The Great Shift in Workplace Communication

By: Alison Myers 

The ways in which we all communicate at work changed in more ways than many of us can appreciate over the course of the pandemic. Sure there was the proliferation of the Zoom meeting, or whichever platform you fancied, but that was just the beginning. As the majority of our interactions went online, many organizations came to the realization that a simple email cc’d to everyone on the team just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. People needed variety.


“Our first instinct was to over-communicate,” admits Nick Liebman, head of content at Powtoon, a British company that helps organizations create animated presentations and instructional videos. “We immediately saw how frustrating that was.”


Liebman was speaking recently as part of a webinar series on The Future of Hybrid Work, hosted by 15Five, a performance management training platform. As the panelists discussed Maximizing Engagement & Communication, Liebman admitted something that might have been obvious to someone whose work centres around visualizing messages.


“We had to learn. We had to change. It was about delivering the right message in the right way and usually something visual.”


Liebman argues that just as our way of communicating socially has shifted away from the written word (think Snapchat or, if you’re not there yet, how many times you’ve responded to a friend’s text with a Giphy instead of words), so too should our ways at work.


“It’s not PDF manuals, slide decks and long emails anymore,” he argues. “The people who are succeeding are the people who can connect visually. It cuts down on the amount of brain power.”


That last point hardly inspires confidence in the human race but the man has a point. So much is now expected of employees in such a short amount of time, it behoves us all to get to the point and do it fast. If we can do it in a way that doesn’t feel as cumbersome, perhaps we’ll all come home at the end of the day, or up from our basements, with a greater sense of the day having been dynamic and fulfilling rather than a slog of reading words on a screen.


Suzanne Waddell, director of communications and content at the United Way of Calgary and Area, says the pandemic helped many organizations understand the importance of effective internal communications as a way of keeping people engaged in their work and also committed to the mission.


“The need for internal communications has skyrocketed and that’s reflected in the number of jobs being posted in that area,” she says. “The pandemic showed if you don’t have people, you don’t have a business. So it was a matter of shifting how you keep them engaged and keeping them as your ambassadors.”


For Waddell, it comes down to consistency, open lines of communication and personalization.


“It’s not about sending a weekly team email anymore,” she says. “It’s more about preferences now. One message can’t reach everyone.”


Waddell prescribes open two-way feedback and regular town halls. She says that way, employees feel safe to express their ideas and feel they are seen as an important part of the organization’s future, even if it’s been more than a year since they’ve set foot in an actual office.