task needs while the meeting process attends to social needs. And, be assured, paying attention to the process ensures that tasks get done! Meeting Process. Be clear about the meeting's objective. Why is this important? If participants can't articulate the clear purpose of a meeting, they will make up their own. If this happens, your meeting will wander in as many directions as there are participants. Create a solid agenda. An agenda is an outline of things to be discussed at the meeting, along with a time budget for each item. To create your agenda, first look at the meeting objective, since your agenda is a path to achieving it. Then look to the participants since they will also have ideas about what is important. There are two important tips about the agenda: Prioritise agenda items in terms of importance to most participants. Assign realistic amounts of time to each agenda item. Prepare in advance. Take the time to prepare for the meeting. This may take only a few minutes to collect your thoughts and jot them down or it may take hours for a formal presentation. But preparation will allow the meeting to move forward smoothly, eliminating wasted time and the impression that the meeting was unproductive. Who will participate? On a small project team or task force, it will be easy to determine who should participate in meetings. These questions provide a useful filter for choosing participants: Whose input do we need? Who's needed to make a decision? Whose buy-in do we need to move forward? Answer these questions and you'll know who needs to be there. Doing so may also eliminate a lot of waste – of colleagues’ time and unnecessary discussions. Feedback – to change Negative Behaviour and to Reinforce Positive Behaviour. Appropriate behaviour is important because it reinforces the fit with the organisation, your team, your manager’s expectations and it will impact your performance. Poor or negative behaviour can lead to loss of productivity, poor morale in the team and even disciplinary action against you. When you are given feedback, the person providing feedback is trying to: Build competence – to help change negative behaviour or attitude Build confidence – positive reinforcement of behaviour, as an example If you are giving feedback, make your feedback constructive by Asking questions before making statements Offering a specific description of what you know or saw and how you feel, rather than a judgement – for example: “The way you behaved towards your new supplier led to complaints from your colleagues.” Concentrating on behaviours which can be changed When faced with disagreement: Respond in a non-reactive way – don’t try to convince, reason or give additional information Don’t be personal and remain objective – for example, “As you know, I feel differently about this issue…” If you are wrong in the interpretation of the facts, admit it. When receiving negative feedback: Respond rather than react. If it is information about past behaviour, use it to improve – for example, “I can see now why you felt I was getting at you. In future, I’ll….” Ask questions and neutrally request examples. Thank people regardless Tell people how it makes you feel – for example, concerned, willing to change and so on. Networking Skills. The best networking comes from genuine relationships, not a business card exchange. No matter whom you’re trying to build a relationship with, treating that person as a friend rather than a business contact will take you much further with the relationship. So, think about how you would approach a potential friend. Find something you have in common with, keep it light, make jokes, and above all, show that you are interested. Why will networking help you? Networking is great for sharing ideas and knowledge. Whether it’s asking for feedback or discussing your point of view, it will help you expand your knowledge and allow you to see things from another perspective. Naturally, networking will result in opportunities. The thing you will not know is when or how they will materialise. By regularly networking, and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, will help increase your confidence. Being visible and getting noticed is a big benefit of networking. By regularly attending business and social events, people will begin to recognise you. This can you help to build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person by offering useful information or tips to people who need it. Digital Skills in the Workplace. It’s expected that technology will become even more intuitive and ingrained in our daily life, and this leads to one important conclusion: the better equipped we are to handle this technological shift, the better our adjustment to it. If you can spend some time updating your skills in these areas, you’ll increase the chances of being able to work in a modern technologically-based work environment. Let’s look at some of the key digital needs: Using the Cloud: Knowing how to choose, use and benefit from a Cloud service can save you from many future problems in today’s digital age. Given that we create and use online content daily, from images to audio files to apps and personal details, backing it up all in the Cloud is a skill you should (already) have. Image Editing: free editing software programs generally have the features of more advanced software, so practising on freeware will allow you to know how to decently edit images should such a need ever arise. Microsoft Office: Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint are essential processing tools for virtually any profession. Creating presentations and spreadsheets are skills that many employees will assume you already have, so knowing your way around these applications will save you time and effort and allow you to come across as a competent professional, no matter the field. Google and other open-source office suites are becoming widely used in education and the corporate world, and being familiar with these tools can only further improve your overall digital literacy level. Web Knowledge: you might want to show a portfolio on a web page or via Tumblr, establish a professional LinkedIn account, and keep up a robust social media presence, predominantly on Twitter and Facebook. It's also important to learn how to hide or delete any content that might harm your reputation. Creating and Curating Content: From creating infographics or spreadsheets and editing or cutting videos, online content creation covers a wide range of applications, and its benefits are innumerable. But apart from simply creating online content (visual, audio, audiovisual), content curation is emerging as another essential digital literacy skill in the 21st century. The ability to collect, assess and create meaningful and worthwhile collections of various content formats is expected to become even more pronounced in the years to come. Digital Etiquette: Digital etiquette, sometimes referred to as “netiquette,” is the dos and don’ts of online communication. Employees need to learn how to maintain a smart social presence. This involves maximizing brand messaging without jeopardizing the company’s reputation. Search and Research: Knowledge of how to search the Internet and the vastness of digital archives is key to many business applications. Employees must be able to quickly and effectively search for relevant and accurate data and distinguish facts from fiction. Platform Flexibility: The ability to navigate across several devices and platforms (including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and wearable devices) is now a critically important skill. Failure to adapt can lead to lost time, compatibility issues, and the inability to leverage the tools available. Security and Privacy: Data and security breaches due to human error are ever-increasing in the digital realm. Employees must be well-trained in security and privacy awareness and know how to use their businesses’ specific safeguard practices. Apps: Many companies design in-house apps, so you’ll benefit from exploring Apps if you haven’t used them before. How to gain these Skills If employers offer training in company-based tools, that will be helpful as you’ll be trained to a high internal standard. Other options include: Using YouTube tutorials. Using other online training programmes. Researching and learning yourself through trial and error Finding an evening class or home tutor. Let’s move onto problem-solving. Problem-Solving. Problem - A problem is defined as any situation or task that needs some kind of a response if it is to be managed effectively, but to which no obvious response is available. The demands may be external, from the environment, or internal. Solution - A solution is a response or coping mechanism which is specific to the problem or situation. It is the outcome of the problem-solving process. Effective problem solving usually involves working through several steps or stages, such as those outlined below. 1. Defining the problem, 2. Coming up with alternative solutions, 3. Making a decision about which solution to use, and 4. Implementing that solution. Problem Identification: This stage involves: detecting and recognising that there is a problem; identifying the nature of the problem; defining the problem. What is the nature of the problem, are there, in fact, numerous problems? How can the problem be best defined? - by spending some time defining the problem you will not only understand it more clearly yourself but be able to communicate its nature to others, this leads to the second phase. Structuring the Problem: This stage involves a period of observation, careful inspection, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of the problem. Following on from problem identification, structuring the problem is all about gaining more information about the problem and increasing understanding. This phase is all about fact-finding and analysis, building a more comprehensive picture of both the goal(s) and the barrier(s). This stage may not be necessary for very simple problems but is essential for problems of a more complex nature. Looking for Possible Solutions: During this stage, you will generate a range of possible courses of action, but with little attempt to evaluate them at this stage. From the information gathered in the first two phases of the problem-solving framework, it is now time to start thinking about possible solutions to the identified problem. In a group situation, this stage is often carried out as a brain-storming session, letting each person in the group express their views on possible solutions (or part solutions). In organisations, different people will have different expertise in different areas and it is useful, therefore, to hear the views of each concerned party. Making a Decision: This stage involves careful analysis of the different possible courses of action and then selecting the best solution for implementation. This is perhaps the most complex part of the problem-solving process. Following on from the previous step it is now time to look at each potential solution and carefully analyse it. Some solutions may not be possible, due to other problems, like time constraints or budgets. It is important at this stage to also consider what might happen if nothing was done to solve the problem - sometimes trying to solve a problem that leads to many more problems requires some very creative thinking and innovative ideas. Finally, make a decision on which course of action to take. Implementation: This stage involves accepting and carrying out the chosen course of action. Implementation means acting on the chosen solution. During implementation, more problems may arise especially if identification or structuring of the original problem was not carried out fully. Monitoring/Seeking Feedback: The last stage is about reviewing the outcomes of problem-solving over a period of time, including seeking feedback as to the success of the outcomes of the chosen solution. The final stage of problem-solving is concerned with checking that the process was successful. This can be achieved by monitoring and gaining feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred. It is good practice to keep a record of outcomes and any additional problems that occurred. The skills required for positive problem-solving are: • Being able to see problems as ‘challenges’, or opportunities to gain something, rather than insurmountable difficulties at which it is only possible to fail; • Believing that problems are solvable. While this, too, may bee considered an aspect of mind-set, it is also important to use techniques of positive thinking; • Believing that you personally can solve problems successfully; • Understanding that solving problems successfully will take time and effort, which may require a certain amount of resilience; Motivating yourself to solve problems immediately, rather than putting them off.