NVQ-J Level 1 Paper: An Introduction to Effective Workplace Communication -Part 1




We spend most of our time doing it. We do it even in our sleep.

Even when we are not deliberately doing it, our bodies give away thoughts and feelings, so we end out doing it without trying.

It is a human activity, but some feel animals do it too. ( The jury is still out on that one as far as I am concerned.)



Whether we agree or not, a good grasp of communication skills is one of the key 21st century skills or the 4 C’s (AMA 2008) that are in demand by employers today.

In fact, based on an article carried in the 2011 Winter edition of the Journal of Career and Technical Education, your success as an employee and the stature you achieve going forward will hinge heavily on it.

According the document  titled ‘Employment Skills for 21st Century Workplace: The Gap Between Faculty and Student Perceptions’  cited three major business surveys  itemised communication as one of “the work skills that is  important for employment in the 21st century.”

These employer surveys were conducted by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2008), The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the American Management Association (AMA).

All three found evidence that communication was the top-rated skill.  “When compared, these studies appear to build upon and reinforce one another in addressing the entry-level skills desired by employers, ” the writers concurred.

Here is what each report cited:

  • “. . . the top five skills employers sought were professionalism, teamwork, oral communication, ethics and social responsibility, and reading comprehension.” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2008)
  •  “. . . the top five skills sought by employers are communications skills, analytical skills, teamwork skills, technical skills and a strong work ethic.” (The NACE Research Report)
  • “. . . respondents indicated that not only do future workers need to be able to read, write, and perform arithmetic; but also they need the following skills: critical thinking (problem solving), communication, collaboration, and creativity (innovation), which will become even more important to organizations.” (AMA 2010)


Executives surveyed by the AMA were reportedly concerned about the high level of underskilled high school graduates who were entering the labour force and stated that “there is much room for improvement in today’s workforce in these areas” (AMA, 2010).

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills report further advanced in its conclusion the need for business and community leaders, policy makers, and educators “to work together so that future workers will have the workplace skills necessary to succeed”.

If that bit of data did not put to rest  any skepticism you may have as to why you need communication training, I hope that by the time you’re finished with your NVQ Level 1 Communication class, you will be able to appreciate and know the Why, What and How of effective communicative discourse.

The purpose of this and upcoming posts is to help you achieve this goal.  I will be looking at the essential points you need to know to be ready for your paper.


Let’s start with a definition of the term ‘Communication’.

The website http://www.communicationtheory.org offers this precise and extensive definition: “Communication is giving, receiving or exchanging ideas, information, signals or messages through appropriate media, enabling individuals or groups to persuade, to seek information, to give information or to express emotions.”


Essentially we communicate so as to

  • exercise our influence on others
  • establish and maintain relationships, i.e. to foster friendships, networking and polite discourse
  • to give and seek information
  • to evoke changes in our and other’s attitudes
  • to  motivate others

Understanding the communication process helps you to receive and broadcast information that will have an effect on the flow of communication in the workplace. It doesn’t matter whether you are a plumber, electrician, hairdresser or IT technician, good communication skills are required in any job.

When working in a retail environment, you will be in contact with a wide range of people daily, including:

♦ Work colleagues

♦ Supervisors or managers

♦ Customers and/or clients

♦ Suppliers of goods and services such as delivery persons, banks, contractors, etc.

♦ General visitors

Developing effective communication skills is extremely important when you are in constant contact with people. Let’s look at why this is so.


The development of effective communication skills can greatly affect:

♦ The quality of customer service

♦ The delivery of customer service

♦ Workplace productivity

We communicate effectively when the same message sent is the same one received. In other words, the message that the sender transmits should be interpreted as closely to if not exactly what the sender intended and meant.

So if I tell you ”the sun is hot’, you should not hear, ‘get my hat’. And if that happens, it would indicate a breakdown in communication has occurred.

Effective communication skills can also assist you when:

♦ Resolving complaints and handling confrontations

♦ Participating in staff meetings

♦ Maintaining your personal rights as an employee

♦ In a learning and/or training situation



The communication process has seven basic elements that are essential for effective interaction. Those elements are:

♦ The context – the settings in which we communicate. Context can refer to

  • Place – church, conference, construction site, a client’s home or business place,
  • Event – staff meeting, customer’s meeting, party, wedding, funeral
  • Culture – Jamaican, American, Indian etc.

♦ The channel or mode – the methods, forms or types of communication we use to send our messages

  • Channels
    • Contracts
    • Blueprints
    • Safety talks
    • Health and safety committee minutes
    • Instructions
    • Face-to-face conversation
    • Telephone conversation
    • Email
    • Operating manuals

♦ The sender – the person or source who/which sends the message to the receiver.

♦ The receiver – the person or source who/which receives the message; this would be the listener or the reader.

Interference, distractions, or noise – anything that hinders, distorts or interrupts the transmission of a clear, positive message to the sender.

♦ The message – the what and how relayed during the communication transaction; the ideas, thoughts, feelings, and responses encoded and  conveyed by the senders and receivers.

  • The feedback – the response message sent by the receiver to the sender.

This Mindtools Video explains fully how each component works in what is known as the communication loop.


We communicate in three broad modes:

1. Verbally – using words (includes speaking and writing)

2. Non-verbally – using non-word based channels, such as body language

3. Visually – using graphics, images, colours such as signs, symbols, signals

We’ll explore this topic further in another post.

It’s now time to check what you have grasped from the lesson.


Read the scenario below and answer the questions that follow.


A site supervisor is in his office and wants to get some information about a new safety product being advertised by his supplier. He decides he will email the sales representative instead of phoning. He asks in his email about pricing, and has listed his requirements on an attachment.

An hour later, the sales representative sends a message back thanking him for his enquiry. However, he says that he did not receive the attachment.

The site supervisor re-sends the message with the attachment, and the sales representative responds shortly after with a listing of the varying versions of the product that the site supervisor expressed an interest in, along with prices and availability.

With your understanding of the communication process, and using the above example, answer the following questions:


1) What was the setting?


2) Who was the sender?



3) Who was the receiver?


4) What mode of communication was used?

5) What interference did the communication encounter?



6) What feedback did the sender receive?

I’ll discuss the answers in the next post. But go ahead and leave your answers in the Comment box below.




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