The Future is Communication

Sense-making and effective communication are at the core of the future of work, according to a study released today by consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The company conducted a global study in the hope of providing guidance to governments on how to prepare their workforces. 

That may take too long. 

The future of work, if you haven’t been paying attention, is already here.

The report identified 56 foundational skills, broken into four quadrants (it wouldn’t be a consulting paper without quadrants) — cognitive, interpersonal, digital and self-leadership. These are foundational skills and attitudes that span across all sectors and levels of work.

Communication fits into the cognitive quadrant, with storytelling, public speaking, asking the right questions (hello, framing), active listening, and synthesizing messages tidily ordered.

These are the obvious skills and capabilities that I work on with my global clients.

Adjacent to communication are other related skills that require the ability to share information in a way that makes sense and resonates with intended audiences, such as translating knowledge to different contexts, seeking relevant information and logical reasoning.

As you scan across the other quadrants, however, you see other areas where communication is foundational. This is particularly true if your philosophy of communication is that of a two-way process — listening, empathizing, understanding.

Communication is much, much more than just stringing clever words together. Effective communication must be delivered — with the right tone, with the right ‘optics,’ or body language and gestures.


The ability to generate “win-win negotiations” is fundamentally a communication skill. So is the ability to craft an inspiring vision. You must understand what might inspire your audience. You need to frame the message for the resonance.

What is developing relationships if not basically the ability to communicate well, with care?

How does one recognize teamwork effectiveness in action? Fostering inclusiveness, motivating, and resolving conflicts are all evidenced by how you communicate — with words, with tone, with body language.


These so-called “soft skills” are indeed turning out to be survival skills in the new work landscape. Self control and regulation are displayed in how we communicate. The ability to present to a group builds self confidence. Energy, passion and optimism are demonstrated in the words we say and how we say them.

Room for improvement

Part of the study included an assessment of skills. The result: proficiency in communication is not where it should be.

When the report analyzed the biggest gaps in adult training, it found that ,within the skill groups of goal achievement or self-awareness and self-management were 20 times less common than those to develop communication proficiencies.

Our approach in training communication skills goes beyond the mechanics of creating and delivering information. Our coaching approach addresses those very capabilities of self-awareness and self-management to achieve strategic communications objectives.

Photo by Chengming WANG on Unsplash

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