11 July 2023

Q&A with Learnlight COO:  Bridging the Communication Skills Gap in the Workplace


Last month we released our eBook, Bridging the Communication Skills Gap, on how to overcome communication challenges in today’s hybrid and remote workplaces.

Today, we are joined by our COO, Rupert Hillier, to discuss some further questions around this topic based on his experience building the Learnlight business and platform.

Learnlight embraced hybrid working practices well before the pandemic. Most businesses were too afraid of the implications this could have on productivity until the pandemic gave them no other option. What brought you confidence that it would work?

Like so many great ideas, this one was born from curious experimentation. When we were still based in offices, one of our team members felt they had no option but to resign in order to be with their partner in Argentina. Loathe to let such a talented team member go, we suggested that she try working remotely and, if successful, teach us how to do this more extensively moving forward. We learnt a lot that year, most importantly the crucial role that proactive communication, metrics-based management, and digital community plays with a virtual team.

With these insights we began hiring people almost entirely on the basis of attitude and expertise, without the limitation of geography. It was a complete game-changer for us. It’s been hugely positive in terms of team engagement, productivity, diversity, inclusion, and ultimately our ability to attract and retain remarkably talented people. We would never go back.

Bridging the communication skills gap that may arise when transitioning to a remote or hybrid work environment can be particularly challenging, yet it’s also so important in order to make this working practice a success. In our latest eBook here, we explore this further.

Communications Skills Gaps in Hybrid Teams
The skillset your team needs to thrive in a hybrid workplace
Communications Skills Gaps in Hybrid Teams
The skillset your team needs to thrive in a hybrid workplace

Why are the three most important pillars of communication – language, intercultural and interpersonal skills? And why are they more important than ever?

Communication is the nervous system of our teams, our companies, and our communities, yet miscommunication and misunderstandings are commonplace and can cause enormous damage. Indeed, miscommunication is currently costing businesses $1.2 trillion a year.

At Learnlight, we address this problem head-on by providing professionals with the knowledge, techniques, and practical skills to become master communicators. This improves engagement, understanding, inclusion, efficiency, and ultimately tangible business results.

We consider there to be three distinct layers to becoming a master communicator:

    1. Language skills: Having the vocabulary and grammatical structures to communicate the essential facts of a situation.

    1. Intercultural skills: Understanding the cultural dimensions that provide language with context, nuance, and differing meaning. This is key to connecting, understanding and influencing others, but also to creating a truly inclusive workplace.

    1. Interpersonal skills: Above and beyond the building blocks of the language and the intercultural context, these are the most powerful but also most challenging skills to master; listening, connecting, influencing, mediating, negotiating, empowering, etc.

Explore the three pillars of communication in our eBook here. 

As technology continues to disrupt the workplace, what are your words of wisdom to L&D leaders looking to upskill their workforce?

I think many L&D leaders are already very well atuned to the balance they need to strike as new technologies enter the workplace. The key for me has always been, and will continue to be, taking a people-first approach rather than a technology-first approach.

Everything we do at Learnlight is based on a deep conviction that technology can and should be used to amplify and extend the talent of our team. Time and time again, this is what we’ve seen produce the best business results, as well as producing the best employee engagement.

When businesses get caught up in the hype of new technologies, or become too focused on  trying to replace people with technology, it can erode the most essential human attributes of their employees – connection, understanding, leadership, creativity, and individual care. This can leave them worse off. It’s part of what we’re aiming to help businesses overcome through our communication skills offerings.

As a former trainer, why do you think it’s important to deliver communication skills training in all three formats – virtual instructor-led, digital self-study, face-to-face?

Ultimately every approach comes with its advantages and disadvantages, so being able to combine these approaches enables the best of all worlds while mitigating the downsides:

Self-study digital learning is a fantastic way to democratize learning for all, to provide true anytime-anyplace flexibility, and to empower learners with a huge number of options and opportunities. However, given that communication skills are inherently human, if possible, it makes sense to learn and practice these skills with a human being too. That’s likely why our virtual instructor-led training has consistently provided superior results. It provides accelerated learning paths, unparalleled personalization, and extremely high levels of engagement and motivation. Face-to-face training, on the other hand, comes with limitations that virtual solutions can resolve, but we still offer it for clients who need a traditional approach as part of their transition plan to a more effective and economical solution in the future.

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