One of the defining elements of the knowledge economy is communication. Whether that means communicating upward, downward, inside or outside organizations—almost everyone in the organization needs to do it.

This year for the first time ever, the MIT Sloan School of Management Communications Group polled its incoming MBA students to gauge what communication looks like within organizations today, and also to gauge what skills the next generation of managers hope to master.

The study was sent to all incoming MBAs, of which 308 responded (or about three-quarters of the class). This study reveals that millennials differ significantly from their older colleagues in the ways in which they use technology, as well as the skills they believe are most important in the workplace.

Some study highlights include:

Millennials aren’t comfortable communicating across cultures, and getting better isn’t a high priority. Communicating across cultures was the one skill students were most uncomfortable with (only presenting via video ranked lower), but it was also one of the skills they were least interested in improving on over their time as MBAs. Only email management was ranked as a lower priority.

“In an ever-increasingly global world, this provides a significant teaching moment,” says Neal Hartman, senior lecturer and head of the Management Communications group, in a statement. “It becomes incumbent for preparing future principled and innovative leaders to recognize the importance of communicating successfully across cultures and to positively influence their interest in developing these competencies.”

Writing isn’t a part of modern work, unless it’s an email or a PowerPoint: Though every student reported email writing was a core part of their job responsibility, less than half (48 percent) did any meaningful longer form writing. Those that did said it wasn’t a daily part of their work.

Of those who did write longer reports, 59 percent only did so on a monthly (or less frequent) basis. Compare that to 85 percent of students who said that producing presentations was a meaningful part of their job responsibilities, and that two thirds of them (68 percent) produced that output on a daily or weekly basis.

(Next page: 8 skills MBA students say they’d like to improve upon)


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