The Importance of Communication Training

At least one training session for all employees on the topic of efficient but friendly communication is a good idea.

When employees are concentrating on their work, they may confront an interruption known as “hey-hanging,”which I hadn’t heard of until seeing it mentioned in a recent Forbes article by Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

“With remote and hybrid work, we can’t always tell when someone is at their desk or when they’re focusing on something else—and even in physical office settings, sometimes it’s easier to just send a colleague a quick Slack or Teams message instead of walking up to their desk,” Brenda Pohlman, vice president and practice leader at Workhuman, told Robinson. “In these cases, sending a quick ‘hey’ to get their attention may seem innocuous enough. But when employees don’t know why they’re being contacted, especially if the person contacting them is their manager or someone in a position of authority over them, it can cause serious anxiety. You don’t want to leave people thinking they may have done something wrong or made a mistake.”

AI’s Role in Communication

Pohlman goes on to suggest how artificial intelligence (AI) tools can make it easier to avoid communication missteps. For example, she says that an AI system can give you communication ideas before you begin typing. This would enable you to create more focused e-mails, I immediately thought. I often laugh at the e-mail that comes to me that says in a paragraph, or more, what could be said in one or two sentences.

In some cases, the unnecessarily long communication has the same impact as hey-hanging, where the employee doesn’t have the time or energy to piece through the e-mail to figure out what exactly the sender wants. And when they do understand, it can seem like the sender is taking up the employee’s time with posturing. They didn’t just point out an error, but felt the need to then take a paragraph to explain why the employee shouldn’t have made the mistake, as if the employee would argue with them. In most cases, the employee simply didn’t have the information required to do what the sender thought they should have done, and has no argument—they are happy to fix the mistake for next time.

A very intelligent AI system could flag communication that is irrelevant to the sender’s goal, alerting them that they are engaging in unnecessary posturing. However, that would require extremely intelligent AI technology to recognize petty human behavior.

“Why are you telling me this?” Or “Why are you bothering me with this?” Those are two thoughts I often have experienced in the workplace, and which I’m sure many others also have experienced. It may require training for employees to understand how to execute super-focused, yet pleasant, communication with colleagues.

How Training Can Help

Trainers could give the learners a few pieces of information they need to communicate to a colleague and see how they do it. Do they quickly get to the point in a friendly, but efficient way, or are they efficient, but unfriendly and brusque? You don’t want to encourage communications that come across as barking orders to the recipient.

Efficient, but friendly communication is an art that doesn’t come naturally to many people. It’s one of those things many of us assume would be intuitive, but it often isn’t, so at least one training session for all employees on the topic is a good idea.

Avoiding the Rabbit Hole

There are some people I dread communicating with because frequently it’s like going down a rabbit hole. You e-mail a straight-forward question, and instead of getting a straightforward response, you open a can of worms. “But didn’t I tell you…?” Or “But didn’t you do X, Y, and Z?” “But how about?…” “But remember…” Could there also be training to address that annoying tendency?

Communication training is easy to push to the wayside with all the mandatory compliance training that Learning professionals must execute. However, it’s important to never underestimate the importance of effective and friendly communication between colleagues—and with customers!

Do you provide communication training for employees? If so, what program or curriculum for communication have you found works best?