This article was written by Holly Noto and Ben Carmel.

When was the last time you thought about how you communicate?

To succeed in the workplace of the future, you might want to give this some thought—and be open to fine-tuning or significantly updating how you interact with others at work.

Last year, marketing research firm Kelton Global interviewed 1,400 knowledge workers across the U.S. to learn what they want in the workplace of the future.

Trust and teamwork ranked high, and communication was central to all:

  • 80% of workers want to know more about how their organization makes decisions
  • 87% of workers want their future company to be transparent
  • 91% of workers want to feel closer to work colleagues
  • 74% of workers believe workplaces of the future will be more collaborative

This study shows that openness and connection will drive future workplace success.

In this post, we recap highlights from our third and final webinar in our Organizational Adulting series. Our first webinar in the series, Divisive Behaviors and How to Overcome Them, can be viewed here while Overcoming Apathy and Disengagement, our second webinar in the series, can be viewed here.

What Will Communication of the Future Look Like?

Email, presentations, instant messaging, and video conferencing will continue to play a role in communication in the workplace, but more concise email or more stellar presentations won’t take workplace communication to the next level, networks will.

In the near future, communication will become increasingly interactive, interpersonal, inter-functional, multi-leveled, forward-thinking, and driven by purpose and meaning.

Networks enable us to identify the talents and potential skills that others can contribute to the work we do – the problems we solve.

XPL-OA-Communication-People in nodesIn a network, the essential behavior is creating connection points, seeking insights, and solving shared problems. It is about what we can do together, not what we have done. The days of building a reputation based on personal accomplishments and successes are fleeting. The workplace of the future is about building the connections that will help you focus on tomorrow’s problems and solutions.

As workplace communication evolves, networks of people will think bigger, act bigger, and build pathways to exchange great ideas, share unique experiences, and offer insights—all toward creating innovative, agile, forward-thinking organizations.

What’s Behind the Communication Evolution?

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, believes we are at the beginning of a revolution fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another.

Calling this the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Schwab sees technology fusing our physical, digital, and biological worlds—and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.

In this age, it won’t be about what you know. It will be about what you can know and about adapting to a constantly changing future by tapping into our networks.

How Communication is Changing: Sharing is the New Saving

One example of how communication is changing involves the sharing of ideas.

In the past, when you came across a great article or idea, you may have jotted it down and filed it away. That’s probably where the idea died.

Today, the trend is to share the idea—why it means something to you, why you thought it was interesting, what it sparked in you. Getting the word out creates value in the spaces between us. Conversations allow ideas to bounce off and collide against each other, creating something greater.

XPL-OA-Communication_People NetworkedSharing omnidirectionally—in meetings, social media, blogs, email—helps you tap into the collective wisdom of your network, make sense of information, see patterns, and connect to innovate and solve problems.

How to Enhance Your Communication Skills

As a design consultancy, people often ask XPLANE to teach them how to be a better communicator, how to become more agile, nurture servant leadership, or create a networked culture.

We always recommend starting with interpersonal communication because engagement—the interplay between people—is vital to adapting and functioning at a high level.

Fortunately, there are many ways to enhance your communication skills:

  • Be self-aware. Examine your motivations and drivers that might cause you to react or interact in nonproductive ways. Rather than acting out when you, for example, feel uncomfortable with the status of a project, be honest. Authentic communication lets you connect with others more productively.
  • Be inquisitive. Be curious and adopt a sense of humility about learning from others. Accept that you don’t know everything, but don’t confuse inquiry with inquisition. Being inquisitive is not about questioning people because you think you know. It’s asking questions because you realize that you don’t know.
  • Be transparent and credible. People crave transparency. They want to know why you’re doing things, to what end, and how they can be involved. They want to share ideas and problem-solve, which is the reward in transparency. To enable this, you have to be brave enough to share and credible enough to rally support.
  • Be empathetic. Empathy generates alignment and commitment. Seek to understand how other people come to their conclusions and how they interpret data. People are more willing to exchange ideas and support future endeavors in an atmosphere of understanding. Foster that.
  • Be inclusive. Don’t be afraid to invite multiple perspectives, feedback, suggestions, and changes that could make things better. Input might sound like criticism, but you have to be open to it to really succeed.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. In failing, you learn to do things better. In sharing your failures, you become more open and authentic, which ultimately helps you build a lasting network of people who understand you, your mutual needs, and how you can create value for each other.
  • Participate and advocate. Advocacy can be a little overpowering if not put in check. However, if you have shown yourself to be self-aware, inquisitive, transparent, empathetic, inclusive, and open, advocacy can be especially potent and meaningful. It will drive speed and progress. Participate, but don’t push. Being a bull in a china shop is not a good way to get optimal results.
  • Be open, accepting, and flexible. These qualities set the stage for safety and trust, which makes everything easier. When trust is abundant in your network, people will want to engage with you over and over again.

How to Build a More Robust Network

As you fine-tune your communication skills, try adopting some practices to create or activate a more powerful network:

  • Find and connect with peers, like-minded people, and champions, regardless of where or who they are
  • Ask, seek, share, be curious
  • Understand failures in the context of what you’ve learned
  • Share credit and applaud others
  • Be courageous—share ideas, content, personal insights
  • Accept critique and direction with humility and a learning mindset
  • Be available, be visible, be present
  • Tell the truth (tactfully)
  • Empathize with others
  • Find common ground and win-wins
  • Add value where you can and learn when you can’t

With these practices in place, you’ll be well on your way to a highly productive, collaborative, and interactive workplace.

Attend the Culture Summit

If you’d like to learn more about Organizational Adulting, join us at the Culture Summit in San Francisco on June 25 to 27, 2019. We’ll be hosting two workshops that will put Organizational Adulting skills to work for you. You’ll leave with tools that you can take back to work and immediately share with others to create a more productive workplace.

How to Learn More

If you have thoughts or questions about this post, we would love to hear from you.

And if you missed our prior Organizational Adulting posts, be sure to check them out in the links below.

  1. Introduction to Organizational Adulting: Insights That Lead to Better Ways of Working
  2. Organizational Adulting: Your Barriers + Our Insights = A Live Conversation
  3. Organizational Adulting: Divisive Workplace Behaviors and How to Overcome Them
  4. Organizational Adulting: Overcoming Apathy and Disengagement in the Workplace
  5. Organizational Adulting: You Are What and How You Communicate