Effective communication within the workplace has always presented a challenge to accomplishing the task at hand when doing so requires the efforts of more than one person. I have addressed this issue previously through the several years I have been blogging based on my experience in working with people in various organizations and at various levels of responsibility. The first time I tackled the topic was a long seven years ago in the blog entitled ‘Clear Communication – A Great Place to Start in Minimizing Re-work’. Yet that was then and we are in a different place now.
It is not that today, there is any less need for clear communication or any less cost of the re-work that often follows when it is not done with clarity and agreed upon understanding. The difference is the introduction and continual evolution of more and more advanced technology that is having an enormous impact on how we communicate, the speed of the communication and the overall impact that this is having on the work accomplished and the related effectiveness of it.
What I find so interesting is that for the most part we have all experienced the significant differences on our methods of communicating with our co-workers or our customers. And yet … a topic that often comes to the forefront when coaching with an individual or a team is the errors that occur in the work being done and the cost that creates in the form of correcting them and delays in the delivery of the finished product to customers or simply to other internal people needing it to do their part.
I want to be clear. Much has been written about all of the advantages of the technology advances at work. There is no argument that …
- It has expanded our ability to deliver a consistent message to a broader range of people helping to insure that all are hearing (reading?) the same input at the same time.
- It has enhanced the speed of the communication that is imperative to the work being done and thus, increases efficiency to it. The significant added benefit is the reduction of costs related to our getting the message out.
- It has introduced various options to the communication path we choose to take that can more effectively be tailored to both individuals and the numbers of them that we need to reach.
- It has made the world smaller as it relates to co-workers or customers who are located in other offices and thatoffers definite advantages related to each having the same and clear understanding of the goals and processes used to achieve them.
The list of the gains and advantages that developing technology has delivered can easily go on as it is extensive. However, what I become aware of are the added problems that are rearing up that can be attributed to the wondrous tech advances. Here are some having their own impact … impact that can be seen as unintended consequences:
- A developing reduction in our ability to interact with others
When we don’t use any area of our brain over time, the ability to use the related skills simply diminish according to scientists. The parts of the brain that are affected by technology mostly relate to an individual’s communication and social skills. Whereas older people in the workplace didn’t grow up relying on technology, within the millennial generation technology is second nature. Thus, they are lacking within their experience the inclination and ability to interact and communicate beyond a digital interface. With this group becoming and a larger and larger portion of the work force, it brings with them some added challenges.
- Multi-tasking taken to a new and less productive level
The ability to maintain focus on more than one task has been an advantage that many enjoy. Yet it is the person’s decision to go from one thing to another while balancing the work they have to do. Today’s technology seems to have removed that choice and rather, the pop-up notices, the beeps or music signals something new arriving and seems to dictate that the person must attend to whatever it is and Thus the multi-tasking has become known as multi-distracting and has been shown to negatively impact productivity.
- Diminished communication skills as a negative unless dealing with only robots
Many of the skills we need and employ when having face-to-face communication with other individuals simply are not required when our communication is solely using the tools that technology has provided. Things like proper grammar, body language, and social cues are all disabled through technology. Thus abusing the use of the many technological advances will have an undesirable impact … this is, as long as we have and need human interaction in business.
- Successful social skills are simply diminished and that’s NOT a value
With all of the advantages that the technology of today and tomorrow do and will offer, theydo not replace the value and contribution that developing and nurturing social contact brings to the table. At least today, this is a highly contributing factor to a successful ‘deal’ and outcome.
- If technology reduces person-to-person communication, say hello to rising stress levels, missed deadlines, low morale and reduced overall health.
This is what some complain about as taking place within their organizations. The personal sense of isolation is furthered by our use of all of the exciting tools that are constantly being introduced and utilized. It is, however, bringing with it new levels of realities that take away from the very satisfaction we strive to have … personally and collectively.
Seven years ago my blog was focused on the cost of re-work when communication between people wasn’t clear and understood in the very same way by all involved parties. So, yes, the communication taking place today has enhanced the potential of participants having the same understanding about what needs to happen and that is good. And yet today, and because the tools we have are designed to further clarity among all involved, they have arrived having an impact on the interpersonal communication we still need to achieve the full and positive outcome required to maximize success.
With each new and developing tech advancement, we need to become more sensitive to what skills stand to be diminished and if that carries an undesirable cost, plan accordingly so we can have it all!