We all know the old adage, “It’s not personal; it’s just business.”
But we also know that business is not just about numbers and transactions — it’s a highly personal space wherein relationships matter. Businesses rely on their customers to stay afloat. Employees need human connection at work for successful collaboration. They connect with their colleagues, their bosses, their clients, and vice versa, making the network for relationships within and around a single business an intricate one.
What cannot be denied, however, is that the rise of technology in the workplace has altered the way teams communicate. A survey shared by Entrepreneur details key facts on workplace communication: 73% of workers text on a daily basis; 82% make phone calls; 73% work with emails; and 55% use social media as communication tools. These channels have speeded up collaboration like never before, helping teams streamline ideas and organize projects.
However, the lack of interpersonal conversations also has its drawbacks. The Balance’s Susan Heathfield explains that nonverbal cues account for 93% of communication effectiveness. Facial expressions and body language can reveal much about a person, such as their engagement and stress levels.
Digital technology also leaves room for error, as they do not convey tone as well as face-to-face conversation does. When making important decisions, an interpersonal meeting or phone call might be the better option. The guidelines on conducting phone calls posted here on Margaret Page explains how to make the person on the other end of the line feel valued, which the instant nature of emails and texts don’t often relay.
Moreover, creating valuable relationships is not just internal. Businesses also need to connect with their clients in order to build brand loyalty. In the logistics industry, for instance, A post by Verizon Connect’s Simon Austin points out how technology can actually help companies personalize services and keep customers happy. Fleet management software can provide customers with updates on their orders, increase the speed of delivery, and automate administrative tasks so that employees can focus on more important aspects of the business, like strengthening customer support.
Technology helps ensure that customers are updated about their deliveries, but it can also be a double-edged sword in other cases. For instance, Forrester Research points to the global backlash against impersonal chatbots, explaining that although marketers and sales professionals believe that it is the way forward to improving customer support, the technology still hasn’t developed enough to be helpful for the general public.
In other cases, however, communicating through digital means is the only option, as with remote workers. Though remote work comes with benefits like cost-cutting and increased productivity, there’s also very minimal interpersonal interaction. It can lead to poor relationships between staff or even low morale. Techstars highlighted the importance of bringing employees together who come from different parts of the world regularly to showcase transparency, evaluate goals, and more importantly, build trust within their staff. It’s difficult to establish credibility with a colleague or subordinate if there’s no interpersonal interaction — a challenge that remote teams have to rise above. If face-to-face meetings are impossible because of budget constraints, Skype calls could be the best option. The bottom line is, putting a face to a web handle can humanize the other person, and in turn, build a better foundation for a relationship.
With all this in mind, the question of whether or not technology is making businesses less personal is a complicated one. Although modern tools have done a lot to build personal connections, they still have their drawbacks that companies must recognize and mitigate moving forward.
Justine Andrews is a business writer who specializes in workforce trends. Her main interest is investigating how technology has been transforming how the world conducts business. She hopes that her articles will act as a guide for those who want to understand the latest developments and learn how they can apply these new concepts to their own career or business.