Jan 24, 2023
6 min read

The Role of Communication Competencies at Work and How to Improve Them

In this article:

We always hear that communication is one of the bedrocks of business success — but how can you achieve it if people don’t have proper communication competencies?

What can you do to help them communicate better, share their ideas, give feedback and express feelings in an assertive way?

Let's explore the phenomenon of communication competencies, discover how one can develop them, and find out how communication competence impacts performance.

What are communication competencies?

Communication competencies refer to a person's knowledge of verbal and non-verbal communication cues and grammar, syntax, and lexicology rules. They also show how well a person uses all of those elements in different social and cultural contexts. The important thing is that everyone can improve communication competence with proper training and guidance.

In short, there are four different levels of experiencing communication competence. These include the following:

  1. Unconscious incompetence. This happens when a person does not know they misuse communication and needs to learn how to change it.
  2. Unconscious competence. This happens when a person communicates correctly, even without realizing that.
  3. Conscious incompetence. This happens when a person realizes they communicate incorrectly but intentionally does not want to improve communication skills.
  4. Conscious competence. This happens when a person realizes their communication competency is good, but an individual is also leaning toward improving written communication, verbal communication, listening, and reading.

These four levels of communication competence are a great starting point for understanding how to improve communication skills and where to start. 

How to help employees develop communication competence

There are five aspects to consider when it comes to helping employees improve communication skills and develop communicative competence. 

  1. Flexibility

The first step for employees to develop communication competencies is creating flexibility. This includes six factors: experience, composure, confirmation, disclosure, articulation, and wit. Once people become comfortable with these elements, they will easily adapt to any given communication scenario.

  1. Involvement

Improving communication competence depends on the degree of involvement.  Interpersonal communication is the best way to boost your conscious competence and experiment with it in different social and cultural contexts.

  1. Conversation management

The next aspect of developing communication skills is linked to the quality of conversation management. In short, this shows how well a person can handle the conversation or communicate affects competence. 

  1. Empathy

Another significant aspect of developing behavioral competence is empathy. Empathy is about one's ability to read, understand and connect with the emotions of others. Besides, offering empathy as a part of written communication or verbal communication is vital for establishing trust.

  1. Appropriateness

The final step in developing communication competence depends on a person’s specific choice of words and nonverbal cues. Every context requires a different approach and a person has to be able to recognize this and adjust the communication style accordingly.

Now knowing how to develop communication competence, let's discuss how to discuss communication apprehension and show how speaking and listening competencies impact individual and collective performance.

How can communication competencies and communication skills improve individual and team performance?

When used correctly, communication competencies are a direct way to double down on performance. They can help teams with:

  • Achieving communication goals. Accomplishing communication goals leads to better team communication, positively affecting group performance. In addition, people can easily communicate their concerns and insights.
  • Detecting and avoiding misinformation. Incorrect communication and misinformation thwart performance. However, with communication skills and communication competence, employees can avoid misinformation and move directly toward team goals.
  • Avoiding prejudices. With developed communication competence, you can detect and avoid prejudice in time. It will make communication better and boost overall performance.
  • Group conflict management strategies. Almost all team conflicts take place because of incorrect communication skills and prejudices. While cultural contexts and psychological characteristics affect competence, understanding these factors is achieved through better communication competence.

With the abovementioned factors, you can double down on employee performance by improving their communication skills, eliminating prejudice, avoiding misinformation, and managing group conflict. Besides, these aspects improve critical thinking, help deal with communication challenges, and aid in directing various communication behaviors. 


Communication competence brings many opportunities. It can be developed through flexibility, involvement, conversation management, empathy, and appropriateness. Besides, for communication competence to improve employee performance, it is important to focus on the fact that the phenomenon helps achieve communication goals, allows a person to avoid misinformation, aids in eliminating prejudices, and assists in mitigating group conflict. Communication competence is a major tool in improving organizational culture when used correctly.

FAQ: Communication competence

What are the four basic communication competencies?

There are four basic communication competencies: speaking, writing, listening and reading. communication competency directly depends on the abovementioned communication skills. Speaking or verbal communication includes having the ability to communicate information verbally. Written communication is all about the ability to communicate effectively in a written form. Finally, there is listening and reading communication competence.

What are the core competencies in communication?

The core competencies in communication include:

  • An ability to communicate effectively in different communication settings
  • An ability to actively listen to what other people are trying to communicate
  • An ability to respond to input with diverse insights and ideas
  • An ability to make communication a two-sided process
  • An ability to make interpersonal communication relate to values like respect and trust

These competencies help make communication effective, as well as help address communication anxiety.

What are the five elements of developing communication competence?

Regarding the 5 elements of developing communication competence, it is important to keep in mind these key elements: source, message, channel, receiver, and feedback. These correlate to different communication contexts and include various communication concepts. Besides, each given communication skill and communication competency depends on the 5 elements mentioned above.

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