Write-off: Poor communication skills could be a career killer
A lack of face-to-face communication during COVID can lead to misunderstandings. Here’s why communication skills are crucial.
- In the post-COVID-19 world of work, we are less likely to be communicating face-to-face.
- Leaders and managers in the post-pandemic workplace will require excellent communication skills.
- Some people don’t have the communication skills, language or social awareness to work effectively on their own.
By Fiona Smith
Written messages can often get lost in translation. People can’t see you smile over email, get the joke in a jocular text or catch your flicker of confusion on a Zoom call.
We think we have been clear, but we get a snippy response. Sometimes, people get the wrong end of the stick and you could lose days of productivity trying to get stuff done.
When we are face-to-face, it is easier to be understood. Body language conveys so much meaning that it can overcome cultural, language and personality differences. However, in the post-COVID-19 world of work, we are less likely to be communicating face-to-face.
Workplace experts are predicting that, when the pandemic has been dealt with, more of us will be working remotely full-time, or mixing office and home in a “hybrid work environment”.
Why managers will need even better communication skills
Leaders and managers in the post-pandemic workplace will require excellent communication skills, says Joris Luijke, co-founder of the start-up Pyn, a tech company that aims to help people communicate effectively at work.
A former head of people (HR) at Atlassian, Luijke and his business partner, Jon Williams (co-founder of Culture Amp), recently raised A$3.1 million for Pyn, which uses marketing techniques, such as personalisation and automated messaging.
Luijke says working from home is not right for everybody. Some people don’t have the necessary skills in communication, language or social awareness to work productively on their own.
“It doesn’t suit everyone's personality,” says Luijke, who ran the HR teams at Typeform and Squarespace after leaving Atlassian.
This is why communication skills are a key hiring criteria for companies, such as GitLab or InVision, where everyone works remotely.
“Their business success depends on it,” he says.
“If your entire workforce becomes remote, only a small percentage of your staff will be particularly strong in communication – 90% will not be strong in this skill.
“I think it's becoming really clear how much easier communication is when we're all in the same office. It's easy to lose track of a person when you can’t see them.”
“It's becoming really clear how much easier communication is when we're all in the same office. It's easy to lose track of a person when you can’t see them.”
Personality is also a factor in whether someone will struggle out of an office environment. For instance, “they may be more extroverted”.
Before COVID-19, those people would have self-selected out of applying for remote roles. Now, they may not have a choice.
The HR aspects of remote working
Luijke says leaders of newly remote teams should be thinking about:
- Onboarding: Find a way to integrate new people into the organisation without being there in person.
- Internet: People will need good, reliable connections – wherever they are.
- Home office: A significant budget will be required to ensure that people have what they need at home.
- Wellbeing: People need a sense of security, progression and connection. Managers will have to think of ways to build those connection experiences remotely.
- Communications: Leaders and managers will have to work hard to ensure their communications are getting through. On average, only 30-40% of emails from the HR team are opened and read.
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