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With the COVID-19 lockdown came a sea change in operating models for many businesses. For many of these, remote working will become a new normal as the switch to permanent working from home arrangements is accelerated. For organizations, this presents both opportunities and challenges. One of the major challenges is how to communicate effectively in the ever-changing world.
2020 will certainly be a year of note in the history books. The COVID-19 pandemic closed much of the global economy. Here in the United States, organizations were told to transfer all work that could be done at home to employees working from home.
According to data from the US Census, in 2017 around 5.2% of workers in the United States worked from home. This number had been rising steadily since 2000, when 3.3% of workers worked from home.
As the coronavirus lockdown bit hard, Gallup reported that this number had swelled to 61%. Never before has an economy shifted so far and so violently. The definition of VUCA was being rewritten minute by minute.
In the VUCA world, and one in which remote working is looking increasingly likely to be the new normal, technology is critical. It enables us to work collaboratively and in real time. Unfortunately, this way of working is accompanied with a huge communication disadvantage – the lack of real, human conversations.
Working online, communication is typically conducted by the tools that should help collaboration. Increasing amounts of communication are conducted by email, instant messenger, and in-built communication tools on the project management software that remote workers use. When using these tools, we don’t get to benefit from the energy of nonverbal communication. The result is mixed messages, confusion, and potentially the need to rebuild trust to take your employees from conflict to collaboration. Even when communicating by voice or Skype, our ability to interpret meaning is hindered.
It is critical to develop effective communication strategies for the VUCA world. Your employees are likely to become more dispersed and more dependent upon technology as a communication tool.
Setting guidelines of how to communicate with others in your team should ensure that your organization takes advantages of the many benefits of remote working. These include higher productivity and happier employees.
Instigating some rules for how leaders, managers and teams communicate is an essential piece of your communication strategy. An appropriate communication style will help to ensure that work is not duplicated and that instructions are not misunderstood as part of a wider strategy or rules of engagement in the technological age.
Clarity of meaning and intent is crucial in the VUCA world, and there are four key attributes that all communication should benefit from. These are:
To develop genuine online working relationships, communication should be open and honest. Whether by email, SMS, instant messenger, or other means of communication, it is essential that wording is clear, concise, and not tainted with emotional bias. Even when communicating online, learn to listen to the other party.
Collaboration is key in the VUCA world. Your people must feel free to discuss their ideas and be confident that their feedback will be listened to. It is essential to foster conversations in which genuine dialogue is encouraged and employees feel engaged in solution finding. Empowering two-way dialogue in a changing environment will help to ensure that all concerns are discussed appropriately.
Remember that not everyone is an excellent communicator. It is necessary to keep messages on point by keeping them clear and concise. The temptation to use technical jargon should be ignored, and only one issue or question should be discussed at a time. Taking this approach should ensure that focus does not warp into confusion.
Your people come from different backgrounds, have different levels of education, and prefer different methods of communication. When communicating with your team and the individuals within it, ensure that you have considered cultural and generational differences and plan communication to allow for these.
For each message, consider whether you should communicate in virtual team meetings or one-to-ones and how best to do so: video conferencing, intranet, social media, SMS, WhatsApp, email, etc.
Remember to keep messages clear, be honest, and repeat often. To ensure that your message has been accurately received, ask the recipient to repeat back in their own words.
To ensure that your communication strategy and technique is effective in the VUCA world, contact Primeast today to learn how an Emotional Intelligence course could help to develop your communication skills and help you engage your employees at all levels.
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