The world of work transforms in unprecedented ways, which means that today’s professionals must be agile and resilient. Of the many skill sets that they must hone to thrive, one of the most critical is communication fitness.
In a workplace setting, it is fundamental for your people to express themselves with clarity and confidence as they interact with customers, negotiate with significant stakeholders or lead cross-functional projects. Clear communication ensures that ideas are delivered effectively and business performance is at its best. When leaders underestimate the gaps caused by poor communication, there is bound to be firefighting and additional management effort, resulting in wasted time, reduced efficiency, and increased overall costs.
In this exciting conversation with Ashish Kumar Jha, Co-Founder and CEO at vani.coach, we dive deep to explore the value of communication fitness and capture strategic insights that can empower organisations to remain resilient and reach greater heights.
Undoubtedly skill sets must evolve to keep up with the changing landscape of work. When it comes to communication fitness, how does it result in desirable business outcomes?
There are two ways to think about the business outcome that communication fitness drives.
We must prioritise curbing the cost of poor communication first. Research says that companies incur an average of two and a half lakh rupees per employee per year because of poor communication. Poor efficiency, a negative impact on relationships, damage to brand equity… contribute to this cost.
The second priority is to enable new opportunities for companies as well as for the employees. Because good communication ensures that people feel more confident, they are more willing to ‘try out’, experiment and innovate more actively.
Curbing the cost of poor communication and enabling new opportunities drive desirable and impactful business outcomes.
In the recent roundtable discussion you hosted in partnership with People Matters, what were some key insights that left an impression on you? Could you share some impactful quotes from the industry leaders in attendance?
One of the major insights I gained from both the Pharma and the BFSI roundtable is that the realisation of the need for communication fitness has sharpened.
While the problem itself is not new, today's leaders have a much more specific understanding of how and where it impacts business performance.
The leaders participating in the roundtable cited various use cases - audit conversations, customer experience, collaborating with global counterparts, hybrid working, formal and written communication, and even informal conversations where relationship building takes place.
For example, Rajorshi Ganguli, President and Global HR Head at Alkem Laboratories Ltd. summarised that in the pharma and healthcare sector, communication fitness is critical for functions such as manufacturing (FDA audits), field sales (engaging with the Health Care Practitioners) and R&D (collaborating with global scientists).
Carmistha Mitra, Group CLO at Axis Bank and Subsidiaries highlighted how communication impacts the organization's culture i.e. how during her meeting with top management, communication programs come up for review, even at the executive MD level.
Mugunthan Sadagoban, General Manager at Reserve Bank of India shared how leadership in a setup where people engage with a global audience of international regulatory bodies requires improved communication to prevent competent people from feeling disconnected.
Clearly, communication fitness is being acknowledged as a dire need by top management.
Along with takeaways on the power of communication fitness, what are some strategic solutions from that roundtable discussion that you would like to share with our community? Any best practices on strengthening communication fitness for business?
The shift in priority is significant in two areas - learning outcome and scale.
Outcome: The focus on outcomes has gone up significantly. Communication was earlier treated as a generic problem, but now customers are demanding a tangible and visible outcome.
Any communication learning solution has to demonstrate such outcomes with irrefutable evidence. A $100 learning investment must demonstrate at least a $500 return.
Scale: Organisations now want to tackle this problem at 50x the scale compared to 3-4 years ago.
Any learning solution has to be feasible to implement. This is possible by making solutions available at any time and integrating them with the ongoing workflow. Leaders need to ask, “How do we lower the effort of the learner and the effort of execution?” Operational feasibility is critical to deploy learning at scale.
Having worked in this field for quite some time, could you share how vani.coach has been supporting organisations in bridging the gaps that arise from poor communication? How are you leveraging communication fitness to build more resilient businesses?
Learning to communicate better is more behavioural than academic. It's not about what you know, it's about what habit change you're able to display in the course of learning. It is almost like fitness journeys that require personalised attention and support to help people practice consistently.
- Bringing personalised attention to practice helps move away from a generic curriculum towards specific solutions for each individual. We analyse and understand what peoples’ most pressing challenges and learning styles are, and then create a learning journey for each one.
- The data-driven approach helps break learning into the most relevant bite-sized pieces, thereby overcoming the ‘resistance to learn’.
- Adding the work-life context is important. For example, learning the skill of persuasion is very different for a pharma subject matter expert whose job is to persuade a USFDA auditor versus an IT consulting manager who is discussing the future sprint requirements. Integrating the work context really helps people apply skills. People then see an immediate impact on their day-to-day job performance.
Finally, what are some words of advice that you would like to share with HR Leaders on shaping their organisations to prioritise communication fitness? How can they get started on this immediately?
There is no perfect solution, each organisation can figure out its own solution only through experimentation. Start trying out. The first, second, and third experiments might fail, but by the time you reach the fourth or the fifth attempt, you will more than recover the cost of any early failures.
Improved communication fitness, without exception, enhances one’s sense of self-worth and confidence. The impact is similar to exercising - an improvement in mood and cognition. The best way to get started is to take a leap of faith and start.