How business leaders can lead on bridging the workplace communication gap

We’ve all heard the stereotypes: younger generations, growing up with the internet, love texting and short snappy videos...

How business leaders can lead on bridging the workplace communication gap

We’ve all heard the stereotypes: younger generations, growing up with the internet, love texting and short snappy videos, whilst older generations, born before the era of social media, are more inclined to enjoy long-form content and the custom of in-person meetings. 

But these broad-brush labels are of course too generic to truly predict and accurately characterise the way that we, each being a unique individual, want to work today. For example, although Gen Z-ers are most associated with being the digital generation, 75% said they preferred to receive feedback from their manager in person. 

Despite the common beliefs, one thing is indisputable to me – we all have different preferences when it comes to how we work and communicate. Catering for these with greater intent is essential in a world of hybrid working. 

As organisations learn to adapt to different needs and work styles, leaders are realising that communication gaps – whether generational or not – don’t have to exist. It is all about creating the best conditions for understanding each other. Business leaders can do this through a comms strategy that prioritises transparency, ownership and efficiency. So, how can you refine the quantity and the quality of your comms channels?  

Don’t miss the miscommunication 

The costs of miscommunication are felt both culturally and financially for businesses, so improving business communication is invaluable in creating stronger and more satisfied teams. Disengaged employees cost the world an unbelievable $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, but employees who feel included in more detailed communication are nearly five times more likely to report increased productivity. 

With so many different channels of communication used in the workplace – from email to direct messaging – it’s no wonder it can feel overwhelming to create the right approach that eliminates the biggest obstacles of digital communication. With a barrage of messages and app notifications invading your laptop, it can be a stressful task just to ensure that you can easily access the information you need when you need it. Often employees ask themselves (and each other): “where is that?” or “”I can’t find that message, was it an email”?”.

Despite being very familiar to us, this digital clutter can lead to the miscommunication of expectations, ownership and feedback that could result in missed deadlines, extra admin and constant clarifications. So, more businesses are considering whether to unite different channels.

Clarify rules and expectations

Having multiple disparate comms channels isn’t the only miscommunication trap to be aware of. Teams also need to be careful about how they use each channel to communicate different things.   

Do you notice that on video calls people are more apprehensive to speak to avoid talking over colleagues? Or do some junior or introverted team members not feel confident enough to speak up in a group setting? Whether it’s related to personality, experience in the industry or generational differences, understanding how to use these communication channels in conjunction with each other is essential to promote greater confidence. 

For example, some people communicate differently over group chats than they do direct messages – each channel comes with different expectations of formality and etiquette. So, leaders need to empower their people to shine by gaining feedback from teams about what tools work and which ones don’t. It can also help to come up with a loose communication contract about the expectations for each: is email for more formal long-form messages, or do instant messaging programmes work best to share things at pace?

Scrap what you know about internal comms

But what if you want to start fresh, with a different system of comms? Businesses should actively challenge the way they think about communication by searching for an approach that eliminates constantly switching from multiple channels, provides a more intuitive user experience, ensures all the information is in one place and reduces time-consuming admin. 

For my team, this approach led us to eliminate email. We found that having just one platform works best because it allows you to centralise shared information, feedback and resources. So, whether you are a new joiner, moving to another team or returning from maternity leave, you have a single, continuous home for each project – including reference points like videos, notes messages and OKRs. 

So, business leaders shouldn’t be afraid to throw the rule book away and begin a whole new era of communications for their teams. Although overhauling a strategy like this may seem daunting, choosing an approach that accounts for both the quality and quantity of your communication channels can help unite all workers across generations, work styles, and personal preferences. 

Johnny Clarke
Johnny Clarke

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