From String Phones to Video Conferencing: Effective communication in the Digital Age

March 17, 2020
Lily-Rae Hewitt Jasilek

In 1865, an Irish man established the Atlantic Telegraph Cable. Lord Kelvin Thomson helped in laying the cable that ran, underwater, from Newfoundland in Canada, to Valentia in County Kerry, Ireland. This reduced the communication time between North America and Europe from ten days—the time it took to deliver a message by ship—to a matter of minutes. Skip 150 years, similar cables make global communications possible, we can call or even video call to and from just about anywhere in the world. The question is, can we communicate effectively?

Effective communication is a key interpersonal skill and learning how to improve your communication has many benefits. However, many people find it difficult to know where to start. This article sets out the most common ‘problem areas’ and suggests where you might want to focus your attention.

Ineffective communication

Today, technology is so integral to how we communicate both within and outside of the workplace to the extent that many of us simply cannot fathom how businesses managed without emails, social media and video calls. But with so many different apps, systems and messaging services to keep track of, how can we streamline our communications? And what can happen if we don’t?

In research, where 400 surveyed corporations (with 100,000 plus employees in the U.S. and U.K) it was estimated that communication barriers cost the average organisation $62.4 million per year in lost productivity.

Poor communication in the workplace will inevitably lead to an unmotivated team that may begin to question their own confidence in their abilities and inevitably in the organisation. Lack of confidence can hinder the innovation, team building, and overall growth aspects of a business.

Team members can only be innovative if they are enabled to openly communicate ideas without fear of ridicule or retribution. Seeing as innovation relies heavily on fresh ideas and new concepts to be further developed within a team. It’s essential that this non-judgemental environment is maintained.

Building effective teams is also about how those team members communicate and collaborate together. By implementing effective strategies, such as those listed below, to boost communication, you will go a long way toward building effective teams. This, in turn, will improve morale and employee satisfaction.

Communication can be viewed both internally and externally. By being joined up internally and having strong lines of communication you are ensuring that the message you are delivering externally is consistent. Any growth project relies on strong communication and on all stakeholders, whether internal or external, being on the same wavelength.

The Three C’s

So, where do you start? Here are the three easy-to-incorporate standards offered by John Maxwell in his book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, to increase the effectiveness in your communication.

  1. Consistent
    It’s incredibly frustrating when someone says one thing one day and something different the next (when there have been no intervening variables to cause a change). Over time, this inconsistency in the messages you’re sending leads people to mistrust what you have to say. So if you want to be taken seriously and earn credibility as a leader and a strong communicator, you have to be consistent in the messages you send to others. Don’t be afraid to repeat your key messages—it’s hard for people to miss a point when they’ve seen or heard it multiple times.

  2. Clear
    When you want to be heard, make sure that the messages you are sending are clear, understandable and straight-forward. Many people try to impress others (especially superiors) with big, flashy words or jargon, but the question you must ask yourself is: Do I want to impress, or do I want to be heard and understood? If the answer is the latter, remove the complicated terminologies and stick to clear and concise messages that don’t leave anyone guessing.

  3. Courteous
    Courtesy conveys respect. When someone feels respected, they’re more likely to be open to hearing your message For example, abruptly interrupting someone’s workflow or speaking in a defensive or hostile way, will not command respect. You must keep your reader’s viewpoint and goals in mind, so you’re empathetic to their needs. In this way, if your goal is to be heard, “please”, “thank you” and a positive tone of voice are your best strategies.

We’ve come a long way from underwater cables, and this will only continue to develop and evolve as the years and decades go by. But as technology continues to take us to places we couldn’t have previously imagined, we must first enable ourselves to share and exchange information and ideas constructively and effectively.

For me, communication is all about collaboration. Often we use communication and collaboration interchangeably, yet it is important to understand that they are fundamentally very different. Communication is the act of sharing knowledge, whereas collaboration is the process of working together to achieve an end goal. In order to achieve effective communication, one cannot be without the other. Therefore, the secret to effective and efficient communication is the fostering of a culture which values and promotes productive collaboration skills.

Get in touch to find out more about the various transformation programmes we provide at UpSkill Digital.

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