A survey of business school deans regarding communication issues.

Author:Slocombe, Thomas


Deans of 97 business schools at public and private universities participated in a survey regarding the importance of various communication skills and the extent to which recent graduates had acquired these skills. The results indicated graduates need additional proficiency, particularly in the areas of small group communication, public speaking, and conflict resolution. The results also included deans' perceptions of the effectiveness of various faculty presentation methods, the skills students need before enrolling in an online course, and the communication technologies used by their schools.


Business school deans influence the evolution of business curricula, including training in business communication, the selection of pedagogical methods, and the adoption of communication technologies. Therefore, their views regarding the importance of students' communication skills and the utility of various technologies for instruction and communication are particularly significant. To communicate effectively, businesspersons should be proficient in several communication skills. According to the deans surveyed in this study, some communication skills are particularly important, and recent graduates' mastery of them is inadequate.

Deans are expected to monitor and improve the quality of their schools' programs. In addition, deans are responsible for balancing financial resources with financial requirements, including the number of students enrolled in programs. Deans have unusual access to information about program quality and factors influencing enrollment, including student surveys and conversations with students, faculty members, and employees. Therefore, a survey of business deans provides a valuable perspective of business programs and the way deans will use their power to shape programs in the future.

Faculty in schools of business employ various presentation methods to help their undergraduate students learn important concepts. In addition to face-to-face interaction with students, instructors may use the Internet, online course software such as Blackboard or WebCT, distance learning via live video instruction, or prepackaged courseware materials from publishers. From the dean's perspective, how effective are these methods? This study addresses that issue.

Various communication technologies are available to assist faculty instruction, including several that have become available only recently. To what extent are these technologies used in business schools? In addition, what is the perceived importance of acquiring certain skills before undergraduate students enroll in online courses? Business deans' answers to these questions are reported in this stud):


Effective communication is widely recognized as vital to business success. Today's workplace is characterized by rapid change, as businesses encounter increasing demands to produce larger profits from smaller resources. In addition to increased competitiveness, organizations are challenged to be more accountable, to take optimal advantage of developing technology, and to satisfy the increasing expectations of diverse stakeholders. In the business world of today and tomorrow, success depends upon skilled communication. Mary Ellen Guffey (2006), a recognized expert in the field of business communication, noted the importance of communication effectiveness in a business environment that is increasingly dominated by greater globalization, flatter managerial hierarchies, and team-based workplace operations.

Evolving changes that impact business schools are evidenced in various ways. Educators are challenged to provide relevant educational experiences for students through a variety of methodologies. According to McGee and Diaz (2005), technology has increasingly been used as a communication medium in courses due to equipment and software improvements and pressures to become more cost-effective in delivering courses to a variety of learners. In addition, the undergraduate curricula of schools accredited by AACSB International--the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business--require learning communication skills (AACSB, 2006). Professional expectations also influence curricula. Practicing accountants, for example, need technical accounting skills, but they must also be capable communicators to interact effectively with clients (Stevens & Stevens, 1994; Stowers & White, 1999). Young and Murphy (2003) noted the importance of communication skills in business and reported a curriculum initiative to include these skills throughout a marketing curriculum.

Business schools play an integral role in career preparation of students, and employer satisfaction is an essential consideration in placement of graduates. Hoggatt (2006) reported that numerous studies identify oral communication skills as being vital, along with analytical, written communication, and teamwork talents. In Peterson's survey (1997) of personnel interviewers in a Midwestern city, 90 percent considered communication skills instrumental components of career success; yet, only 60 percent believed those who interviewed for jobs were capable communicators. Barker, Gilbreath, and Stone (1998) interviewed executives at 12 Mid-Atlantic firms and learned that nearly all of the respondents considered newly-hired graduates deficient in speaking, writing, and interpersonal skills.

The importance of communication skills in business is certainly recognized by corporate recruiters. A Wall Street Journal/Harris survey found that communication and interpersonal skills (88 percent of respondents) and the ability to work...

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