Leadership & Management Article by Matt Tanks

Has technology killed effective workplace communication?

Are people losing the art of communicating face to face? Is technology a crutch? Are we “speaking” less but “talking” more than ever?

Matt Tanks, an experienced leadership and management trainer, talks through how we should be communicating in this ever-changing tech savvy environment.

We’ve seen a rapid increase in communication via screens over the past two decades, so does this mean communications between colleagues and managers are becoming less effective?

“No, technology has not killed workplace communication, absolutely not.” says Matt Tanks, who runs leadership and management* courses at the Northern Beaches & Mosman Community Colleges and who also frequently runs independent HR training courses through his company, Tank Productions.

"We’re a mobile workforce now. We have to accept that team meetings are no longer face to face and there are a lot of benefits to that, such as flexibility. In my opinion the positives far outweigh the negatives. Both in Sydney and globally we need to learn to lead within this new workforce communication structure.

The world is changing fast and one of the things we teach at our Leadership and Management course* are the basics of how to communicate effectively as a leader, whatever the technology. I call it ‘spinning it around’….because people come in saying ‘How do I get people to listen to me,’.…..when the simple answer they learn is…..they need to be listening to their team more."

So, it sounds like technology itself does not serve as a barrier if the right management and collaboration styles are adopted…..but has Matt noticed a generational difference in communication style? Do millennials, ‘xgens’ and boomers all adopt different communicate styles with the latest technology at hand?

“Communication is NOT about issues between generations and talking this way is counter productive,” stresses Matt.

"As a manager or leader, it’s not actually your team’s fault if they don’t receive the message in the way that you want them to. It’s up to you to ensure you get the best out of people and to ensure the right message gets across."

So does it surprise Matt that a recent study has shown that 6 out of every 10 managers in the workplace today have received absolutely no management training? (source: careerbuilder.com)"This doesn’t surprise me at all….especially in Sydney as the pace of work here is nuts, and often gaps need to be filled quickly. Time and budget constraints means you are often promoted without any proper management training.

With the Leadership and Management* course at the college, people who have actually been managers for a while are learning basic skills that occur in all team environment, like how to deal with conflict. Funnily enough, if you take time to understand where the other person is coming from you’ll actually get less conflict anyway.

Communicating like a leader is a learned skillset, and that’s why it’s included as part of a core unit within the course."

So what does the future look like when it comes to leadership and management skills, from a HR expert’s point of view? Is it all tech and drones where soft skills will eventually become obsolete?

“If you simply focus on the technical skills you have right now you won't have a job in 5 years and I've seen this with my own eyes,” stresses Matt.

"Soft skills like leadership and effective communication will be valued because of all the change happening. We tell people that because of the emerging gig economy, don’t sit around waiting for your company to upskill you…..go and get the skills yourselves. Find your gaps and protect your future by learning new things.

Companies are doing all sorts of sizing….who can keep up……upsizing, downsizing, rightsizing. This will be the norm. The winners will be those who understand people, understand the change and OF COURSE balance this out with up to date technical skills."

So back to the original question of whether screens are killing effective communication…. is the real question one of whether people have time to go and learn to communicate properly….as a colleague, manager or leader, no matter what technology is involved? It seems like futureproofing your career this way may just be the skill that stands the test of time.

Courses available:

Certificate IV in Leadership & Management BSB42015
Diploma of Leadership & Management BSB41918

About Matt Tanks

Matt Tanks is one of the trainers for the Certificate IV Leadership and Management BSB42015 course at NBCC College. He also runs an HR training business, Tank Productions, on the back of his almost 20 years consulting and training in HR for medium to large organisations. Matt has a Business/HR degree plus a TAE Cert IV.

This course may be subsidised by the NSW government

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