In the beginning, everyone saw it through the rose-colored glasses. Digitalisation opens up many new possibilities in everyday working life. However, more and more people find the dominance of technology disturbing. Especially because personal communication suffers as a result. Executives have a special responsibility when it comes to achieving a good balance between digital and personal exchange.
Does technology help us in the workplace – or does it isolate us? More and more employees are uncertain about this question. It is clear that the digital revolution is irreversibly changing the way we work – whether it’s in production, process control, collaboration or communication. The use of technology undoubtedly makes companies more productive and efficient. Employees are always on and many of them are always connected. The downsides are often pushed into the background. A study by the HR portal Udemy, for example, shows that young skilled workers in particular are increasingly distracted by an oversupply of technology. Above all, however, interpersonal contact suffers. An example: Employees sitting in the same room exchange information via e-mail or chat. No wonder that, according to the current D21-DIGITAL-INDEX, 30 percent of German citizen feel overwhelmed by digitalisation.
Survey: Technology creates an illusion of connectedness
New York-based HR expert Dan Schawbel has investigated the impact of the use of technology in the US. Based on interviews with 100 managing directors, including Facebook, Google, Nike, GE and the US Air Force, he comes to the conclusion: “Technology creates the illusion that employees are connected to each other. In fact however, most of them feel isolated and long for authentic exchange with their colleagues. Schawbel considers executives to be particularly responsible for affecting a change of this situation. They must enable and support the responsible use of technology. And they have a duty to lead by example.
According to Schawbel, executives have several starting points for communicating the added value of a combination of technology and personal contact to their team:
- Strengthening personal contacts: By encouraging direct contact between the employees in their department, executives strengthen team skills and at the same time create a more emotional bond with the company. Because a good atmosphere in the department and a fair direct superior are the most important factors for job satisfaction. Contacts beyond one’s own team are also important – they enable new ideas and mutual inspirations.
- Technology as a bridge to the human connection: Many executives rely on digital means of communication instead of direct contact – often out of convenience. A harmful habit. However, when technology is used in conjunction with personal contact, employees recognize the added value it brings. Hardly anyone has anything against a chat or an e-mail if it is used to arrange a lunch, a coffee or a joint meeting.
- Agree on jointly understandable guidelines: Employees accept regulations in particular if they themselves can participate in their elaboration. It is recommended that the entire department or, better still, several departments should jointly develop appropriate guidelines for a meaningful combination of digital and personal communication. This primarily includes the question of what interpersonal communication should look like. Or where digital channels should be used and where personal contact is better. Aspects such as the use of private devices or social media during work can also be regulated in a realistic manner.
- Transfer more responsibility to digitisation officers: In addition to or as an alternative to the previous measure, it is worth considering appointing digitisation officers, such as employees who have both an affinity for digital and a high degree of empathy. They can work out meaningful guidelines for the company and then present them to a larger plenum, where the fine-tuning takes place. The officers can act as mentors and advisors on the topic – for example, also in discussions with management.
- Guarantee personal responsiveness: Personal discussions with the boss create trust, for example when it comes to personal challenges and problems of the employees in a project. Regular personal meetings, especially one-on-one meetings, are recommended at this point. They support the individual, create trust and at the same time strengthen the team spirit.
Integration of employees in the home office
One of the most sought-after offerings that employees want from their employer is at least partial remote work. Although they enjoy a high degree of freedom in their home office, they are also frequently exposed to social isolation. It is also important for the corporate culture to involve them in the day-to-day running of the company across national borders and time zones. Video conferences, working days on site and company events support a good contact.
If you want to humanise the digital world in your company, we have something for you: Our platforms bring your employees together personally at the Mystery Lunch. Or virtually at Mystery Coffee. Do you simply want to tell us your assessment of the HR technology trends in 2019? Just contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.