As work environments become more complex thanks to digitalisation, it’s imperative for the workforce to develop soft skills that drive individual and organisational success. Of these, communication has emerged as one of the most important and necessary soft skills.
Many organisations emerged from 2020 with an increased readiness for digital transformation. However, through this time, soft skills too emerged as must-haves for everyone —from employees and managers to business leaders and customers. In fact, working in the digital environment has made the need for soft skills, especially those like communication, even more important.
As learning and development (L&D) teams renewed their approach towards learning to suit the digital work culture, there has been an accelerated focus on the importance of effective communication during this time of forced isolation.
Communication as a key soft skill
According to the recent Udemy Global Skills Gap Report, 63 per cent respondents in India said that their employers value soft skills in addition to technical and digital skills. Among these, one of the most sought-after soft skills is communication and its importance is only rising in these times of remote and hybrid work. This is, needless to say, hardly surprising.
Effective communication has always been a significant tool in maintaining strong, long-term working relationships at all levels of an organisation. Poor communication has most often led to an ill-informed workforce that lacks motivation and may begin to lose confidence in its own abilities, eventually affecting the organisation as a whole.
All this is particularly more relevant as companies operate remotely and navigate uncertain times.
Developing robust communication in a digital work setting
In the digital work environment, given that face-to-face and in-person conversations are almost impossible, developing good communication skills is a key requisite. Remote working has broken down geographical boundaries and demographics. Remote employees have had to make a bigger effort to ensure smooth interpersonal communication, with colleagues based in different locations.
This has also been the time when employees have found themselves with new tools in their tool kit, in the form of multiple communication platforms, such as Zoom, MS Teams, Webex and many more. In-person chats, face-to-face talks and water-cooler conversations have been replaced with e-mails, text messages, virtual calls and video chats.
While the communication methods have changed, effective communication still has to be maintained between team members, co-workers, managers and senior leaders. In fact, the digital and remote workplace demands more transparency and clarity in communication. In a regular office setting, one can see and read body language, but in the digital environment, communication has taken on a new meaning altogether.
Developing good communication skills is also an important pathway to improve other soft skills, such as active listening, self-awareness and empathy which are paramount, especially in a digital work environment. Improving communication lets people control emotions and understand non-verbal language better. After all, remote workers do not have the luxury of face-to-face discussions with their co-workers to clear out misunderstandings over a cup of coffee!
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Role of L&D in developing effective communication
As the remote work world has necessitated a focus on soft skills, the need to reinvent learning and development (L&D) initiatives has emerged. The 2021 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report bears this out. According to the report, nearly two-thirds of L&D leaders worldwide said they are focused on rebuilding or reshaping their companies in response to the pandemic and ensuing digital transformation.
While creating training for digital upskilling is relatively straightforward, soft skills training requires a more targeted and customised approach. There are several strategies that L&D leaders can include in their arsenal to make communication skills training more effective. One of them is leveraging a wide range of ready-to-use, curated courses that are designed specifically for personal and interpersonal skills development. These courses empower L&D to deliver effective development opportunities to employees, while achieving better engagement and desired business goals.
Communication is one of the most important skills that is essential to meet productivity and performance — the core goals for all organisations. While it has always been a fundamental skill set, the digital and remote work environment has now made it extremely critical.
The author, Amit Gautam is the Founder & CEO of UpsideLMS and Plethora. He is a learning technology enthusiast and a passionate leader. An IIM and NIT alumnus, Gautam is the key idea generator for UpsideLMS & Plethora’s product teams, a Sales and Marketing orchestrator, a learning technology solutions consultant for clients and prospects, and a mentor for all the function heads at his company.