New Communication Tools Call For New Communication Styles

New Communication Tools Call For New Communication Styles

As a behavioural scientist and best-selling author of Dealing with the Tough Stuff, Darren Hill (pictured below) knows first hand what’s required to build high-performance workplace cultures. In this guest post, Hill says COVID has totally changed communication in the workplace and crystal balls what lies ahead…

Communication in the workplace has been completely transformed by the move to distributed work throughout 2020, and it doesn’t look like we’re going back to ‘normal’ anytime soon. This is evidenced via The State of Virtual Work survey involving over 300 leaders from ASX-listed and multinational companies. Amongst the findings was communication across teams remains to be one of the biggest challenges for organisations working in a distributed model.

When technology connects us faster and easier than ever before, why are we still struggling with communication? Today we’re going to explore the importance of committing to a communication framework. It’s nowhere near as complicated as it sounds, in fact it’s actually going to help you to clarify how you and your team communicate virtually. So let’s hop to it.

A communication framework for distributed teams.

Through the development of our virtual leadership program we established a communication framework that can be easily applied across any organisation, in any industry. This simple acronym could be the game changing approach that you’ve been looking for.

SOCS is the acronym you need to remember, and it stands for:

  • Social
  • Operational
  • Conversational
  • Speed

Regardless of the digital tools you are using in your organisation, each of them should fall int one of the four categories. Let’s take a look at the role of each of these digital communication categories and how they may play out within your organisation.


Your people may be working remotely, but that doesn’t mean that we should drop the ball with social connection. Now more than ever our teams need social interaction to build rapport and strengthen their sense of belonging.

The social element of the SOCS framework refers to a tool that your team will use for virtual social gatherings. Most likely, the social element of your virtual leadership toolkit will be a video conferencing software like Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams. It’s a great way to gather people in real-time, listen and share. You’ll use your social software of choice for team meetings, company-wide meetings and internal comms.


Now for the operational side of things. Here you’ll need to ensure that the software you use for project and task management is adopted, utilised and ultimately, is effective in helping your team keep track of what they’ve got going on.

Ideally, the piece of software should allow for comments on projects and tasks to be made so that task-centric conversations can take place in one virtual space. In our organisation we use, although it’s likely that by this point you’ve already got your operational communication tools in place. Jira, Trello, Asana are all valuable alternatives.


The third element of the SOCS framework is conversational. You’ll need to designate a place where your team can have conversations back-and-forth like they would if they were all in the office together. This includes team-centric conversations, company-wide conversations and one-to-one interactions.

Think in terms of the quick hallway and meeting room catchups about

work, that’s what we want to still have a place for. The upside to these conversations (and why these shouldn’t always default to Zoom) is that you can record streams of conversations and come back to them at a later date.


So, you’ve got roughly three pieces of software under your belt now. Your team is using them, they’re working well, but there’s something missing. How do you cut through the noise when there’s something urgent or something important that needs to be shared? That’s where the speed element of this framework swoops in to save the day.

For many organisations, the best option for this is a quick text message. Everyone has their phone on them within easy reach and are more likely to see a text come up than a Slack message, especially if they’ve got Slack notifications muted or are in the middle of a task.

Obviously some platforms have chat and messenger functions, but we suggest the speed channel needs to be a ‘clean’ channel beyond the noise.

It’s one thing to know of a communication framework and a whole other ball game to get your team on board and across the distinct purposes of each channel. This level of understanding isn’t going to come from a one-off conversation in a team video call.

The rules for engagement for each of your digital communication channels should be visible and easily accessible for everyone across your organisation, and the regular use of these channels are the bedrock of a high-performing hybrid team.




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Darren Hill

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