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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
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How communicating at work should be like in the era of 'new normal'

Consistent communication is still key, says Pamela Kirpalani, CEO of Inner High Living.

Behavioural psychology and neuro-behaviour expert Pamela Kirpalani, CEO of Inner High Living, has coached hundreds of people through issues such as anxiety, self-esteem, professional relationships, and other communication problems within the workplace.

As the founder of the Singapore-based inter-personal communications coaching practice, she has trained numerous executives from institutes and government entities such as the Ministry of Manpower, Central Provident Fund, Singapore Police Force, Changi Airport, and the World Presidents Organisation, among others.

In light of the COVID-19 situation and the changes that it has forced upon workplaces, we speak to Kirpalani for her thoughts on the “new normal” and advice on how we can best navigate the digital-focused, work from home environment.

1. Given that working from home is currently the default setting for Singapore, how can individuals enhance their inter-personal communication skills over video conferencing platforms and create a professional impression digitally?
Now that we don’t have the luxury of relying on physical or face to face visual cues, we need to be more conscious on ensuring that we convey openness, confidence and trustworthiness so that these attributes come across clearly over a digital platform.

Firstly, here are some basic but oft-neglected tips that we can all adopt: make sure to always look fresh, professional, and presentable in front of the camera; and remove any visual distractions in the background and ensure a quiet environment with appropriate lighting. Keep an appropriate distance from the camera, use mute when not speaking, and look at the camera directly to establish eye contact and indicate interest and empathy.

The real power, however, lies in our non-verbal communication. Here are some tips which will help to subconsciously build a high level of level of trust and identification with our audience despite the digital medium.

When making your point, smile lightly (not too wide) as you speak. This signals you know your subject matter and are comfortable and confident when articulating it. It’s also important to express your interest in the speaker by nodding your head when they’re making a point, as this comforts and connects you with the speaker and helps to build synergy and understanding between the both of you and the rest of the group.

Lastly, the slight head tilt to the side is a universal signal of attentive listening. Use this to show that you are engaged and interested in what the speaker is saying.

2. How can business leaders effectively communicate to keep their teams motivated given the external factors of the “new normal”?
Business leaders must incorporate two virtuous strategies when communicating with their teams - vulnerability and clarity. When business leaders are clear, open, and authentic with their team a sense of emotional connection will be established. This is what employees need and want, especially given the current situation as we all grapple with uncertainty, lack of structure, and isolation.

3. What does it mean to connect authentically in this day and age?
Connecting authentically means being open with your vision, your fears and your aspirations for others, and being open to honest dialogue. When you come across as authentic, people see you as more human, sympathetic, and relatable, and will naturally gravitate towards you. This is so essential as a leadership skill, especially now during these times, in inspiring loyalty, trust, and commitment.

4. Beyond the workplace, what are the top three strategies organisations should be using across the board to improve communications with their customers, clients and external stakeholders?
The first strategy would be consistent communication, whether it be via newsletters, social media, emails, or other calls to action. Stakeholders, clients, and customers have an internal need for consistency, especially in these uncertain times. They need to know through your communications that you are “there” for them and thinking of them.

Secondly, organisations should not be afraid of sharing their own vulnerabilities of operating in the extraordinary situation we all face today. This helps to “humanise” the brand and create a stronger sense of intimacy and personal connection with the brand.

Finally, personalising one’s services can really help the customer, stakeholder and client feel appreciated and remembered. It’s critical to think about the small but significant acts of service you can do for, or share with your customers and clients, that will deepen your bond with them.

5. Could you share with us some digital or non-digital communication tools in order to better connect with teams and team members?
Connecting with teams can be tricky, particularly with individuals dispersed in their homes. The key here is to really foster a sense of community and belonging amongst all team members despite the limitations of a digital medium.

Aside from meetings, scheduling activities such as weekly informal discussions can help enhance the feeling of belonging when sharing more personal or non-work-related stories.

I’ve seen clients send out motivational video messages using Loom video messaging on a weekly basis with the aim of inspiring their team.

Another strategy that can be useful for teams is allocating a group leader every month to take charge of enriching the rest of team members through fun online/offline activities, such as Pizza Night with the food being provided to each participant through food delivery services and the whole experience done over a virtual group bonding session.

In the same way, birthdays and other important occasions can be celebrated together by the team or organisation. All that is needed is some creativity. Doing a combination of these three initiatives is a good starting point to connecting with one’s team, and creating a sense of camaraderie and unity despite the physical separation.

Photo courtesy of Ivan Samkov (Pexels)

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