Healthy Interpersonal connections accelerate productivity and innovation. Organizations will need to prioritize relationships in the age of technology.
Hybrid work arrangements have changed how people relate to each other
Relationships are central to work processes — and they’re also central to well-being
High-trust relationships can deepen an employees’ experience of meaning at work
Healthy relationships foster trust, collaboration, and shared responsibilities, all of which accelerate innovation and productivity. The connections people make at work can become wellsprings of creative energy or they can become sources of toxic stress. As remote working becomes the norm, high-quality, collaborative relationships become more difficult to foster, which imperils the United Nations Global Goal of promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation. Coupled with the loss of human contact, remote workers are also reliant on technology-based communication channels, which hinder the spontaneous, shared discoveries that occur during traditional brainstorming sessions. The need to strengthen interpersonal ties in spite of these obstacles has never been greater.
In the world of Zoom, non-verbal human gestures are concealed, and thus, human communication is reduced to explicit messages
The social cues and subtleties of physical gestures are lost in a world of two-dimensional screens.
Wisdom Weaver William Ayot describes the variety of communication signals that are not noticed in video.
We really aren’t taking in the hidden body language of every single person in the room. We’re not taking in the tapping of the foot, I used to talk with coaches about dropping a pencil every now and again in a meeting and having a look at what’s going on with the feet under the table. It’s really curious [to see] all these serene people at the top, with our feet battering around underneath. And also, [on video,] we don’t see what in poker they call tells, the visual signals that people are giving unconsciously, that we fold into our understanding of people. It’s very important in sales. It’s equally important in meetings, because we unconsciously take in huge amounts of information. [On video] we’re working at face value and that’s not always good.
Covid-19 forced many in-person rituals to shift to online alternatives
Reflecting on the limitations of face-to-face contact with business contacts, sales professionals report a loss of business due to the lack of human connection.
Wisdom Weaver Dr. Marcus Ranney observed how cultural traditions that rely on in-person connections were unable to adapt to virtual engagement.
India is one of those countries that is hyper relationship-driven. Even in the hyper local cities within India you can only close a deal by visiting in person by shaking hands; they will not even close the deal over the phone. The lockdown meant that all of this was transactionally going on digitally and that meant that efficiency went up and everyone was a big fan of that in the beginning. But often now if I talk to any of the sales folks they will say that they’re missing the human contact that comes with closing out a deal, so you may be doing more sales calls and more volume of work, but the depth of that relationship with a client and how much you ultimately sell seems to be going down.
However, Marcus also shares that business people learned about the quality of their relationships during lockdown and adjusted their strategy as a result.
When I talk to some clients and ask them about the breadth of their relationships, quite often what they described anecdotally, is that in the old days they may have [had] a rolodex of 1000 people that they were in touch with and just routinely connecting with, getting updates from, etc. What this period of time has taught them is that, actually, the majority of their business comes from maybe 100 to 200. And they are rather focusing their energies and efforts on that group of 200 people in the hope of generating sales and business and deepening those relationships. Because they recognize that the rest of that rolodex within that ecosystem was marginally contributing towards the gain that they would see.
As attention to high-quality relationships grows, so does interest in working in smaller and less formal companies
High-trust relationships can deepen a person’s experience of meaning at work. Wisdom Weaver Viviane Mansi illuminates the unique capability of small firms to foster healthy dialog and a sense of belonging for everyone:
I think we are learning how to give more attention to dialogue. So I think it will not be so easy to build a relationship in the future. But everyone will be alert because we will know that [dialogue is] important… I see an increase in the number of small firms because [what] is ideal for the big organization but does not fit well with everyone so it’s difficult to try to build a big culture, but bring diversity together. So I think [the future] will have small firms to make room for diversity, not in a very big organization.
Wisdom Weaver Dr. Dana Ardi also believes that innovative business models will transform how work relationships are nurtured.
And rather than joining the company, they may have a team around them. They’ll make a deal with the organization to use their particular set of expertise, that particular project team around them to solve a problem. And so they’ll have to change the nature of relationships. They’ll be sole entrepreneurs who are able to put together a group and lead that group. They’ll have to collaborate with other groups within the organization. They’ll have to take responsibility for their own learning. And so organizations are going to have to change their cultures to make it very clear what their culture is and how to communicate it to these independent entrepreneurs that they’re going to bring on their platform.
The concept of company engagement implies that organizations benefit from employee commitment.
In order to rebalance the relationship between companies and employees, Viviane Mansi suggests measuring meaning instead of engagement because meaning is beneficial for employees and employers
We [the employees] lose everything to be engaged with that company. We lose our families, we lose our health if we lose a lot of things. So we need to rebalance that in a way that we can build longer relationships sometimes. The way to do that is to talk less about engagement and more about meaning at work, because meaning is something that is more balanced [between] companies and people.
Coaching Empowers People
As the world of work faces challenges, relationships naturally alter. Coaching is an approach to leadership awareness that helps people notice the quality of relationships in their lives. Within the workplace, it’s common for many leaders to over-focus on tasks and under-value relationship quality; however, work gets done through people, so recalibrating priorities can help the overall team become more successful.