How the pandemic impacted leadership communication


How employees communicate, collaborate, and connect are fundamental qualities of the employee experience, but can present a challenge in a hybrid workplace.


A recent study of 3,500 leaders and managers across the UK, found that almost three quarters believed that leadership was lacking throughout the pandemic. Specific areas highlighted include empowering and motivating teams, problem-solving, empathy and emotional intelligence. In addition, the World Economic Forum points to an urgent need for leadership upskilling in digital fluency and change management to remain competitive and agile in the new hybrid work context.


The digital body language


There are many situations in which body language plays a significant role in a leader’s presence, including making a positive first impression, connecting quickly with another person, gesturing to help the audience understand their message, adding impact to a formal presentation, or displaying confidence. Just like in-person physical body language, digital body language concerns the cues that signal our engagement and can change the meaning of the words we say – be it in writing, on the phone or in a video call.


As organisations compete for talent and adapt to new ways of working, the technology they use has become the dominant feature of the employee experience. But technology is only a communication channel and even in the best-connected organisations, employees can still cross wires. A survey of 2,000 employees and managers suggest that 70 percent of employees report poor digital communication as a frequent barrier to their work, leading to around four hours of wasted time each week.


Around 60 to 80 percent of our face-to-face communication is non-verbal language, such as, pauses, gestures and the tone of our voice – they all bring energy and emotional nuance to our communication. And when face to face communication is replaced by digital channels, punctuation and the use of symbols become the new means of signalling that emotion. This requires mindfulness so that leaders can ensure that their digital body language is intentional and appropriate to the situation at hand. Often simply proofreading their message to ensure that the meaning and the emotional subtext are as clear and appropriate as possible could make a significant difference.


Staying on the same page, even if not in the same room


Communication is essential to ensure that employees remain motivated, excited about their career growth and able to see the bigger picture. Leaders are often primarily focused on getting to the finish line, however, in a hybrid or remote work environment, that mentality can cause communication to become transactional, and result in missed opportunities to connect with employees on a deeper level. This can be particularly challenging for the younger generation, who in many cases were forced to start their careers remotely, with limited face time with their managers.


Offering constructive feedback and focusing on transparent and authentic communication can break this barrier. Guiding employees, as well as celebrating their success can not only improve engagement levels but also prevent burnout. According to Deloitte’s survey on workplace burnout, the top driver of burnout for employees is the lack of support or recognition they receive from leadership. In addition, almost 70 percent of employees surveyed felt that their employers were not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout, and 21 percent believed that their organisation did not offer any initiatives to prevent or alleviate burnout.


Successful leaders go beyond delegating work and communicating how to do tasks. They show humanity and a genuine interest in the people they work with, which in return can go a long way toward fostering successful communication in the workplace. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.