The importance of communication skills came through as interviewees. These skills have increased in importance also because of greater reliance on remote communication technologies, such as videoconferencing. More interaction is taking place across different locales and cultures than ever before.
Two distinct subcategories of communication skills emerged in both the interview data and literature:
- communication skills that convey technical knowledge and proficiency (e.g., technical writing, translation of technical terms), and
- communication skills that demonstrate interpersonal sensitivity (e.g., listening, face-to-face communication skills, nontechnical and nonbiased communication skills).
Work-related activities like interviews and presentations typically require some combination of both.
Exhibit 11. Frequently mentioned forms of communication relevant for techniciansWhen comparing the interview data for two technician fields, there was some divergence in the emphases of these two types of communication skills between the fields. Information technology interviewees emphasized both technical and empathetic communication skills, while advanced manufacturing interviewees more frequently emphasized the empathetic communication skills.On closer inspection, both forms of communication are important for both fields, but these data reflected subtle differences in the most common forms of communication used in each of these work contexts.
- In information technology, technicians staff help desks, set up or secure networks, or collaborate on software development, so they frequently need to master both forms of communication simultaneously. For example, information technology technicians on help desks need to skillfully manage customer frustration and anger while also providing useful technical guidance.
- In advanced manufacturing, where technicians work within a specific community
of coworkers day after day, interviewees described the utility of empathetic communication skills for resolving conflicts, listening to others, and providing feedback with respect and consideration for the feelings of the recipient.