James Maguire, editor-in-chief of eWeek, recently interviewed Natala Menezes, global head of product marketing at Grammarly. In this Q&A for TechRepublic, they discussed the shift to remote and hybrid work and how we can best prepare for it. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

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Asynchronous communication is driving hybrid and remote work

James Maguire: We have seen a lot of shifts in the working world in the last few years — hybrid work, remote work. What are the key trends you see driving remote work and today’s shift? We’re a big hybrid work environment.

Natala Menezes: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve seen, you know, this combination of people having made the shift to remote work during the pandemic, which was a fundamental change in the way in which we did our everyday. But now, three years later, we’re returning to the offices, and that really is creating this dynamic of hybrid work.

Added to that complexity is we now have global teams. Uh, people aren’t in a single location, so they can’t easily come into the office for a meeting that’s in-person and face-to-face. And we’re seeing a really huge drive and increase in asynchronous communication.

In fact, our recent report of the state of business communication saw an 18% year-over-year increase in written communications. I think all of us know where those written communications are happening. They’re happening in Slack, they’re happening in email because we’re communicating with people around the globe, and it’s mandated by the work that we do.

SEE: Electronic communication policy (TechRepublic Premium)

James Maguire: So I’m gonna think that the quality of written communication, because it’s on the rise, becomes far more important in today’s work environment. You want your written word just to sound, correct?

Natala Menezes: I absolutely think that correctness and accuracy are the fundamentals of good communication, but actually, what we’ve learned through our research is that it’s not just about getting it right, it’s about hitting the right tone so that not only is what you’re trying to communicate easy to understand but also received by the recipient in a positive manner. And that’s something that we think a lot about when we built our technology.

Communication software as a way to accelerate productivity

James Maguire: What about the evolution of the human machine collaboration? I mean, software that can help us? How is this impacting staffers in productivity?

Natala Menezes: Knowledge workers, I think, are in the biggest transformation that they’ve ever experienced in the workplace. We’ve seen new technologies like smart devices, smart cars — all of us probably have an Apple, uh, Siri device or an Amazon Alexa that helps us get things done or have quick access to information.

But, the technologies that actually impact the flow of work and how we get what we need to get done are blossoming today. And we’re seeing a major shift in terms of how we actually accelerate productivity, particularly in communication — seeing that rise in written communication.

We need every single communication that we make to be, um, executed as quickly as possible. So things like summarizations, ways in which we can generate content become even more critically important.

Artificial intelligence is automating the fourth industrial revolution

James Maguire: We’ve heard about something called the fourth industrial revolution. So what is the fourth industrial revolution and, and how do you see the evolution of artificial intelligence in this process?

Natala Menezes: The fourth industrial revolution is really the shift from the age of computers. We all saw that digitization occur, but now it’s the age of intelligence and automation. So what can we automate with machines, and what can we leverage to make our own work or the world around us smarter?

SEE: Artificial Intelligence Ethics Policy (TechRepublic Premium)

James Maguire: Well, I think some staffers might say, “I’m excited by that; I want to get on board and be helped by that,” but they’re not sure how to do it. They might be slightly intimidated. What, what would you say to those folks?

Natala Menezes: I mean, absolutely change is hard, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but these technologies, particularly the ones that we’re building here at Grammarly, are designed to augment the work that you’re doing.

We fundamentally believe that it’s important to have the uniqueness and creativity of an individual be more easily expressed by these tools and technologies. They’re really designed to help you be you more just a little bit faster.

Grammarly is more than just proofreading

James Maguire: Let’s drill down into the Grammarly product offering. So obviously, Grammarly does far more than proofreading, right?

Natala Menezes: I mean, proofreading is definitely table stakes. We wanna make sure that you have mistake-free writing and communication, but beyond that, we’ve really invested in making sure that our product is ubiquitous: It works everywhere that you write, everywhere that you wanna communicate.

The second is that we need to have a technology that helps you be more successful in your communications by being brand aware. And by that, we mean you as an organization have principles for how you want your communications to occur, and we help enforce those communications through style guides, brand tones and other features that we have in the product, um, make it much more personalized to you as an individual but also to your company.

And the last thing is, you know, Grammarly is a leader in this space. We have 30 million users using our product every single day, as well as 50,000 teams. And that robustness and our strong investment in security, trust and privacy really differentiates the product that we offer.

SEE: Grammarly review (2023): Is Grammarly Premium worth it? (TechRepublic)

James Maguire: You’re talking about a platform where the software becomes a very, very close partner with the human, right? So, the software is intuiting what the human wants to say and helping them say it.

Natala Menezes: There’s definitely an aspect of collaboration. You know, when I’m writing an email, sometimes I can be a little bit long-winded, maybe use too many exclamation marks. This technology will help rewrite my sentences and also make sure that I achieve my tone.

The future of Grammarly and written communication with generative AI

James Maguire: Let’s take a look at the future because I think companies want to get prepared now. What do you see as the future of how technology will support human productivity? And how will the evolution of generative AI support this?

Natala Menezes: At Grammarly, we’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. We’re really excited about these new technologies like gen AI and the impact that they can have on the communication life cycle.

We spend a lot of time making sure that our customers and just people generally can communicate efficiently and effectively. And to do that we’ve really focused on the revision process, making it easy to transform your writing and your communications — that they’re more easily understood.

But with generative AI technologies, we’ll be able to invest more in conception, composition — all of which really are anchored on making sure that there’s really great comprehension. What’s most important when you communicate something is that it’s understood, and these technologies are going to accelerate the process to create content and deliver it. But, you want to make sure it’s high quality and personalized to who you are or who your organization is. And that’s really where our history of technology and AI is gonna really differentiate. We’re excited about it.

Grammarly will offer personalized recommendations

James Maguire: You’ve mentioned personalization, and we’ve talked about that a little bit, but I think it’s a really fascinating part of it. Can you talk a little bit more about how that works? What does it mean for the software to personalize the text based on one user’s style?

Natala Menezes: Sure. I mean, I think part of it is understanding what your habits and practices are, how you write the language that you use. A common word for me might be an uncommon word for you, and Grammarly should give me recommendations and say, “Hey, we’ve seen this word a lot. Maybe there’s another one that you could use.”

SEE: Grammarly Business Review (2023): Pricing, Pros & Cons (TechRepublic)

The other thing is, you know, just really being aware of your context. Are you writing an email? Are you creating a long-form document? Those are very different types of, um, content pieces, and we should approach them differently in the suggestions that we give you. And, you know, that’s really what we think about of like personalization, context awareness that really differentiates how we think about the writing process.

Grammarly linguists working on feedback for more personable and approachable communication

James Maguire: Also, I think very interesting: I’ve heard that Grammarly has a team  of linguists. What do the linguists do?

Natala Menezes: Yes. We have a team of analytical linguists who are a key part of how we build our large language models and how we think about our AI technology, sort of that human in the loop element to how we differentiate providing, you know, really relevant results and feedback.

I think one of my favorite stories is how we can identify when a sentence is robotic. I’m sure we’ve all received a customer service email that just was like, the tone was just a little bit off, or the structure just didn’t feel like a native speaker, or it felt a little bit robotic. We can actually transform that sentence to make it personable and more approachable so that your communication is more successful.

James Maguire: What else should people know? What else is important about Grammarly and AI?

Natala Menezes: I think we’re in this midst of this transformation of the flow of work and how we’re all getting stuff done — got to do more with less. And Grammarly is a critical partner in making you more successful in your everyday.

James Maguire: Natala, I think you said it and really fascinating. It’s gonna be a very interesting sector to follow in the years ahead. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise today.

Natala Menezes: Thank you so much, James. It was a delight to chat with you.

Read next: GrammarlyGo uses AI to write your emails (TechRepublic)

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