People in a board meeting

We recently did some research into job adverts for tech, product and user experience (UX) roles in London. All the jobs we surveyed required some version of “excellent communication skills”, with more emphasis in senior roles. Typical requirements included:

You’re an excellent communicator - able to discuss design decisions confidently at all levels (Product Designer)

Excellent communicator - able to clearly present your work, explain your creative vision and discuss design decisions confidently at all levels (UX Designer)

Clear communication and presentation skills – able to tell a compelling customer narrative with qual and quant results (Head of User Research)

Excellent communication skills – you are articulate and can explain complex subjects in simple terms (Product Manager)

An excellent ability to communicate your ideas and work with others to make them happen (Lead Front-end Developer)

Can effectively communicate with stakeholders at all levels. Can manage stakeholders’ expectations and facilitate discussions across high risk or complex topics. (Lead Cloud Architect)

Here’s a word cloud based on the job descriptions we analysed:

Word cloud with the top terms including: stakeholders, communication, excellent, skills, levels, ideas…

Clearly these roles require advanced communication skills, which are sometimes called people or “soft” skills, in contrast to the “hard” technical skills that we tend to associate with real work. In fact, the more senior you get, the more emphasis employers place on these so-called soft skills.

Too often the industry treats communication skills as a black box: you’ve either got them or you haven’t. But the skills demanded by these job descriptions aren’t natural human traits, they’re specific learned behaviours, like:

  • projecting confidence in your ability to lead others while listening to their views
  • convincing diverse stakeholders that your proposals will achieve their goals
  • influencing people’s behaviour by navigating organisational hierarchies

While some people appear to exhibit these behaviours without effort, in reality they’ve learned them, usually through elite education. But for the many tech workers who have excellent technical skills and feel that they’re being held back, there’s good news: you can learn to use these behaviours while maintaining an authentic communication style.

Despite the prevalence of these requirements in job specs, the industry doesn’t yet invest in communications skills training for its staff. With a few exceptions like line manager training for newly appointed managers and the odd coaching qualification, most training still focuses on technical skills.

We want to change that. Today we’re announcing the Advanced Communication Skills Course from Together London. Based on many years’ experience of training the UK’s leading digital teams to scale their impact by improving the way they work together, it’s suitable for UX designers, product managers and senior engineers. Spaces are now available for 2–3 March 2020 in London. Take a look and if it resonates, share it with your network.