2011 Communications Competencies Study

New survey shows communications pros know what skills are expected, but that’s where it stops for most

  • Benchmark survey shows 83% have identified communications competencies
  • Only half have identified how professionals progress through them
  • Less than half are talking about progression through competencies
  • Less than half have training tied to competency development


RIDGEFIELD, CT – A new study on the state of communications competencies shows that most communications professionals are working for employers that have identified the competencies they need to do their jobs. But most employers of communications professionals are not talking about employees’ progress through those competencies (from basic through mastery). And only half have identified training that is tied to those specific competencies.

North Star Communications Consulting, a US-based communications consultancy, surveyed communications professionals from corporations and agencies across the globe in June and July 2011 with the intent of establishing a baseline industry benchmark on the state of training and development for communications professionals.

“The good news is that communications professionals are reporting that their employers have articulated the competencies they need to do their jobs – with 83% of survey participants saying they know –broadly — what’s expected of them,” said Mark Dollins, president of North Star Communications Consulting. “The challenges start right after that, with slightly more than half reporting that their companies have articulated how they progress through those competencies, and fewer than half have had direct discussions with their managers about their growth.”

Similarly, only about half of survey respondents reported that their employers have identified training and development that is tied to the competencies they’re expected to develop.

“The take-aways from this survey are that – as a communications industry – we’re doing a good job in telling our people where they need to develop skill sets. We fall short when it comes to taking it further in most cases. Leaders have to invest more time and energy into bringing concepts to life through articulating progression, having direct discussions with communications professionals and identifying training and development that is specifically tied to the competencies we want,” said Dollins. “The onus lies with leaders to take the roadmap and give it depth and breadth with details, discussion and actionable behaviors.”

It matters: the retention factor

Competency training and development matters not only to communications functions and the businesses they support; it matters to practicing communications professionals, too. Not surprisingly, 92% of survey respondents said they’re more likely to stay with an employer who has identified communications competencies, versus one that has not. And if you’re wondering who the 8 percent is that said it doesn’t matter, it’s with communications pros who have 10 years or more of experience, who would consider other/additional incentives to be retained. That means 100 percent of employees with 0-10 years of experiences are more inclined to be stay with an employer who invests in them.

The middle at higher risk?

Communications professionals who have 5-15 years of experience report their employers have done the least amount to identify training and development that supports competency growth, and have invested the least in them to receive that kind of training in the last 3 years. Specifically, 70% of those who have 10-15 years of experience said they had not had a discussion with their managers about their progression though communications competencies, and 65% said their employers had not articulated progression through the competencies. Left under-invested, this middle-tier of communications professionals could be the highest at-risk group for retention, as their counterparts with fewer years of experience report they are having those discussions and are seeing more training and development options tied to those competencies.

About the study

A survey on competency-based development for communications professionals was completed by 100 communications professionals from agencies and corporations across the globe during June and July 2011. Administered via electronic survey, participants were asked to self- identify themselves as communications professionals and provide their number of years in the profession, the size of their organization by revenue (USD or equivalent) and gender.
For additional insight or information, contact Mark Dollins at North Star Communications.

About North Star Communications

North Star Communications is a communications consultancy with core capabilities in two key areas: communications contract work (editorial, speech writing, employee engagement and general corporate communications function and strategy support); and communications competency training and development — essentially a people-focused/skill building service provider for communications teams. North Star Communications Consulting’s mission is to guide its clients to communications solutions and skill development that help them deliver optimal business results.