Internships Advice

Internships Advice

Digital Fluency

Digital Fluency is the knowledge and skills that every person needs. But what kind of knowledge and skills are we talking about? This question, in the era of digitalization, is important for almost every person.

Today we are all in one way or another surrounded by a huge number of gadgets and Internet services, which are designed to simplify our life and make it more efficient. Just think, what a huge part of our life is spent online or using any digital devices (at work, at home, in transport and other public places). But are you sure that you know exactly how to behave on the Internet or when using digital technologies? How to solve your problems using services quickly and efficiently? How can you protect yourself, your data, and your digital devices? How to recognize online fraud? The answers to these and many other questions are at the core of digital fluency.

What Do We Mean By Digital Fluency?

Very often, when speaking of digital fluency, people equate it with computer science, computer literacy, or even programming and other specialized knowledge and skills that IT professionals have. But they are wrong. Of course, digital fluency includes knowledge from the field of computer science, computer, and media literacy, but to equate it with only these concepts is fundamentally wrong.

Digital fluency is a basic set of knowledge and skills that are necessary for every person (not only an IT specialist) in order to safely and effectively use digital technologies and Internet resources for solving their problems. 

Here, for example, we are talking about working on a computer (creating presentations, text documents and spreadsheets); using online education services; online appointments with a doctor; communication in social networks; about making purchases in online stores. And this is just a small fraction of the tasks that involve digital fluency.

Let’s talk about the structure of digital fluency in more detail. What does it consist of?

Every person’s digital fluency is built on three key dimensions:

  • Digital consumption
  • Digital competencies
  • Digital security

What is Digital Consumption?

In a broad sense, this is the use of various digital resources, as well as the availability of basic knowledge and skills of computer literacy. It is important to understand that consumption is not limited to online shopping and online financial transactions. Digital consumption occurs at the moment when you want to solve some of your problems and use technologies for this. What can be attributed to digital consumption? For example, using search engines to search for information, using social networks to run communities and organize events, using cloud services for storing photos, downloading mobile applications, using mobile subscriptions, and more.

What Competencies Are Considered Digital?

Here we are talking not just about use, but about skills and abilities to select and apply technology in different areas of life confidently and effectively.  Like with digital consumption, if we have a problem, we ask ourselves the question: what service or technology should we use to solve it? When we talk about digital competencies, we ask ourselves the question: how should we use this service or technology to solve our problem effectively?

Digital competencies, for example, can include skills in using search engines, social networks and instant messengers, digital mail services, mapping and navigation services, a public service portal, skills in online financial transactions and online shopping (including online stores, product aggregators, etc. services, message boards and mobile applications), skills in content creation and distribution, as well as the critical perception of information received on the Internet.

What Do We Mean About Digital Security?

A combination of all those tools, precautions, and habits that users need to ensure their safety in the digital world. If we formulate the question like the two previous aspects, here it will sound as follows: how do we solve our problems using digital technology not only efficiently, but also safely?

Digital security skills include the ability to protect personal data, the skills to recognize phishing sites and messages, the ability to protect accounts in social networks and instant messengers, and skills to counter cyberbullying, etc.

Why is it Important to Pay Attention to Your Digital Fluency?

Digital technologies and services have not only become an integral part of our life, but they are also very dynamic, especially in the formation and development of a digital economy. 

The digital world is constantly changing and expanding, and at the same time, it forces us to change too. Thus, it’s necessary to constantly improve your digital literacy in order to remain in demand at work. Here we are not even talking about a possible replacement by AI, but about remaining a competent specialist who is ready to think flexibly and quickly learn new necessary skills. For example, new digital tools are being created every day that can help us accomplish simple and time-consuming tasks with more efficiency. Through implementing these tools, we can free up time to spend on more important tasks.

The main problem that arises for a person who wants to develop his digital competencies is not understanding what it is and where to learn it because this is not taught in schools and universities (except for a few). Therefore, the main tool for teaching now is online and offline courses on certain aspects of digital fluency. Therefore, we urge you not only to improve your digital fluency, but also to share this knowledge with your colleagues, friends and loved ones (children, parents, grandparents) so that they, just like you, are not only unafraid to use digital technologies, but so they also do it as efficiently and safely as possible.

Tips For Developing Digital Fluency

Whether you are completing an online course, remote internship, or simply applying for jobs – digital fluency will enhance both your skills and overall success. In many ways, 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of a remote work from home movement that is showing no signs of slowing down. We want to share some of the best tips we have that will help you develop a digital fluency necessary for success in the “new normal” as well as beyond into the future. 

Familiarize yourself with common digital tools
  • Messaging apps like Slack, Skype, Discord, and Microsoft Teams help teams stay connected while working remotely
  • Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet are commonly used for meetings and training sessions
  • Learn how to use Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Excel at the bare minimum
Practice your digital communication skills
  • Once you are familiar with the tools available to you, begin practicing with those tools in order to learn their best uses
  • Create and share original content online through social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
Learn a new skill online
  • There is an abundance of digital skills that can help you in your future career, whether that be in web design, programming, IT, CRM, or something more specific to your unique career path. Look at some internship or job descriptions that you’re interested in to learn what other skills are in demand in your field
  • The great news is that there are a variety of free and low-cost online resources available to help you learn new digital skills. For example Udemy, YouTube, Lynda, edX, Grow With Google, and more!
  • Pagoda Projects also offers four pay what you can online skills courses here! Check out our Digital Competency course for more specific information on how to develop the digital skills that are now necessary in the modern world
Never stop learning
  • The truth is, technology will always be changing and improving throughout your lifetime. The best way to stay digitally competent and fluent is to remain a lifelong learner

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. 6 Practical Tips For Improving Your Team’s Skills
  2. Digital Literacy in Practice
  3. Articles on Digital Literacy
  4. The Uses of Digital Literacy
  5. Digital Literacy Practice Test (Quiz)
  6. Digital Literacy Multiple Choice Test (Quiz)
  7. Digital Literacy (Quiz)
Internships Advice

Teamwork and Collaboration

What are Teamwork and Collaboration?

Life is a team sport, and the professional world is no different. Teamwork is all about effective collaboration with others, usually to come up with new ideas or make decisions together to complete a goal.

Good team players have achieved a mix of interpersonal, problem-solving, and communication skills. They are able to work, negotiate, and manage conflict within a team structure. Teamwork and collaboration skills are important in the workplace because teamwork solves problems – by working together, teams build morale and help organizations operate more efficiently.

Teamwork and collaboration also take into consideration intercultural management, all cultural differences, and deals with them. An efficient and healthy team makes for better work, increased productivity, strong interpersonal relations, and mostly, less conflict between colleagues.

Both teamwork and collaboration require a group of people to operate together to fulfill a common objective. The key difference between collaboration and teamwork is that teamwork merges the individual and single efforts of all team members to complete an objective, whereas collaboration has team members working together – collaboratively – in order to complete a collective project. In collaboration, there is usually a sense of community; people tend to work together as equals to come up with ideas and make decisions. Meanwhile, in teamwork, leaders emerge. They oversee the projects’ advancements and delegate tasks to team members in order to reach the team’s end goal.

Ways to Develop Your Teamwork & Collaboration Skills

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.
― Phil Jackson

Set Team Goals and Rules
  • First and foremost, it is important to set a strategic overview of your team’s goals and objectives. Having clear team goals, discussing them, and adapting them is what allows for the team to stay focused and smash the objectives!
  • Basic rules are also unmissable when it comes to teamwork. The same way parents usually impose a “no-phone-at-the-table” rule, so can you! Discussing rules with your team and implementing them will create clear expectations and boundaries, making it comfortable for all!
Listen More Than You Talk
  • Listening is important because it allows for you to leave enough room for quieter team members to voice their opinions and creates a safe place to share ideas. Listening is also about reading the room and being aware of everyone’s personalities in order to understand your teammates.
  • Communication is paramount. Keep in mind that communication is a two-way street: getting your idea across clearly is as important as clearly getting a teammate’s message. Don’t hesitate to use silly drawings or pictures to clarify your point and bring down possible barriers!
  • Communication is most efficient when it is anticipatory as well. Presenting your ideas in advance of any calls/meetings so that your team can better understand your aims in advance will make discussion and decision-making much easier.
  • Vary your communication mediums. Everyone is different and everyone has preferences. Playing on those preferences and juggling between different communication modes can satisfy everyone. Zoom calls, text messaging, in-person meetings… Take your pick!
Strong Sense of Group Commitment
  • Group commitment is essential: without it, teamwork becomes virtually impossible because team members’ individualities will eventually get the upper hand.
Play to Your Team’s Strengths
  • Recognising your team’s strong skills, planning around them, and then splitting the workload equally will allow your team to operate smoothly. Ensuring a clear role for everyone whilst playing to their strengths is a recipe for success!
  • Keep in mind, however, to be open and encourage diversity in tasks!
Creativity and Innovation Are the Norms
  • Innovation at the service of teamwork can open unsuspected fields: you can innovate on various aspects in order to always push the cohesion further.
Check-ins and Team Cohesion
  • Check-in with your team regularly, formally or informally! It is important to do so and it builds trusting relationships with team members.
  • Sharing successes, celebrating, and being open-minded will create team cohesion! To further the cohesion, you can go for team-building exercises as well.
Solve Teamwork Problems and Conflicts
  • Problems and conflicts are lethal to a team. If you don’t address issues when they arise, they will make your team implode in the long run.
Practice Participative Leadership
  • Participative Leadership is the tip you want to implement: by allowing your teammates to participate in executive decisions, you demonstrate the trust you have in them.
Be Flexible!
  • When it comes to teamwork & collaboration, being flexible and adaptable is essential. Whether it is flexibility with colleagues or situations, adapting to anything and rebounding further develops teamwork skills.
  • Ask for feedback and give some! Feedback isn’t critiquing, but an improvement process: it allows you to learn and outgrow mishaps.

An efficient and healthy team makes for better work, increased productivity, strong interpersonal relations, and mostly, less conflict between colleagues.

Developing Teamwork & Collaboration Skills During Your Pagoda Projects Programme

During your programme, regardless of the type of programme you are on, there are ways to develop your teamwork skills.

  • On a Skills Programme: Why don’t you team up with some of your fellow participants to put together a group challenge entry?
  • Working with Colleagues on a Project: Is your communication working well? Have you set clear expectations that you can all hit in terms of deadlines? Have you established some team rules? 
  • Completing a Remote Internship Programme:  Make sure to ask all the questions you need during your time with your Host Company!
  • Paired with a Cultural Mentor: Express yourself clearly for a successful shared cultural experience! Don’t forget teamwork is based on communication.
  • Struggling with a Course whilst Completing a Skills Programme: Create a study group and play to each other’s strengths!

Develop Teamwork & Collaboration Skills Through Our Courses

Digital Competency

This course sets out to develop your digital skills and gives you the basics to learn, work, and interact efficiently using digital tools. As interaction is a huge part of teamwork & collaboration, this course is essential to build up your skills in different online collaboration softwares.

  • Pagoda Competencies: Teamwork and Collaboration, Professionalism, Digital Fluency, Career Development
Intercultural Fluency

This course sets out to develop your cultural fluency and adaptability when working in a multicultural environment. When it comes to teamwork & collaboration, understanding how to work with your colleagues from different backgrounds will make for great collaboration skills. With this course, you will gain an understanding of what cultural fluency is and how to apply your knowledge of working across cultures to different workplace scenarios.

  • Pagoda Competencies: Teamwork and Collaboration, Intercultural Fluency, Communication
Workplace Basics

This course is about providing you with all the workplace skills needed to meet your employer’s demands. In terms of teamwork & collaboration, you will gain a clearer understanding of how to communicate effectively within a professional team.

  • Pagoda Competencies: Teamwork and Collaboration, Communication, Professionalism, Digital Fluency, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. Understanding the Differences Between Teamwork and Collaboration
  2. 10 Tips for Better Teamwork
  3. Teamwork & Collaboration Skills
  4. TEDx Talk: Cultivating Collaboration: Don’t Be So Defensive! – Jim Tamm
  5. TEDx Talk: Teams Start With Human Connections – Matt Eng
  6. TEDx Talk: How to Turn a Group of Strangers Into a Team – Amy Edmondson
  7. TEDx Talk: The Power of Collaboration – Dr. Shelle VanEttten de Sánchez
  8. TEDx Talk: How to Build Teams That Win – Prakash Iyer
  9. Shannon Waller’s Team Success Podcast: This podcast series is all about teamwork. Shannon Waller, a leading team expert with Strategic Coach since 1995, hosts and offers her expertise: from switching your worry into creativity to strategies in order to nail collaboration within a team. She tells us everything.
  10. Outback Talks – The Employee Engagement Podcast: This is a great resource for business professionals who want to better understand how to build an engaged team in the workplace. Each episode is filled with tips and advice on team building. There are some interviews with experts in business as well.
  11. The Secrets of Great Teamwork
  12. Teamwork, collaboration, coordination, and networking: Why we need to distinguish between different types of interprofessional practice
  13. The Impact of Collaboration among Members on Team’s Performance
Internships Advice

Intercultural Fluency

What is Intercultural Fluency & Why is Everyone Talking About It?

Knowing how to communicate and understand people from diverse backgrounds is a skill that is highly in demand in today’s world.

Intercultural fluency is the ability to be able to communicate and establish a good relationship with people from different cultural backgrounds. And now you may ask yourself: what is all the hype about?

Well, to put it simply; now that the world is more interconnected than ever, and we are becoming more and more globalized, it is a given that we will need to interact with people from different cultures in our day-to-day life, as well as in our workplace. Everyone has different ways of viewing things and this is influenced by many different elements. However, one key factor is cultural background. Sure, people that come from the same cultural background can have very different personalities, however, all of them have a set of cultural factors and norms that they share.

For instance, in Spain, it is an unspoken rule that when you say hello to someone you give them two kisses on the cheek. However, someone in Japan would probably see that as too forward.

So now that the world is more and more interconnected, chances are that at some point you will have to engage with people from other cultural backgrounds. In order to maintain a good relationship, you need to understand and adapt yourself to different cultural settings. For that, you need intercultural fluency. See how everything is starting to come together? Patience is a virtue.

Intercultural fluency is a skill that you will need as it is in high demand in the workplace. Also, it will help in your overall daily life; when you interact with people, when you visit another country, and when you engage with another culture. Even if you stay in your home country, there are a huge variety of cultures within it, and even if you have some values that you share, there are others that you won’t.

Lucia’s Story

Let us tell you a little story about Lucia’s (an intern at Pagoda Projects) first experience with culture shock. She was born in Spain but raised with a Chinese background. So, she remembers when she first went to visit her friend’s house. As she had been taught by very traditional Chinese parents, you aren’t supposed to wear shoes inside the house unless you want to get in big trouble. So of course, being traumatized by that, she took her shoes off as soon as she got to her friend’s house. However; her friend went inside still wearing shoes, which made Lucia think that she was very bold, but also very stupid because she was about to get punished. But to her surprise, not only did her friend not get punished, but everyone else around the house was doing the same. She recalls thinking that their home was a madhouse. How can people just go into the house with their dirty shoes on? At that time, Lucia just thought that her friend’s family was weird. However, later she discovered that what they did was common and that her own family was actually the different one.

To explain this better, let’s take a look at Yang Liu’s East Meets West infographics. Yang Liu was born in China but moved to Germany when she was young. She makes a comparison of the Western world culture and the Eastern culture, using Germany and China as a reference.

Often we believe that we need to travel around the world to experience culture shock and to engage with different cultures; however, with globalization and the power of the Internet, we don’t even need to leave the comfort of our beds in order to do so. For instance, now that most of us are working and/or studying from home due to the pandemic, we still have to engage with people from different cultures. In Lucia’s case, she lives in Spain but is taking classes from a London campus with classmates from Indonesia, the US, and Germany. Even without leaving her house she stays connected with people all over the world through the internet.

Intercultural Fluency at Hong Kong Disneyland 

Knowing how to communicate and understand people from diverse backgrounds is a skill that is highly in demand in today’s world. When one does not know how to interact with people of different cultures, failure is sure to fall upon them. Let’s take the example of Disney and its failure in Hong Kong.

When Disney first opened their theme park in Hong Kong, it was a total failure. Disney was not able to understand the people and the culture of the country. They received many complaints from people from mainland China for not using Mandarin in the theme park. Moreover, people believed that the food was too Americanized. There were also misunderstandings between the customers and the American expatriates that were working in the new Asian branch.

After receiving these complaints and the major opening failure, Disney started to change its tactics based on the feedback that they had received and created a strategy that took into consideration the culture and people of the country. So as you can see, intercultural fluency might seem easy, but it is more complicated than it sounds, and even a big company like Disney fails to understand culture sometimes. 

How to Avoid Cultural Misunderstandings & Miscommunications

When you start working with a more diverse team you will realize that you cannot avoid facing cultural misunderstandings. For example, let’s say that a team member from China has a meeting with another member who is from Germany. In Germany, when they set a meeting at 11 am, it means 11 am on the dot. However, in China when people set a meeting at 11 am, people can often arrive between 10.50 and 11.10 am, and it is considered on time. Thus, there is a difference in how both cultures view time.

  • Before you meet one another, do some research on the customs of the other person’s culture
  • Try to leave your prejudices to the side and don’t jump to conclusions. Different cultures have different ways of approaching the same situation
  • Observe their body language. Sure, the tone of voice is important, but body language and facial expressions are also key to understanding someone’s intentions
  • If you’re not sure how to do something, just ask. Instead of taking the risk and assuming something, just ask the other party for help

Hopefully, we have convinced you that intercultural fluency is a very valuable skill, and even if we already have this skill, we should always keep developing it. Then, we can better understand why people behave the way they do, how to manage people from different backgrounds, and most importantly how to avoid misunderstandings.

If you are interested in developing these skills, our Intercultural Fluency Course could help you to get started, or to improve your existing skills. In this course, you will be able to develop key competencies in these three areas:

Sources & Additional Readings

  1. East meets West: A book by Yang Liu
  2. TEDx Talks: What Makes You Special? 
  3. When things go wrong. Hong Kong Disneyland: The not-so-grand opening (case study)
  4. Why Diversity Matters 
  5. Delivering Through Diversity
  6. Hofstede Insights: Compare Countries
Internships Advice

Employability & Soft Skills

What is Employability?

[Employability is] a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.”- Mantz Yorke

Employability refers to the attributes and skills of an individual that ultimately contribute to their success in the workplace. Often labeled as ‘transferable skills’ – employability also includes soft skills that are non-technical and useful in nearly every job. 

Hiring managers and employers consider soft skills to be some of the most highly sought-after competencies in the workplace, which is why it is so important to recognize and develop these skills!

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are usually personality-driven and have little to do with technical knowledge or training. These traits are typically very strongly correlated to your innate disposition, but can also be practiced and perfected after identifying areas of weakness or potential growth. 

That being said, the path towards developing soft skills is not a straight one. It is often affected by our past experiences, emotional states, and overall self-awareness. While soft skills can be learned, this process may involve the kind of self-awareness and inner work that takes months or even years to develop. 

On the other hand, ‘hard’ or technical skills are usually quite straightforward to master when given the appropriate education and training. Our inner emotional landscape and personality do not typically affect our ability to simply ‘do the work’ involved with acquiring technical skills. Simply put, ‘hard’ skills can be taught, experience and qualifications can be gained – but soft skills are “the difference between adequate candidates and ideal candidates.”

This discrepancy is why soft skills are becoming more highly sought after by employers. If a hiring manager has narrowed down their search to the last two potential candidates, they will value the candidate with the strongest soft skills.

What are the Top Employability Skills?

The most in-demand soft skills seem to change every year, especially with the rise of automation, technology, and artificial intelligence. Compounding the effect of tech on the workforce is the fact that higher education is increasingly necessary to enter the job market. This means that there are more candidates applying for jobs today that hold advanced degrees and certifications, and possibly even a few years of relevant work experience. When the competition is that fierce, we have to look towards our soft skills as another way to stand out professionally. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some soft skills that are currently in demand:

  • Creative Problem Solving: Employers value candidates who can think creatively and outside of the box to come up with solutions for some of the toughest problems. You can highlight this skill on your resume by listing specific situations where you had to use creativity to solve problems in the past. 
  • Communication: This is one of the most crucial skills in any industry. It’s not just about what we say and how we say it – communication also takes place nonverbally, visually, and through written mediums. As remote work becomes more commonplace, it’s important to know how to communicate effectively via email, chats, and video calls. Being a good, active listener is another aspect of communication that is vital in the workplace since communication is a two-way process.
  • Time Management: Knowing how to manage your time effectively is a valuable skill in the workplace, especially when balancing several projects and deadlines, or working remotely from home. There are many tools available that can help you manage your time, such as calendars and project management apps.
  • Emotional Intelligence:  According to a survey by Careerbuilder, 71% of employers say they value emotional intelligence over IQ. Some of these key traits include the ability to stay calm under pressure, peaceful conflict resolution, empathy, taking responsibility, and listening skills. Some ways that you can demonstrate emotional intelligence during an interview are through active listening, genuinely displaying your emotions, talking about your growth, and asking questions about the company culture.
  • Collaboration & Teamwork: Effective collaboration means genuinely listening to the input of others and working towards a common goal. Trust goes a long way towards fostering an effective team, as well as encouragement and enthusiasm.
  • Adaptability: Being able to ‘go with the flow’ and adapt quickly to change is seen as an important trait by employers, especially in today’s rapidly changing technological world. Often, unexpected hurdles may affect the workplace, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many offices had to quickly adapt to remote work and all the challenges that come along with it. Demonstrating your adaptability lets employers know that you can be trusted to accept change and thrive in a changing environment.
  • Leadership: Mastering the above employability skills will certainly attract the interest of prospective hiring managers. However, employers want to hire someone who is capable of taking on additional responsibilities and potentially growing into a leadership role in the future. During an interview, be sure to discuss any additional responsibilities or promotions you received in past roles to demonstrate your leadership potential.

Why are Employability and Soft Skills Important?

The importance of employability and soft skills extends beyond the job search. In the process of developing these skills, it is an inevitable result that your self-awareness will improve. Exploring the self and developing a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses can help you grow in all areas of life. Skills like adaptability and emotional intelligence help us deal with unexpected life events with more resilience and acceptance.

When it comes to securing employment, employability can make all the difference in a competitive job market. Today, a degree is simply not enough – and employers are increasingly looking for candidates who can demonstrate their soft skills in addition to the technical skills needed for that specific job.

Want to learn more about this topic? → Check out our past webinar on Employability & Soft Skills that took place on April 1st, 2021!


  1. What is employability and why is it so important? 
  2. Soft Skills List
  3. 8 Soft Skills Employers are Looking for in 2021
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Career-Builder Survey
  5. The Importance of Showing Emotional Intelligence in Your Job Interview
Internships Advice


What is Communication?

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes

Communication is the act of transferring information through a message from a sender to a receiver. When transferring information, the sender ‘encodes’ the message through an appropriate communication channel, and the recipient ‘decodes’ the message to understand its meaning. Ultimately, the desired goal of any communication process is shared understanding between the sender and recipient. 

Communicating even a single, clear message can be affected by a huge range of things, and misunderstandings can easily happen. This complexity is why good communication skills are considered so desirable by employers. Accurate, effective, and unambiguous communication is not always easy.

Being a good communicator means having the ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly in verbal, non-verbal, and written forms. This includes having public speaking or digital presentation skills, recognizing body language, and being able to express ideas to others. Effective communication defines organizational goals and helps coworkers and team members collaborate.

Categories of Communication

Verbal Communication

Among the many different ways in which we can communicate with each other, verbal communication is the most essential skill for our daily interactions. The words and intonation that we use can either help or hinder us when conveying our thoughts, ideas, emotions, and opinions to others. When our verbal communication skills are weak, the listener may not understand our message, leading to potential issues in the workplace. Before starting a conversation, consider the following tips to improve your verbal communication and reduce potential misunderstandings:

  • Be prepared with the information you intend to share
  • Carefully choose your words to match the context and recipient’s background knowledge
  • Speak clearly and at an appropriate pace
  • Check-in with the listener to ensure your message is received
Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is another important aspect of communication that closely ties into and enhances verbal communication. It is estimated that 70-80% of all communication is actually non-verbal! Some examples include body language, tone, facial expressions, and physical proximity. Non-verbal communication helps provide subtle feedback during interactions, convey information about emotions, and define the relationship between the speaker and recipient. While non-verbal communication is not as straightforward as verbal communication, there are a few nearly universal examples of how you can improve as a non-verbal communicator in the workplace:

  • Maintain regular eye-contact to help others feel heard
  • Use a positive tone of voice
  • Smile, nod your head, and display other engaged facial expressions while listening to others
  • Use positive hand gestures like waving or a thumbs-up to express friendliness
  • Express professionalism when meeting someone through a firm handshake
Written Communication

Good writing skills are important in the workplace for a variety of scenarios such as texts, emails, blogs, reports, etc. A well-written and error-free resume/CV and cover letter can also help your job applications stand out and look professional, giving you a competitive advantage. There are several essential components to effective written communication to keep in mind that will allow the reader to form a positive impression:

  • Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Remember your audience, and cater your language appropriately to this audience
  • Use appropriate formal or informal language depending on the medium of communication
  • For example, text or instant messages can be informal. Emails and reports should be more formal.
  • Use gender-neutral language to stay inclusive
  • Stay away from unnecessary jargon, cliches, regional colloquialisms, & buzzwords

Barriers to Communication

Despite our best efforts and preparation, attempts at communication can often fail due to certain barriers. These barriers can occur at any stage in the process of communication and may be hidden beneath the surface. The most common barriers can be categorized as follows: Language, Psychological, Physiological, Physical, Systematic, Attitudinal, & Cultural. How can we avoid or overcome these barriers? 

  • Through active listening, asking for clarification or checking for understanding, and reflecting on the conversation after it has finished.
  • Through educating ourselves on the barriers to communication
  • By learning more about our audience, and adjusting communication 

Although we couldn’t possibly cover every communication barrier here, feel free to check out our online course on Intercultural Fluency to improve your cultural understanding and intercultural communication skills.

Why Does Communication Matter?

Communication matters because people and relationships matter. Improving our communication skills can help us build stronger professional and personal relationships that are formed on a foundation of mutual understanding. Without this strong foundation, relationships can break down and have dire consequences in the workplace and at home. 

According to Weise, et al., communication is one of the most important skills that employers value in their employees, and will only become more important in the future as automation and AI disrupt the workforce:

“Advancements in machine learning and deep learning have sparked alarmist predictions of massive job obsolescence, ranging anywhere from 8 percent[1] to 47 percent[3] of the jobs in the U.S. workforce. McKinsey estimates that about half of the work currently associated with $15 trillion in wages globally will become automated.[3] Workers are going to have to prepare not only for a much longer work life, but for a more turbulent one, too. In a new learn-earn-learn cycle, workers will need to return to learning throughout their work lives. They’ll need to be flexible and agile, able to shift and grow over the course of their longer work lives. It’s also increasingly clear that the skills that cannot be easily automated—such as systems thinking, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication—will be the ones needed to succeed in the future. The World Economic Forum anticipates that “[m]any formerly purely technical occupations are expected to show a new demand for creative and interpersonal skills.”[4] (Weise, et al., pg. 6).

Effective communication in the workplace is vital for positive work culture and employee productivity. In a professional environment where open communication is discouraged or not encouraged enough, it can negatively affect the profitability and success of the business. According to a study by Adu-Oppong & Agyin-Birikorang (2014), effective communication in the workplace creates job satisfaction, reduces conflicts, increases productivity, fosters a friendly work environment, produces meaningful relationships, and properly utilizes important resources (p.209).

Developing our interpersonal and non-violent communication skills can also contribute to personal growth, self-compassion, empathy, and self-awareness. Through a commitment to honesty, empathy, and self-connection while communicating, we can learn more about ourselves and others.

Communication at Netflix: A Case Study

We can learn a lot about effective communication in the workplace from various successful companies and organizations. Take Netflix, for example. Communication is one of nine values that are strongly encouraged within the company as part of their organizational culture. They emphasize four specific principles of communication that are desired in their employees:

  1. You listen well, instead of reacting fast, so you can better understand.
  2. You are concise and articulate in speech and writing.
  3. You treat people with respect, independent of their status or disagreement with you.
  4. You maintain calm poise in stressful situations.

In addition to these principles, giving and receiving feedback is essential to the company, as it builds trust and ensures exceptional performance. During this continuous feedback process, qualities such as honesty, transparency, and selflessness are highly welcomed.

The skills that cannot be easily automated—such as systems thinking, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication—will be the ones needed to succeed in the future.

How to Communicate Effectively

Communication is considered effective when the message is successfully delivered and understood by the listener. To achieve this, the speaker can balance their speaking speed, tone, enunciation, volume, and content to match the specific scenario. It is important to keep in mind the seven ‘C’s of Communication’:

  1.  Clarity: Is your message clear and easy to understand?
  2. Concise: Keep your message brief and free from unnecessary filler words.
  3. Concrete: Have you supplied enough detail so your audience can understand?
  4. Correct: Are you using the correct language for the situation, and is it free from grammatical or spelling errors?
  5. Coherent: Your message should be logical and consistent.
  6. Complete: Does your message contain all the relevant information needed?
  7. Courteous: Keep a friendly and open tone, and avoid passive aggression or hidden insults.

Additionally, it helps to keep in mind potential barriers to effective communication – such as semantic or cultural barriers, organizational barriers, psychological barriers, and personal lack of communication skills.

For specific strategies on how to communicate effectively in the workplace, check out our Workplace Basics Skills course.

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. The Art of Communicating Effectively 
  2. Communication Skills 
  3. Robot-Ready: Human+ Skills For the Future of Work
  4. Business Communication Skills for Managers (Free 16-week online course)
  5. TEDx Talks: The Power of Nonverbal Communication
  6. Communication in the Workplace: Guidelines for Improving Effectiveness
  7. Nonviolent Communication Skills for Personal Development and Growth
  8. The 7 C’s of Communication
Internships Advice

My Pagoda Story – Rafael Andika, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda participant Rafael Andika, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Rafael gained an understanding of Chinese culture, language, and traditions through meetings with a cultural mentor, and learned valuable digital competency and cultural fluency skills.

My name is Rafael Andika. I’m a second-year Sport Management student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I’m originally from Indonesia, and I moved to Cardiff in September 2019. So far, it has been an amazing experience for me, despite what is currently happening. During this occasion, I’m going to take you through my time in completing the Pagoda Christmas Virtual programme.

So, I actually came across this programme through the university’s international team. I read all the details of the programme, the requirements, and did some research about the organisation. I thought it would be a great choice to enrol on the programme given the fact that it is going to be flexible and virtually delivered, and I didn’t have much to do during the Christmas break since I couldn’t go back home. In addition to that, I’ve been into self-development lately as I realise it’s paramount to grow as a person. This programme has provided me with that opportunity, and I thought it’s a win-win for me and Pagoda.

Inside the programme, I got access to four skills courses that I can decide which ones to complete. I’ve managed to complete two of them, which are the digital competency course and cultural fluency course. Personally, I found that the cultural course is very interesting because it gave me a different perspective about intercultural communication, how different cultures look around the world (especially in China, Mexico, and Vietnam), and the background theory of why certain things are happening in different countries. The additional resources such as Ted Talks have been really helpful and giving me extra ideas about cross-cultural life. Moreover, it has allowed me to talk about my own country’s culture and traditions which are quite relevant to most Asian countries, but totally different from the Western nations. I definitely can relate to most of the content provided on this course as I’m currently living the life of interacting with people who have different cultures, traditions and beliefs. So, I think it’s a massive thing to actually experience what’s being taught and put the advice of “adapting and changing your cultural glasses” into practice.

I also had the opportunity to have a call with a cultural mentor from China. From there, we shared our background stories, the traditions and culture in China, and also had the chance to learn a small bit of Mandarin. The main struggle that I experienced was definitely setting up a call schedule. The time difference between the UK and China is 8 hours, so we have to fit the call between our daily activities and commitments. Overall, it has been an enjoyable experience to meet new people from different countries.

The programme also offers pre-recorded events about self-development, industry workshops, and webinars from various sectors which has been very beneficial. One of the events that fascinated me was the fireside chat Q&A with a global sports brand, which is Hummel. It dove into how the company runs and adapts through challenges at this unprecedented time, as well as insights into their sustainable development as a brand. They shared what their challenges are as a minor sports brand compared to the bigger brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Puma in competing in the marketing sector of the products. It gave me a clear perception that the consumer is an important part of the business, hence knowing consumer profiles as well as adapting to consumer needs and demands will influence the growth of the business.

I’ve been into self-development lately as I realise it’s paramount to grow as a person. This programme has provided me with that opportunity.

To conclude, the Pagoda Christmas Virtual Programme experience has been amazing for me. I can gain access to a lot of courses and events which are useful for my personal growth. It has provided me with a chance to network with fellow students as well, which I think is very important for your career and wellbeing. I would definitely recommend any prospective students who would like to take the programme whenever it will become available. I believe there is no better investment other than investing your time for knowledge and skill development; you will need it in every step of your life.

Image of Christmas tree and ornamets
Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Marissa Kodikara, Cardiff University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Marissa Kodikara, from Cardiff University.

Keep reading to see how Marissa attained a newfound appreciation for her own culture through meetings with a cultural mentor from China, all while gaining valuable employability and workplace skills!

Throughout taking this programme I really felt that I was able to develop my personal and professional skillset, which surprised me over such a short amount of time. I thoroughly enjoyed how flexible everything was, and I found the programme to be accessible, just on my laptop, and fun. To me, the whole Pagoda team were so welcoming and encouraging about expanding everyone’s skillset, and I felt so involved from the beginning even without in-person communication. I genuinely feel that this programme, even though only 3 weeks, has opened my mind and made me more curious about the business world overall, and interactions with other cultures. Therefore, I will definitely be doing my best to keep in touch with many of the Pagoda team and people on the programme, as they all have such unique experiences that I would love to learn more about.

Live and Recorded Sessions

I really liked having access to so many webinars and extra videos, as this provided such ease for understanding. All the videos I got around to watching were incredibly engaging, and I’d have to say my favourite was actually the live webinar on ‘Managing Across Cultures’ – probably because it was a live event, which meant I was able to communicate with other people on the programme and the Pagoda team themselves. This session taught me so many things I would have never known otherwise, and it definitely widened my horizon to how important it is to understand another culture in terms of the workplace and more. The other pre-recorded webinars were also so interesting, and I think they will definitely help me later on when applying for internships and jobs!

Skills Workshops

These were incredibly useful in adding to my skillsets, and the workshops themselves were really concise but also provided really great information and advice. I also really enjoyed that we were given a digital certificate upon completion, which tied together the end of the workshop so perfectly. In particular, I thought the LinkedIn workshop was very useful because even though I had a page before, I was not sure how to amend it so that employers would be satisfied. The webinar in this workshop broke down easy steps for me to follow, and I hope that soon my LinkedIn page will be appreciated by many, thanks to Pagoda.

I genuinely feel that this programme, even though only 3 weeks, has opened my mind and made me more curious about the business world overall, and interactions with other cultures.

The self-reflection aspect of the employability workshop proved very interesting to me. What I really liked about this was that it did not just scratch the surface but had multiple personality tests to take, and then went on to make me think further about what this meant for me individually and how it applies to a working situation. This was incredibly useful, especially as I am not certain of the job I would want, so being able to see where I would fit (alongside the other workshops, which indicated what I could do in situations) was really intriguing.

Cultural Mentor

This was potentially my favourite part of the whole programme as it was so different from anything I have experienced before and probably not something I will always have the chance to do. I really appreciated the time that I got to spend talking to 江 as not only was this extra interaction during the COVID19 pandemic really nice, but it was so interesting to learn more about his life and China in general. It was also great to talk about the UK, as questions were asked which made me think and actually appreciate parts of UK culture I did not really recognise before.

remote internship
Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story- Natalia Wilkowska, DMU

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our remote programmes. This is Pagoda Participant Natalia Wilkowska, from DMU, who recently completed her Global Competencies programme!

Keep reading to see how Natalia balanced her busy Architectural Technology class schedule, part-time job, and the Global Competencies Programme during her time with Pagoda!

My name is Natalia and I’m studying Architectural Technology at De Montfort University in Leicester. I took part in the 4-week Pagoda Projects Global Competencies Programme, which gave me the opportunity to develop my skills through Pagoda’s digital skills courses. The courses focused on improving cultural fluency, employability and digital skills. There were many other programme components like weekly live events, as well as conversations with my cultural mentor. My cultural mentor and I had a chance to virtually meet each other and discuss a variety of topics. The programme was an innovative option to gain cultural knowledge and improve my employability skills. What’s more, it was fully digital! This meant that I could finish the programme while studying and working.

Due to the current situation, it has been easier for me to coordinate academic studies, extracurricular courses, part-time work and personal commitments, since all are taking place from home. As there is no need to travel and move about, that time can be used for different tasks. For example, I could spend that time on the skills courses – I could finish them all at once or save my progress and come back later.

Workplace view!


As a 3rd Year Architectural Technology student, my studies and dissertation are my priority. However, in taking part in the Global Citizenship Course and learning about Sustainable Development Goals at university, I was able to expand on knowledge directly related to my course.

The programme taught me how to develop time management skills. Thanks to the cultural mentor aspect, I also improved my communication skills.

In my spare time, I often talk to my family and friends in Poland where I come from. I also spend time with my flatmate who is also my best friend. I really enjoy exercising as well. Recently, I started attending online fitness classes which I think is a great way to keep balance.

During the Pagoda Global Competencies Programme, I needed to combine all of these activities. The programme itself taught me how to develop my time management skills. Thanks to the cultural mentor aspect, I improved my communication skills. The access to digital courses provided me not only with certificates, but also useful knowledge and interesting facts about various countries, people and habits that I previously didn’t know about. Furthermore, I enhanced my digital skills which are helpful for university and I developed my employability skills which are useful for the future. Overall, it was definitely an exciting experience!


Internships Advice

Check in with Vicki


Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Josie Davies, Cardiff University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Josie Davies, from Cardiff University.

Keep reading to see how Josie got to discover Mexico from her room while improving her digital skills and employability!

Before enrolling on the Cardiff Christmas Special Pagoda Programme, I had no idea what to expect. I have always enjoyed learning about different cultures and engaging with people from various walks of life so I thought I may benefit from enhancing my cultural knowledge. I was also attracted to the employability and digital competency aspect of the programme because at the time I was applying for placements and wanted advice on how to improve my applications.

skills courses

Cultural Mentor Experience

My expectations of this programme were exceeded, and I felt that I have learnt a lot about many countries, in particular Mexico, but also Vietnam and China. My cultural mentor meetings were the highlight of my experience on this programme because I had a great connection with Danny and got first-hand information about what it is like to live in Mexico.

I learnt some very interesting facts about New Year’s celebrations from Danny. Learning about celebrities in Mexico was also fascinating to me because I found it bizarre which celebrities from the UK were famous there. Unfortunately, I knew of very little Mexican celebrities which highlighted my lack of awareness of where people originate from. This inspired me to make sure I take time to learn where people come from and learn more about their background.

skills course

Online Skill Courses

The Digital Competency course has benefited me in so many ways, but particularly the LinkedIn workshop has helped be immensely. Before this skills course I was so unsure about how to use LinkedIn and was not entirely sure what it was good for. After completing the course, I was then able to go and set up my account and develop my profile in a way that is attractive to professionals in my field. Since this I have been constantly developing my connections and have been reaching out to professionals, all thanks to this course.

I would recommend this programme to anyone hoping to improve their employability, intercultural fluency, or digital skills as there are so many courses and webinars to help.

I am now more motivated than ever to develop a wide range of skills further and more specifically I am looking to improve my Spanish ability so that I can speak to a larger range of people, my cultural meetings with Danny have inspired me to do this.