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Communication Skills for the Human Services Professional

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Aspiring human services workers who inventory their professional competencies should be able to put communication skills at the top of the list. If you're looking to enter this field, your communication skills must be top-notch, because that's how you deliver much-needed services to your clients. Speaking, listening and writing are qualifications you must have to excel in a profession that requires personal, one-on-one and group interaction.

Who Are Human Services Professionals

Human services professionals often are confused with human resources or human relations professionals, although quite frankly, performing successfully in any of these jobs requires many of the same skills. Nevertheless, human services professionals include social workers, health care providers, community service workers and others who either provide direct services to individuals or guide individuals to resources that provide services. According to the National Organization of Human Services, human services professionals "assist individuals and communities to function as effectively as possible in the major domains of living."

Why Communication Is Important

People in this profession aren't sitting at a desk all day calculating numbers or manufacturing widgets on an assembly line. They're constantly interacting with the public or their clients, whether their clients are individuals or groups. The diverse client base that human services professionals serve require them to communicate effectively with a wide range of people from different races, ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. One of the common bonds among individuals is communication -- verbal and nonverbal. Therefore, human services professionals who can adapt their communication style to suit the client's needs are the most effective.

Communication Based on Client Groups

Some human services professionals may be employees of agencies that assist clients who are deaf or who cannot speak or understand English. In these cases, professionals who are bilingual, multilingual or fluent in American Sign Language have communication skills that enable them to interact effectively with various client groups. The ability to communicate with a client in a language that he understands suggests that the human services professional is sensitive to the client's physical limitations, cultural norms, practices and basic emotional needs.

Support Through Communication

Human services professionals provide support to individuals in need of housing, food, health care and perhaps even spiritual guidance. In all instances, their clients typically seek some kind of support that requires planning and action, according to a 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' report titled, "Helping Those In Need: Human Service Workers." Effective communication with clients can help human services professionals better understand the client's needs and, in turn, come up with a program to meet those needs. Without effective communication skills, planning is useless and action will never occur.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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