In today's fast-paced work environment, effective communication has become more critical than ever before. It plays a vital role in helping individuals perform better at their jobs. With fast-changing workplace dynamics, a new generation of employees joining the workforce and increasing digital disruption, soft skills are going to play a key role in charging the future of the business.
In an exclusive interview with People Matters, Vani. Coach’s co-founder and CEO, Ashish Kumar Jha, shared a number of insights on the importance of communication in the workplace.
What are the top recent trends in communication technology and tools that address the specific communication challenges faced by employees within organisations?
Communication can be likened to the fitness of a sportsperson; just as an athlete needs to be in top physical shape to excel, a working professional's communication fitness significantly impacts their job performance.
Over the last few years, several major shifts in communication dynamics have emerged. Firstly, the range of people one communicates with has expanded significantly. In the past, interaction was often limited to a specific group, such as clients or colleagues. However, today's professionals find themselves communicating with a diverse set of individuals from various backgrounds and locations. This diversity necessitates adapting communication content and styles based on the context and the person being communicated with.
Secondly, the channels through which we communicate have evolved. While face-to-face conversations and emails were once the primary modes of communication, instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp have gained prominence. Additionally, platforms like Slack and the concept of hybrid meetings, where some participants are physically present while others join remotely, have further complicated communication dynamics.
Furthermore, communication has become more behavioural and persuasive. Unlike the past, where communication was primarily transactional and focused on relaying information, today's professionals often need to connect with others and persuade. This requires not only presenting facts and logic but also building rapport and understanding the other person's perspective.
Lastly, even those in junior positions may find themselves managing others, contributing to a more democratised leadership structure. This shift adds additional complexity to their communication responsibilities.
In summary, the landscape of communication in the workplace has evolved significantly, leading to a myriad of challenges. Professionals must adapt communication to various contexts, channels, and behavioural nuances. Failure to do so can lead to increased communication errors and hinder overall job performance.
How can we track the progress and effectiveness of employees' communication skill development?
To improve communication and overcome personal challenges, consider the following strategies:
Self-Reflection and Playback: A valuable practice is to record your presentations or conversations and play them back. This allows you to identify areas where you can improve. Listening to yourself can help you pinpoint issues such as speaking too quickly or getting lost in your thoughts.
Identify Your Communication Challenges: Recognize your specific communication challenges. For example, you might struggle with speaking too fast, organising your thoughts, or finding the right words to articulate your ideas. Identifying these challenges is the first step toward improvement.
Understand Your Communication Patterns: By regularly recording and reviewing your interactions, you can begin to understand your communication patterns. This includes recognising recurring issues or tendencies in your speech. Identifying patterns helps you work on specific areas of improvement.
Utilise Transcription Tools: Take advantage of transcription tools that can convert spoken words into text. Once transcribed, review your conversations or presentations for language or sentence structure issues. This allows you to make corrections and refine your communication skills.
By implementing these strategies and actively working on your communication challenges, you can enhance your ability to convey your thoughts effectively and improve your overall communication skills.
Communication skills differ from person to person. How can technology be used to foster personalised learning experiences for employees, considering that communication skills may vary across different roles and industries?
To improve communication, we adopt an approach similar to that of sports coaching. Here are the key steps:
Simulate Real-World Situations: Just like a sports coach tailors training to specific game scenarios, we create situations that mimic your work context. This helps you practice communication relevant to your interactions and topics.
Performance Recording: Similar to an athlete practising on a pitch, we encourage recording your communication. These recordings serve as performance data.
Analysis: These recorded conversations are then analysed. A coach reviews transcripts and identifies patterns, such as repeated ideas or unclear communication.
Feedback and Improvement: Based on the analysis, the coach provides feedback and highlights areas for improvement. You'll be guided on what to practice and refine in your communication.
Tracking Progress: Continuously track your progress and make necessary adjustments as you work on enhancing your communication skills.
This approach ensures that you not only practice communication techniques but also receive feedback and guidance to help you improve over time.
What ongoing support and training do you provide to ensure organisations can fully leverage and optimise their communication tools for sustainable skill development?
We have two distinct customer groups: enterprises and learners. While enterprises are the ones entering contracts and sharing pain points, our learners are equally crucial. Their investment in effort and time is paramount, even if they aren't direct financial investors. Therefore, we measure success with both customers in mind.
For learners, the key metric is the improvement in communication skills. We assess factors like fluency, competence level, and choice of vocabulary, collectively known as "communication fitness." This metric focuses on the learner's growth.
However, for the enterprise customer, this improvement in communication skills serves as a means to an end. The ultimate metric that matters most to them is the impact on their business. This could be seen in concrete terms, such as medical representatives spending more time with doctors or a faster audit closure cycle.
These business outcomes are more meaningful to the enterprise than just improved communication.
To bridge these perspectives, we evaluate how enhanced communication skills in employees enable the enterprise customer to perform better in their role. We identify what they can do more effectively and efficiently, which helps us track the business outcome metrics.
In summary, our evaluation involves monitoring both communication fitness metrics and business outcome metrics, ensuring a comprehensive assessment of our coaching program's effectiveness.
Industries have distinct communication needs, varying volumes of communication engagement, and different career levels, including entry-level, middle-management, and senior management. When you provide support, do you focus on specific cohorts within these industries, and how do you empower them to achieve success?
Certainly! Within each industry, there's a remarkable diversity of use cases. Take the pharmaceutical sector, for instance. Within this industry, there are various teams with distinct communication needs. For instance, some teams interact with healthcare professionals, including doctors, and within this group, there are those who engage with senior doctors, often considered key opinion leaders. These communication requirements vary significantly.
To draw a parallel with cricket, it's akin to playing cricket in different formats – like a 21-day test match, playing on various pitches, or participating in a dynamic format like the IPL, where team compositions change frequently. This diversity is not limited to transitions between industries but also occurs within the same industry due to varying use cases.
Our approach is hyper-personalized. We believe that each individual has unique communication needs. For instance, consider two warehouse in-charge executives in a pharmaceutical company. While their job titles may seem similar, their communication requirements can be vastly different. One might oversee a temperature-sensitive warehouse, while the other manages a large-scale warehouse. These specific situations lead to significant variations in their communication needs. Therefore, it's not merely industry-specific but tailored to the individual's own communication requirements.
What are the best practices and examples of companies excelling in their communication journey, particularly those at the forefront of their industries?
I'm delighted to share insights from our interactions with several organisations, as we've learned quite a bit from them. Here are the essential best practices we've observed among these leading companies:
Strong internal customer partnership: These companies invest a significant amount of time in thoroughly understanding the needs and nuances of their internal customers. Rather than approaching learning and development with a mere sourcing or solution design mindset, they foster a closer relationship with the business stakeholders.
Embracing experimentation and partnership: When implementing significant paradigm shifts or introducing new solutions, they emphasise a spirit of experimentation and partnership. They encourage openness to new ideas and acknowledge that mistakes may occur. Learning from these mistakes and iterating the approach is valued more than getting everything right in the first attempt.
A focus on outcomes: Rather than solely tracking execution metrics like engagement or training completion rates, these companies prioritise outcomes. They place substantial importance on whether internal customers validate the results achieved. They are moving beyond execution metrics and emphasising the real impact on business metrics.
In summary, the three major best practices we've observed are strong collaboration with internal customers for a deeper understanding of their needs, embracing experimentation and partnership in solution development, and shifting towards a focus on outcomes and increased accountability.