Welcome to BizComBuzz, the blog with weekly posts dedicated to providing business communication instructors with useful content to bring right into the classroom!

The Scoop contains short, timely blurbs you can discuss with students and colleagues.

Featured Articles explores issues affecting pedagogy, business communication, and classroom technology in more depth. 

News You Can Use condenses timely business-related news items and provides questions to generate lively classroom discussions.

Classroom Exercises offers case studies and writing technique assignments ready to download.

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To Social or Not to Social? That is the Question

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A millennial computer scientist writing in in The New York Times advises more people to quit social media before it hurts their careers. Cal Newport offers several reasons for his opinion.

First, he points out that keeping social media accounts current and relevant can take an inordinate amount of time, whether that means reposting a viral article or coming up with a clever new hashtag. Becoming part of this never-ending cycle of posting and reposting takes time away from the real way to grow a career—by achieving excellence, Newport says.

Next he shoots down the argument that social media networks are a necessary part of today’s workplace because they can give rise to new opportunities. Newport argues that becoming an expert at what you do leads to opportunities, not networking relentlessly.

Finally, Newport points to the addictive nature of social media as the root of distraction, which takes away from producing good work.

Not long after Newport’s column ran, the director of digital communications and social media at the job site Monster wrote a response advocating social media as a necessary tool for careers. Patrick Gillooly notes that the platforms themselves have created millions of jobs in the emerging field of social media management. Moreover, he says that employers want to see job applicants’ social media sites, and therefore they can be an excellent way to extend an individual’s résumé. What’s more important, Gillooly adds, is that being invisible on social media could raise a red flag to a future employer.

Gillooly says social platforms provide a great way to learn about a field. Ignoring what’s being said on social media is to be excluded from relevant discussions. However, he advises using social platforms “thoughtfully and deliberately.”

Discussion

  1. What can you do now to take Gillooly’s advice and build a meaningful social media presence that will help advance your career?
  1. How can you heed Newport’s advice and create work product that is your best advertisement of your skills and readiness for the workplace?
  1. In which ways can you prevent social media from becoming a “black hole” for your time?

 

Instructors, Fill the Skills Gap—Toughen Up

Do you tolerate students coming to class late? Do you meet with students who have been absent to go over the work they missed? Can your students turn in late assignments? Are your courses known as an easy A?

If you answer yes to any of the above, you may be doing your students a great disservice—and adding to the skills gap documented by ubiquitous studies and surveys.

It has become common knowledge that today’s employers are dismayed by new hires’ lack of communication skills and ability to think critically. Could low expectations in the college classroom be partly to blame?

shutterstock_201655472In a recent essay appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Prof. Charlotte Kent of Mercy College in New York advocates upping expectations in our classrooms as a means to prepare students for the workplace. She cites research illustrating that the soft skills lacking in new graduates go beyond the headline-grabbing complaints about poor communication and critical thinking.

Instead, she points to a 2009 Business Roundtable survey of employers that named poor personal accountability, work ethic, punctuality, time management, and adaptability as the real culprits in the skills gap. And these are the types of skills we college instructors are in a position to teach, Kent says.

Prof. Kent has adopted strict rules designed to help her students bridge the gap between college and the workplace. She counts late students as absent;, offers only three absences no matter the cause, and doesn’t accept late work. Her rationale is that although tardiness, unpredictable work product, and poor motivation may result in a second chance in the workplace—these poor habits will not result in a third or fourth chance.

Kent believes we instructors do not help our students when we offer extensions, lax policies, and opportunities for extra credit because we are not preparing our students for workplace expectations. She notes that our millennial and Gen Z students have been raised in a culture that rewards “endless second chances,” so although many don’t like her policies—or her—students learn that their actions have consequences. Some even end up thanking Prof. Kent for forcing them to be more responsible.

Still, for those of us at the mercy of student evaluations, harsh policies such as Kent’s may not only jeopardize our jobs—they may turn students off. Research into how students feel about the difficulty of college courses has shown that although students prefer courses that create some level of challenge, they give up when they consider a class too difficult. Might Kent be asking too much of today’s students, many of whom juggle work, internships, and school?


How do you approach the line between high expectations and policies that are too harsh? Start a conversation!

Handwritten Notetaking Wins, Hands Down… Workplace Agility—The Latest Management Concept… Singular They is Now Okay?

Handwritten Notetaking Wins, Hands Down

Students who take notes in longhand learn better than those who type notes, according to new research from UCLA and Princeton University. Specifically, handwriting seems to lead to better retention of information and an enhanced ability to grasp new ideas.shutterstock_262840031

Notetaking requires individuals to transform what they hear into words. Students taking notes on their computers try to keep up with what is being said, but in doing so, fail to pay attention to what they hear. So while typing notes yields more words per minute—often verbatim accounts of a lecture—reviewing those notes later seems to actually undermine learning rather than enhance it. Students who type notes forget the material quickly—usually within 24 hours, the researchers found.

On the other hand, material from handwritten notes appears to stick with the note taker longer. Scientists surmise that the physical process itself encodes the information being written more deeply in the brain. Additionally, taking notes by hand results in better organized notes, which helps when reviewing material for tests.

Nevertheless, past studies have determined that any notes are better than none.

From The Wall Street Journal

 Workplace Agility—The Latest Management Concept

A new buzz phrase has come to town, and it rides on the coattails of technology. Workplace agility is the ability of an organization to change quickly in reaction to market forces. It has its roots in agile computing, a management strategy that combines cloud computing with collaboration of small and cross-functional teams used in tech companies to create and fine-tune projects faster than the competition.

shutterstock_379676221Workplace agility benefits a broad spectrum of organizations in several ways. First, cloud-based computing has allowed workers to access information anytime, essentially extending the hours worked per day and keeping employees tethered to their jobs constantly—score one for employers. The other aspect of this increasingly popular management style is to break up large projects into smaller, more scalable tasks, which allows problems to be caught early in the creation process—another plus to the organization.

Finally, workplace agility helps organizations because it requires employees to be flexible, often meaning they are pulled off one project and moved to another, thus maximizing the workforce’s effectiveness.

It’s not surprising that only about a third of workers who practice workplace agility love it; another third resist but eventually come around. The last third? They’re the ones who hide until they’re caught… and released.

From The New York Times

Singular They is Now Okay?

 After years of correcting our students’ incorrect use of the singular they, we instructors of writing may be witnessing the acceptance of a once taboo grammatical error.shutterstock_406703422

Recently a Washington Post copy editor announced a change to the venerable news organization’s style sheet, making use of the singular they permissible. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, that is exactly how grammar rules change—“one style guide at a time.”

The article notes that it may take a while before the walls completely disallowing the singular they come down. However, there can be no doubt that the chink in the stonework is getting harder to ignore. While some may remain uppity about the common usage, few readers are confused by it. And that marks the beginning of the end of any grammar rule.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education