on November 30th, 2020

Engineering graduates require an ever-increasing range of skills to maintain relevance within the job market. Communication skills are a vital component of this, recognized by both academia and industry alike. Learning how to communicate effectively is an essential element that technicians or in-training engineers can learn to prepare them for their future careers.  

Strong communication skills in engineering have become imperative as the engineering industry continues to evolve. A report compiled by Marc J Riemer, who worked for UNESCO's International Centre for Engineering Education as an assistant editor for their publications, was named 'Communication Skills for the 21st Century Engineer'. He writes:

"There is ample evidence that graduate engineers lack the required standard of communication skills, particularly when compared to the needs of the industry internationally. Communication skills are a regular feature of an engineer's job in industry; some graduates employed in industry have identified that education in communication skills needs to be improved, given the demands encountered in industry".

An engineer’s role is complex and technical. However, not everyone they work with has the expertise to understand. From employees in other departments to project clients, effective communication skills are a necessity to explain ideas and projects to a larger audience. These skills are critical to ensuring that all project participants are on the same page and have a common goal.

Leader using communication skills with team of engineers

When navigating your engineering career, communication skills should be treated just as important as technical knowledge. Especially if one hopes to work towards a role as a manager or team leader. Engineering managers communicate with clients and their own supervisors about new projects. They also relay project parameters and deadlines to their reports, all while providing updates to their managers and clients. Poorly delivered messages can turn into misunderstanding, frustration, tension or even a disaster.

So what can engineers today do to work on their communication skills?

10 tips on how to use communication effectively as a team leader

  1. Use positive language to unite the team.
  2. Be clear, deliberate and concise
  3. Show your appreciation for good work
  4. Carefully select language when critiquing
  5. Show genuine interest in conversations
  6. Set clear and achievable goals
  7. Avoid slang and colloquial language 
  8. Be precise and to the point. Ensure there is no room for misinterpretation.
  9. Be measured in your responses, and think before you speak.
  10. Speak authoritatively and demonstrate your knowledge during the project

To help engineers hone their communication skills and become a more effective team leader, EIT created the Professional Certificate of Competency in Project Management for Engineers & Technicians.

The course focuses on the critical project-related activities that engineers and technicians will see on a project: scheduling, cost control, risk management, and more. The course focuses on what elements of the project can be managed by software, leaving more time to develop the individual into a suitable leader.

However, conflict and failure in engineering teams may at some point be unavoidable. Dean of EIT, Dr Steve Mackay, says the trick to dealing with conflict in engineering is dealing with it as quickly as possible.

"Conflict can sometimes be a good thing, but sometimes it gets out of control. A psychologist named Fritz Heider once said that whenever you have a failure, you always attribute it to external things. Whenever you have success, of course, it's always due to you. You'll always feel that you are responsible for your own success," Dr Mackay explained.

"Whenever you have a conflict in your team, you need to focus on the issue and not the person. A team leader should be the glue that keeps a project running like a well-oiled machine, not dividing the team-up.”

In EIT's Professional Certificate, there are practical exercises for students so that they can apply themselves to hypothetical situations that they will see in their current and future workplaces. Students will learn how to introduce appropriate quality management procedures to a project and learn how to keep projects on track. Importantly, they will be trained in what leadership styles to utilize so they can learn how to keep team members creative and motivated - ensuring team productivity in an engineering environment.

The importance of effective communication in engineering industries cannot be overstated. Clear communication is the dividing line between a project that runs smoothly and one that is dogged by delays and chaotic working conditions.

Visit the course page to inquire about the Professional Certificate of Competency in Project Management for Engineers & Technicians today.

Works Cited

WIETE Home Page, www.wiete.com.au/.

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