NVQ Level 3: Communicate in a Business Environment
Communicating in a Business Environment is a Group A, three-credit mandatory unit for the Level 3 National Vocational Qualification diploma in Business and Administration, offered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This module helps the candidate achieve a thorough understanding of the purpose of communication and plan how to communicate, both verbally and in writing, how to seek and use feedback (and its importance), and how to develop communication skills for the next levels.
This article is the first of a two-part series. It will address each of the module's outcomes, explain what they mean, and discuss how to achieve them. It will help you gain an understanding of what candidates are expected to write generally. Depending on your specific job, you will have to modify what's written here for your own work and organisation when preparing your own portfolio.
How to Use This Page
This article covers Outcomes 1 and 2 of Unit 304 for the NVQ Level 3 diploma in Business and Administration, which covers elements of communication in a workplace setting.
It is purely informative, and meant to guide you through the process of compiling your own portfolio. Do not directly copy anything here for your file, as your file needs to be tailored to the specifics of your job and organisation. Copying the language from this article directly is not only dishonest, but it will weaken your file.
Outcome 1: Understand the Purpose of Planning Communication
1.1 Explain the Benefits of Knowing the Purpose of Communication
Communication refers to the transmission of ideas or content between individuals, groups, or individuals and groups. Communication consists of:
- Source: the person or people who create the message.
- Message: the content of the communication.
- Medium: how the communication is being transmitted (email, phone, in-person, etc.).
- Receiver: the audience or person being communicated to. Receiving skills include listening and reading effectively.
In a business environment, we communicate by listening to each others' problems and by solving day-to-day problems together.
1.2 Explain the Reasons for Knowing the Audience to Whom the Communication is Being Presented
If you understand your audience, you can more effectively communicate with and persuade them.
To ensure your message will be well-received, you need to learn what your audience expects, what mood they're in, and what questions they may want you to answer.
1.3 Explain the Purpose of Knowing the Intended Outcomes of Communications
Understanding the "intended outcome" of communication means understanding both your own message and how the audience may receive it.
The audience can be:
- A single co-worker
- A number of people at a meeting
- A room full of people
When you communicate, you should know whether you are trying to:
- Convey information
The effectiveness of your communication depends on how well you understand how your purpose intermingles with your audience's position and expectations.
1.4 Describe Different Methods of Communication and When to Use Them
Communication can be classified as: verbal or non-verbal, formal or informal.
- Verbal communication is the most important, common, and effective type of communication. Speaking directly and listening helps us understand each others' emotional needs.
Effective verbal communication has as much to do with how well you listen to others as it does with how you speak to them.
- Nonverbal communication means writing, but also refers to sign language, facial expressions, and gestures. Nonverbal communication is less effective than verbal communication—it's always better to be direct—but it's still important for you to pick up on non-verbal cues.
- Nonverbal communication can enhance verbal communication. Body language and facial expressions are usually honest, and can help convey sincerity.
- Some people—including but not limited to those who are hard of hearing—primarily use nonverbal communication in the form of sign language, gesture and facial expressions.
- Informal communications are face-to-face interactions that occur incidentally throughout the day. They can be work-related or not, verbal or nonverbal.
- Some examples are: a chat about something non-work related in the lunch room, a quick email asking about the status of a project, or a sticky note asking for an impromptu meeting, to name a few.
- Some types of communication conform to official expectations or protocol, are recorded in some way, or are planned and rehearsed ahead of time.
- An example of formal verbal communication would be a scripted presentation. Nonverbal formal communication includes written items such as annual reports, terms of employment, and contracts.
Outcome 2: Understand How to Communicate in Writing
2.1 Identify Relevant Sources of Information that may be Used when Preparing Written Communication
Sources of information can be classified as primary or secondary.
- A primary source is produced during an event. This type of information is gathered by a person directly in contact with the incident or event.
- These sources can be diaries, letters, newspapers, court records, interviews, surveys, etc.
- Primary sources are usually unadulterated, and closest to the events themselves.
- This type of information is filtered through someone removed from the primary event.
- These sources can be interpreted or analysed literature of the primary source, and include books, interpretive documents, or an outsider's account of an event.
- Normally, secondary sources interpret an event and may be produced after it.
2.2 Describe the Communication Principles for Using Electronic Forms of Written Communication in a Business Environment
Electronic communication refers to email, faxes, or any written communication transmitted and stored electronically.
- Effective electronic communication involves some degree of technical mastery. You should be skillful enough to transmit information over telecommunication technologies and know how to use the requisite software.
- When choosing electronic communications for exchange of information, you should think carefully and decide which is the best and most efficient method of communication.
- In an office environment, you should be able to interpret information from electronic sources and have good paraphrasing skills.
2.3 Explain Different Styles and Tones of Language and Situations when They may be Used for Written Communications
Colloquial, casual, and formal writing are different styles with their own expectations and outcomes. The style of writing you use depends on your intentions, your medium, and your audience.
- Casual language is informal and conversational. It's how you write in friendly text messages or chats. Likely, you only use casual language judiciously at work, particularly with your superiors. Casual language is the way you speak with your peers.
- Colloquial language is similar, and refers to the language we use to communicate with family and close friends. Colloquial language includes slang and dialect.
- Formal language is used in business communications, and is used when you want to come across as professional and authoritative. It also depends on the words and tone you use. In formal writing, your language should have proper syntax, vocabulary and grammar.
2.4 Explain the Reasons for Selecting and Using Language that Suits the Purpose of Written Communication
Communication is a process of exchanging information, ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions through speech, signals, writing, or behaviour. The language that we use should be easily understandable, accurate and tactful.
Every type of message—complaints, minutes and grievances, to name a few—demands different levels of tact.
- Particularly when writing something critical, always try to address the organisation or group generally rather than making it personal.
- Start with positive points before negative ones, so that the receiver isn't put on the defensive right away.
- Explain the facts straightforwardly, rather than using vague or indirect language.
- While writing, avoid using bold or all-capital letters. This comes across as hostile in written communication.
2.5 Describe the Ways of Organising, Structuring and Presenting Written Information so It Meets the Needs of Different Audiences
When organising, structuring and presenting written information, bear in mind the following:
- When making a presentation, prepare all necessary documents ahead of time. These may include PowerPoint presentations (or similar slideshow software), handouts or a script for yourself.
- Keep documents in the correct order, so that the communication flows without confusion or error. Double-check the order in advance.
- While presenting, be clear about your objectives. Provide an introduction about what you are going to present, your motives in presenting, why the attendees are there and why the topic is important.
- Present your work step by step, clearly using proper references where needed.
- In the end, conclude by explaining how all of your objectives were met.
- Take time to answer questions.
2.6 Describe Ways of Checking for the Accuracy of Content in Written Information
Any written communication needs to be accurate, professionally formatted and free of spelling or grammatical errors. Check the following before the document is finalised to be sent to its recipients.
Check Points for Accuacy
- Inaccuracies can hurt your reputation and that of your organisation. Depending on the problem, the effects can range from embarrassing to disastrous.
- Details to be double checked include: dates, names, statistics, events and quotations.
- If you are unsure of anything, make sure you check with someone knowledgeable or experienced.
Check Spelling and Grammar
- Most word processors and email systems have built-in spell-checkers. Use your judgment though, as they are not always accurate, particularly when it comes to people's names or industry-specific jargon.
- Always read through a document twice yourself before finalising.
- Have someone else read and edit the document for you. A fresh pair of eyes will notice errors you have missed.
Use a Template
- Many organisations have in-house styles for different documents. They will all be available as templates into which you can easily input information.
- If the communication doesn't have a prescribed template, you should research the correct style depending on your organisation or department's needs. Ask your colleagues or locate similar documents to get a sense of the proper style.
2.7 Explain the Purpose of Accurate Use of Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling
- Proper grammar, punctuation and spelling ensure your reader will have an easy time reading your communication, making communication more efficient.
- When a document has factual errors, readers tend to distrust the entire thing. Perceived unreliability could have a negative impact on your reputation, and thus your standing within your organisation.
2.8 Explain What is Meant by Plain English, and Why it is Used
Plain English is language that emphasises clarity and avoids technical language or jargon. It is especially important when talking to people outside of your profession, who need technical language translated into something easier to understand.
- Can be used to communicate with anyone, regardless of their reading skills or knowledge.
- Clear and direct, with nothing hidden, free of unnecessary words or ideas.
- Free of technical jargon or slang.
2.9 Explain the Purpose of Proofreading and Checking Written Work
You should proofread all written work. There are a few reasons for this:
- Grammatically correct writing reflects well on your professionalism and fastidiousness, as well as that of your organisation. Others will judge you based on how polished your written work looks.
- Well-written prose is less time consuming for your reader than error-riddled text, making written communication more efficient.
All written work, from email to meeting minutes to formal reports, should be proofread for errors.
2.10 Explain the Purpose of Recognising Work that is iImportant and Work that is Urgent
In our day-to-day work, we have a mix of tasks, some important, some urgent and some of low priority. All tasks have deadlines that need to be met. However, importance and urgency are two different things. Some tasks may be both, but recognising which tasks are more one than the other will help you prioritise work-related communication. You should rush to complete urgent tasks, but prioritise quality in important tasks.
- Have fast-approaching deadlines.
- Completion on time is slightly more important than perfecting the quality.
- Likely not incredibly complicated.
- Others or other tasks depend on timely completion.
All tasks have to be completed before the deadlines, as it is very important for the progress and running of the organisation. Urgent tasks are not necessarily complicated, so try to finish them before moving onto more complicated important ones.
Tasks should be organised based on how urgent they are, or how much attention to detail they require.
- Physically separate different types of tasks or correspondence. Put urgent tasks in a separate folder or pile from longer-term ones. This way, you know what to do first.
- Create a to-do list for your tasks that categorises them by both urgency and importance.
- Figure out how to make your days most productive. For example, I try to work on complicated tasks early in the morning, when the office is quieter and I can concentrate better.
2.11 Describe Organisational Procedures for Saving and Filing Written Communications
Every organisation has its own policies and procedures for saving and filing documents, which you should adhere to. Records can be kept in physical file folders, on your personal computer or a shared drive, in a database or in a document management system. If you need to make your own filing system, consider the following:
- Documents with similar information or which are part of the same project can filed together for ease of accessibility.
- Documents that need to shared with other departments and other staff are often stored on shared drives.
- Be diligent about the storage of confidential or sensitive information, and follow the correct protocol.
Outcomes 3 and 4
A new article for Outcomes 3 and 4 have been created upon request. It covers:
- Outcome 3: How to communicate verbally.
- Outcome 4: Understand the purpose and value of feedback in developing communication skills.