Why Human Interaction Is Key To Improving Digital Communication

25. April 2018

Everyone in the digital communication space is talking about a people first approach. Organisations implement new technologies not simply because they exist, but because new technologies are bringing added value to people in the workplace.

Digital communication tools have been improving internal productivity and exchange between employees for years, which simultaneously facilitates work with external partners and improves the customer experience. Companies that took digital communication seriously enough to implement it at an early stage are now seeing the fruit of this effort.

For example, SAP, the international software company from Germany’s Walldorf, has been making the most of digital communication for years. SAP’s HR leader McInnis-Day says that “[Technology] speeds up processes and makes a significant contribution to our work across continents and time zones.” One of the greatest benefits of digital communication is precisely these interpersonal networks and contacts that digitalisation has made possible for the first time.

Digital communications open up completely new doors for companies. Distributed or global teams have only been conceivable since the era of telephone conferences. As Taylor Wallace, founder of WeVue, puts it: “Digital communication is now omnipresent in our personal lives, yet it is often lagging behind in work life. Many employees want, and expect, to have the right tools at their disposal in the workplace. These expectations should be met by a company.”

Excellent Communication and Togetherness Are More Important Than Ever

Digital communication places different demands on people. An employee working with digital today must bring along a local and global mentality, as digitalisation enables companies to communicate between departments in the same building as well as with customers across the globe. The technical possibilities are on hand, but it only becomes functional if employees also possess the respective skills.

Machines do not make emotional intelligence superfluous, but rather the opposite is true: it is more important than ever! Communicating digitally is hardly comparable with face-to-face conversations, yet inspiring confidence and showing empathy are things that have to be learned. Digital opens doors to the world, but users must be prepared. Global teams only bring benefits with them when the differences are viewed as opportunities and the members do not balk at the changes.

Since so many elements are missing, from body language to facial expression, employees should ensure their future communication is as precise as possibleBeing able to make your expectations crystal clear is a big plus. In all of this, the medium is absolutely relevant. A call must be approached differently to an email, Slack or even instant messaging. It’s paramount that the communication is adapted accordingly.

Knowing and respecting the target group, which includes both your customers and your colleagues, is another key to ensure successful digital communication. If you succeed in adapting your communication to linguistic registers, cultural characteristics and individual personalities, then digital communication will become your building material for new bridges of understanding.

Digital Communication Without Humans Is Like a Diet Pill

Imagine any old diet pill. It’s all too tempting to just spend a bit of money on a magic cure rather than spending a lifetime doing sports and looking after your diet. The problem: It’s not that easy. Doing sport and eating healthily are demanding and tedious, but ultimately they are the only solution. Digital communication works by the same principle! There are great tools that make the process easier and even fun, but in the end, people have to be the driving force behind it and they are the ones that need to integrate digital reality into daily working life.

The most important requirement for successful digital communication is the commitment of the employees. It doesn’t matter which tool; it only provides added value if it is used regularly. The attitude “If you build it, he will come” worked in Field of Dreams, but in a business context you cannot rely on magic. As a general rule, an intuitive tool that can be integrated into existing workflows or solves a specific problem will be met with more approval than an additional step with which you have to familiarise yourself first.

So, before you buy the next best diet pill, think about which tools work well within your team, your situation at work and of course, the needs of your job. Which problems should digital communication solve? If you adopt this approach, you will save a lot of time and money in the long run.

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Whether Deliberately or Accidentally: Digital Communication Is Quickly Sabotaged

A study conducted in the US in 2017 found that a shocking 70 percent of employees are not motivated. This figure is staggering. New means of communications are hard to socialise, especially in multi-generation offices. The rituals, routines and expectations of communication vary greatly, and some employees feel marginalised when new technologies are introduced or when they simply struggle with them.

Unmotivated employees are sure to have a negative impact when it comes to inspiring digital communication. On the other hand, digitalisation can also bring members of a team back on board who quickly get bored and who have been sluggishly counting down the hours in the office of late. New ways of communicating can suddenly make work and exchange with colleagues and customers more enjoyable. The trick is to find a good compromise that suits everyone.

Another sensitive issue is to do with emotions that are sometimes rashly or excessively expressed via a digital medium. Natural barriers are occasionally lost when it comes to a lack of distance or anger. Common sense is at least as important in digital as in the analogue world. Humans are the key success factor to make digital communications work!

People Want People to Respond at the Other End of the Digital Communication Channel

As much as digital can inspire people, it can also serve as a distraction. Digital tools ensure that people are constantly connected to their colleagues and work environment – which demands a lot of energy. This is why only a few carefully selected tools are the answer. The best solution is usually to get employees involved in the decision-making process or let them take the initiative, because they know what’s best for them. By the way, the best solution is not always the most well-known, popular tool: Slack, for example, which enjoys widespread popularity, often creates certain problems when most of the day is spent in communication and thus there is no time left to complete other tasks.

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Perhaps the greatest risk of communication in the digital age is the lack of personal exchange. In personal conversations, nuances and the warmth of human interaction often get lost. But it doesn’t have to be this way! A personality that people can remember, your own voice (or that of your company) is certainly something you can develop, refine and tailor to the tools you use. Maybe you’ll have to be more accentuated and clearer to present yourself digitally, but it’s worth it. We want real people at the other end of the device or collaboration tool.

In short: Others want to be able to see who you are and how you’re doing. This is what communication depends on, regardless of the form it takes. Your recognition value lies in the uniqueness of each person – and this is something which everyone will notice and appreciate. This positive experience with the employees of a company is central for colleagues, partners and customers and thus directly contributes to a company’s success.

Digital communication is only as good as the people who use it. Many companies still think that digital communication is a magic bullet that can solve every problem. Once purchased, the new tool should be a sure-fire success. However, in practice it is increasingly evident that success depends almost exclusively on people. The new technology can only reach its full potential when it has been intelligently selected and tailored to the employees, and when the employees enjoy using it in exchange with colleagues, customers and partners.

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