Communication can be difficult when you’re in the same room. So what happens when you’re separated by screens and time zones? The COVID-19 pandemic revealed what once could be considered a communication gap was quickly becoming a gaping divide. Even now, two years later, business professionals are still grappling with how to overcome this challenge.
In Duarte’s latest report, more than three-quarters of business professionals expect the future of work to be hybrid. And since 84% of respondents to our survey indicated that communication skills are more important since COVID-19, it’s safe to say that improving the way employees interact with others will be essential for organizations to achieve their goals in a hybrid world.
The more organizations rely on technology during times of constant change, the more human skills need to shine. To succeed in a hybrid environment, individuals and organizations need to upskill their communication.
On average, people rated employee proficiency in communication skills as 6.48 / 10. In particular, the top three communication challenges facing organizations are:
- Communicating well in online / virtual settings
- Cascading messages across the organization
- Communicating to achieve and maintain alignment between stakeholders.
Simply put, keeping teams, clients, and stakeholders on the same page is an undeniable challenge in the workplace.
Power Skills Matter More than Ever
Given that most employees are no longer working in the same physical space, organizations are finding their performance rises and falls on power skills (once referred to as soft skills). In fact, our research shows effective online communication is the highest rated power skill when it comes to daily organizational performance, showing it to be rated as very important (9 / 10). This skill was followed by the ability to simplify concepts and to listen with empathy.
While respondents indicated communication skills were important to overall organizational performance, it’s also clear that these competencies are especially essential for individual contributors in every type of role. In other words, becoming a more impactful and empathetic communicator is no longer just important for those in obvious “influence” roles such as HR, marketing, or sales teams. It’s for everyone. Duarte’s research found that all employees need to have the following three power skills: Communication, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. Even employees in more technical and analytical roles need to develop these core skills in order to fill the emotional gap created by their lack of physical presence with colleagues.
Given Duarte’s many years of experience working with leaders, we know effective communication must be modeled—starting at the top. Our research backed this up, indicating that effective communication was also identified as the top power skill for leaders, paired with emotional intelligence and leadership skills. Combined, these three skills underscore the need for empathetic communication in the workplace right now, as we continue to adjust to a hybrid professional world.
Development Helps Close the Gap
Communication is the connective tissue between humans, holding the potential to bring us together, create shared understanding, align on and execute initiatives, and so much more. At the end of the day, communication is the vehicle for transformation.
However, mastering communication skills isn’t something that can be done overnight. Developing communication skills is a journey that takes time.
Investing in a high learning and development culture in which employees are actively and regularly engaged in developing their power skills, is one way to help hone the communication skills of both employees and leaders. Investing in employee training can also pay dividends with recruitment and retention.
No matter where your team chooses to work in 2022, now is the perfect time to focus on developing communication skills to improve your overall performance. Read our insights in our report, Power Skills and Training for Today’s Workforce: Learning & Development Annual Trends Survey 2022.
Illustrations and graphics by Chariti Canny and Alexis Macias