One of the lessons that we can take away from the past year is that some forms we use to communicate are better than others. Granted, we should have known this. However, I do find when we’re able to all be in the same place – and deliver many of our messages in person – that we don’t really complain about a message being delivered in-person (versus other forms of communication).
Over the past year, we haven’t all been in the same place. Our ability to communicate in-person is limited. Many of us don’t like video calls and being “on camera” all the time. So, we’ve sent messages via email or text that would have been better in a different format.
I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the advantages and disadvantages of the four main forms of business communication. Even though many organizations are thinking about employees returning to the office, I don’t know that we’re going to return to in-person communication being a primary format for a while. And then there’s always the question of whether we should always communicate that way.
TEXTING – I’m going to put texting on the list of business communications. I do believe it’s being used, especially when it comes to talent acquisition.
Advantage: Great to communicate short messages and replies. People will see it and open the message.
Disadvantage: Some people might view texting as a violation of their privacy. There’s also the issue of texting not having a clear grammatical standard (i.e. emojis).
EMAIL – It’s been around forever, and people are used to email business communications.
Advantage: Email is great when you need to outline detail and create a written record. There’s also the benefit of sending it to multiple people.
Disadvantage: Spam, viruses, phishing, etc. can hurt open rates. It is also very difficult to create feeling or emotion, so messages can be easily misunderstood.
VIDEO – This format has been around for a long time, but has really gone mainstream over the past year.
Advantage: New video technologies are offering free/inexpensive options. It allows multiple people to collaborate without the time and expense of travel.
Disadvantage: Video calls take some getting used to – in terms of being on video. Like texting, there are no universally established business guidelines yet.
IN-PERSON – Of course, in-person communication is necessary and valuable. But that doesn’t mean it is essential for every conversation.
Advantage: People can read the body language and voice inflexion of the other person. This can be an important component in establishing trust among colleagues.
Disadvantage: In-person meetings can become ineffective (and downright boring) if there are a lot of people in the room. It can also become expensive if travel is necessary.
At the point we’re talking about the pandemic less and less, we will still be communicating with bosses, colleagues, employees, and vendors. It’s important to choose the right method of communication. While video communication has saved us during the pandemic, I really believe that organizations need to figure out where it fits moving forward. That doesn’t mean not using it anymore. Instead, organizations need to examine the different ways to communicate and when to use each one.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Boston, MA