When it comes to the art of communication, financial services and accounting managers say they could use some help.
In a recent survey of 230 banking, financial services, manufacturing, technology, and other companies, 52% of managers said they would benefit most from training in communications skills. George A. Bajalia, president of Accounting Principals, the Jacksonville, Fla. executive search firm that did the survey, said the growing need for strong skills in this area is due in part to the consolidation that has swept through many industries.
"There have been so many mergers - especially in the banking industry - that fewer managers are taking on more and more responsibility for products, people, and geography," Mr. Bajalia said. "Strong communication skills are key in running an efficient operation in ways that increasingly go beyond the face-to-face."
Of the firms surveyed, roughly 15% were banks or other financial services companies. The need for communications training beat out management skills, from which 48% of managers said they would benefit most, and leadership training, which was listed as a top need by 38% of respondents.
Beyond the issues cropping up through consolidation, observers said that technological advances have sped up the workplace pace to such an extent that getting one's point across efficiently has become critical.
"Technology makes everything so much faster that it puts an increasing requirement on managers to succinctly and quickly communicate with staff and peers," said Peter W. Kelly, managing partner at Rollo & Associates, an executive search firm in Los Angeles.
When conducting job searches, Mr. Kelly's firm always evaluates clients' communications skills, he said.
"Pretty much everyone today - in financial services or elsewhere - has to know how to present themselves," Mr. Kelly.
Historically, the banking business has not necessarily required the ability to get one's point across clearly or eloquently. But today, the banking industry has to deal with an array of issues far broader than booking loans.
"We work in a much more complicated world where you have to deal with clients' emotions and perceptions," said Steve Johnson, director of public relations and Unionbancal Corp. "Clients are far more sophisticated, and will ask what our position is in the community, or on the environment, or what we think of allowing same-sex couple benefits."
In addition, the media expect access to top managers for interviews, something that requires a certain amount of training. All executives of senior vice president rank and above at San Francisco-based Unionbancal have completed media training, Mr. Johnson said; the bank is currently instructing its trust and financial services unit on the nuances of speaking with reporters.
A common issue that arises when educating executives about talking to the press stems from the language of banking. In a business laced with arcane jargon, media relations executives find a particular challenge in getting their executives to speak plain English, said Wendy Raway, a spokeswoman for U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis.