Since the pandemic, small- to medium-sized business employees have experienced the biggest drop in confidence levels.

Research Shows We’re Less Confident in Communicating since the Pandemic

From a communication standpoint, a Body Talk survey has found that our confidence levels have taken a real knock since the pandemic. 

Our research shows that there’s been a 46% increase in the number of people who say they lack confidence when communicating at work since the Covid-19 crisis began.

The Body Talk survey

In January 2023, Body Talk worked with market research consultants Censuswide to survey more than 2000 employees across the UK to find out how the pandemic affected people’s communication skills.

For the purposes of the survey, ‘communication’ refers to everything from meetings to presentations, emails, and one-to-one conversations.

Now that most businesses have established their post-pandemic ‘normal’, we wanted to discover just how confident people feel regarding business communication. 

We’re less confident in communicating

Our research found that confidence levels across all ages, genders and sectors have dropped since the pandemic began. Whilst just over 10% of people described themselves as ‘not confident’ before the pandemic, this figure has almost doubled since.

According to our survey, women feel less confident than men when giving meetings or presentations, with one-fifth of all female respondents saying that they don’t feel very confident or have no confidence at all. The figure for men is lower, with 13% reporting a lack of confidence in the workplace.

Younger employees are the least confident, with more than 20% of 16-24 year olds responding that they find communicating at work difficult. These results are backed up by a recent report by the Prince’s Trust, which found that young people are generally experiencing a crisis of confidence. 

It’s harder for smaller businesses

Since the pandemic, employees in small to medium-sized businesses have experienced the biggest drop in confidence levels.

For example, before the pandemic, just 6% of employees in businesses with 50-99 employees said that they lacked confidence when communicating at work, but since the pandemic, this number has risen to 14%. Similarly, SMEs with 100-249 employees saw a 68% increase in people who said they didn’t feel confident in meetings or presentations. 

How well are your leaders communicating?

Our survey also explored how well employees think their leadership teams are communicating now compared to pre-pandemic.

Before the pandemic, 88% of respondents felt that the leaders in their company communicated well in meetings, but post-pandemic has also seen this number fall to 82%. That’s still a high number, but business leaders should think about what has caused this number to fall. 

Some industries have seen more of a decline than others. For example, more than a quarter of respondents who work in HR now say that their leaders are bad at communicating messages, a number which increased from just 14% before the pandemic. 

Similarly, one in five people working in sales, media or marketing said their team leaders’ communication skills were ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’. 

What this data can tell us

The good news is that, on the whole, confidence in communication is still high.

However, the research clearly shows that confidence is steadily being eroded as doubt or hesitation surrounding our skills and abilities is starting to creep in.

This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the number of changes that teams have had to face: remote working, social distancing and the widespread rollout of video conferencing technology have all meant that many of us are now working in a hybrid environment which would have seemed like something from a sci-fi movie 20 years ago. 

Change – especially when it comes to the use of technology – can be unsettling, but there are several ways that you can help boost your team’s confidence in communicating well in 2023. 

Three steps to improving communication in your company

Improving people’s confidence in communication can reap benefits across businesses, from having happier employees to giving clearer, more persuasive messages that are more engaging.

If you want to improve the confidence levels of people within your team, here are three things that you can do:

  • Ask people how they’re feeling 

If you’re relying on guesswork to work out your team’s gap in confidence, you’ll risk missing out on crucial information that could help you to solve the problem. The easiest and quickest way to discover where the gaps in confidence are is by asking people directly how they’re feeling and what they are struggling with. This could be as simple as a quick one-to-one conversation or a broader discussion in a team meeting. You may even want to conduct your own in-house survey to find out what people would like to improve. Having this knowledge will help you to prepare a solid plan of action to improve your team’s confidence and abilities when communicating. 

  • Have a tech skills audit 

As well as asking people about the areas where they feel they lack confidence, having a specific tech skills audit can help to expose areas for improvement. For example, how confident do people feel when working remotely or in a hybrid environment? Are they struggling with video conferencing technology? Do they know the best practices for engaging people when on a Zoom or Teams call? Technology can be a big source of anxiety, and it’s constantly changing. If you take the opportunity to find out where people think their skills or confidence is lacking, you can offer more focused training to target people’s weaknesses quicker. 

  • Consider bespoke communication training 

Communication training can help people at any stage of their careers. 

Whether it’s focusing on how to make presentations engaging by putting together enticing, story-led content or looking more closely at how you can make the best use of technology to improve your conversations, communication coaching can give that extra boost that your teams need. 

We are proud to help businesses across the globe to improve their communication confidence and can provide a bespoke training plan to target the areas which you identify as needing improvement.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your team grow in confidence in 2023, get in touch with us today.

by Jennifer Bartram
on 25th January 2023

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