ATD Blog

Priority #1: Practice the Art of Communication and Connectivity

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Distractions are everywhere: mobile devices, online alerts and reminders, phone calls from a spouse or partner, feedback from co-workers. And they represent at least one million reasons why it’s so easy to lose our focus and our ability to sustain meaningful conversations and connections.   

But even while the distractions seem to be increasing, research—and the expectations of employers—seem to point toward a need for greater focus on quality interactions. The ability to communicate with co-workers globally, collaborate with virtual team members, and simply converse with those we train or coach without distraction is critical.

Want proof that business takes good communication skills seriously? Check out these recent online articles.

There’s no doubt that strong communication and connectivity skills seem to trump a host of other skills in today’s workplace.  That is why connectivity is featured as one of eight critical workplace trends included in Career Moves: Be Strategic About Your Future

Here is what I learned about this trend and how I reported it in Career Moves:

“We inhabit a highly complex, worldwide workplace that requires high-tech and high-touch skills to meet increasing demands for constant innovation and improved performance. Our co-workers and customers come from increasingly diverse backgrounds and we all depend on one another to get our work done. The one common element that ties each of these workplace realities together is the ability to connect in meaningful ways with others.”


What helps or hinders good communication and connectivity?

Even though scores of online tools and social sites seem to make connecting with easier, they don’t always do the job.  Elizabeth Bernstein, writing in the Wall Street Journal recently about the art of becoming a better conversationalist, made this comment:  “So much of our lives have moved online, we've become less adept at in-person interactions. Experts worry that, thanks to videogames and texting, younger generations aren't learning the basics of real conversation.” 

And she isn’t the only one noticing this.  Organizations like Partnership for 21st Century Skills offer activities and tools for helping schools better prepare students for becoming better communicators and collaborators in the workplace.


Of course, as T&D professionals, we know that the ability to interact with and play well with others is important.  But practicing this skill and making it a priority each and every day takes commitment and practice.

How can you make communicating a career differentiator for your own career?  

Here are a few ideas to help you make the art of communicating, collaborating, and connectivity a differentiator for your own career. 

  • Focus your attention on the individuals you’re working with.  Clarify that you’re present for them by the words and tone you use—and by your nonverbal cues. 
  • Leave tech devices behind while working with others.  It’s amazing how much others appreciate your full attention, and how much more you can learn from them when there aren’t any interruptions to stifle your conversation. 
  • Read through “Trend #2: Connectivity” in the upcoming book, Career Moves.  You’ll find fascinating information about the latest trends affecting this issue. For instance, you’ll learn about the challenges of nomophobia (an interesting new term for the fear of being without mobile contact), and how it could derail your training activities if you aren’t careful.  You’ll also learn some great ideas for leveraging connectivity in your learning initiatives. 
  • Prepare yourself before meetings with others—whether online or face-to-face.  Practice key listening skills, which are all the more important in online meetings that don’t always offer many visual cues about what’s going on with all the people interacting. 
  • Review the newly revised ASTD Competency Model, which highlights interpersonal skills as one of six Foundational Competencies. 

Bottom line: you need to model collaboration and communication skills in the work you do with those you train and coach.
So, how do you use connectivity, collaboration, and communication to enhance your training and learning initiatives?  Please share how you put this skill set to work—and how you leverage this trend for your own career growth.

Note: Career Moves: Be Strategic About Your Future, 3rd edition, by Caitlin Williams and Annabelle Reitman will be available from ASTD Press in mid-September 2013.

About the Author

Caitlin Williams, PhD, is an expert in navigating the workplace with grit and grace and co-author of Career Moves: Be Strategic About Your Future (ASTD Press 2013). An atypical career development professional, through her consulting, speaking, and writing, she evangelizes the opportunities for experienced professionals to continue to pursue meaningful work that keeps their performance high, their anxiety low, and their lives moving in the direction that works for them. Witnessing the disheartening effects of the “working worried,” she offers these committed workers specific tools and strategies for flourishing in a always uncertain workplace. Whether experienced professionals are exploring new career paths or pursuing excellence in already chosen careers, she acts as their chief supporter and sounding board. Caitlin is also an organization’s key advisor, guiding leadership in identifying and leveraging employee strengths and critical skill sets and helping them build healthy, productive and innovative workplaces. In her work, Caitlin uses the leading-edge tools of personal branding, appreciative inquiry, personal story, and preferred futuring. These techniques powerfully shift her clients and audiences’ perspective from one that is limited to a history-focused and static view of themselves to one that leverages current strengths and focuses on future possibilities.

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