Digital connection and human relationships : what is at stake there ?

Publié par , le 10 mai 2016

We are in the digital era, nobody would dare oppose to that. There are now even machines to connect to to know about the way you feel, your mood of the day, the objective being that your manager and the general  management will know about it, analyze it and improve your work conditions. It goes without saying that the final objective is to increase performance.

It is surely easier to rely on data base to inquire about employee’s mood in 3 quick clicks. It is in my opinion just a good  first start to deal with well-being and motivation of employees BUT it needs to go much further in what exactly drives people in their work/job, what are the main engines of their motivation and what is required to maintain it and the last but not least DO something about these results.

I have been talking with many consultants and company managers in different fields and it turns out that the loads of initiatives, through digital appliances or not, that are made to feel good about providing better work conditions and professional developments for employees, remain more often than not just initiatives, good conscience provider leading to a reward feeling with no consistence in the end.  Be it true or not ( I was not in these companies, and did not provide any service to them) there is definitely something at stake there.

Whatever mission you entrust consultants with, whatever application you call upon to give the impression that you are concerned with your employees’ wellness and motivation,  that is by far not enough to obtain people’s motivation and performance.  And to avoid facing these people at any level of the hierarchy, whatever level of management you are in, to avoid engaging into a true human relationship is the best way to hamper performance, lose productivity and progression. Leaving aside the emotional intelligence, making the economy of empathy, listening, exchanging lead you to losses , losses, losses… and to cap it all,  it will not last and give you the opportunity to build up steadiness, long-term strength and development.

There is nothing like human relationship to lever performance in a company, nothing like a good atmosphere, the capacity to give and take within teams that brings about enrichment for both the company and the employee, boost innovation and soar motivation; people questioned on their work conditions often answer that the atmosphere at work, the way people behave, and the relationships are the main reason why they feel good and committed.

I am not saying that digital applications, and the digital era are to be thrown away but I do say that there could be zillions applications, big data control, that they would not replace the way people feel and the amount of possibilities that stem out of their relationships.

It seems that we are also heading for the robots era, with lots of research and studies being implemented on artificial intelligence. Having robots to do things that we do not want to do could appear a good solution; having robots replace human beings in “taking care” of the elderly questions the way we deal with old age and our old ones…  It even go further since it shows that robots are an easy solution to avoid the complexity and possible difficulties, conflicts, crisis human relationships imply. I can only recommend the excellent book of Sherry Turkle (Alone Together) on the subject matter.

My opinion is that there are much more chances that conflicts, crisis, discomfort increase even more with the development and machines control . No e-mail, no data base, no emotions analyzer, no text message will ever solve a conflict, drive change or develop performance in any organization. These things not only  have to come from the inside and not from external connections but also have to be dealt with by PEOPLE.

What is happening is companies these days tells us that the overwhelming amount of information people think they are supposed to deal with , since they are permanently connected,  lead to an harassment feeling and drive lots of them into burn-out or discouragement. It is easily understandable: there is no way they can swallow up all that information. It furthermore undermines they capacity to concentrate and focus, turn down their creativity ( by lack of time) it increases the stress they feel, not being able to deal with all of it…. Connection is telling you everything you should do or must know, depriving you from our own feelings.

Having talked to certain CEO and top management members of team,  it turns out that there are actually a certain number of them who just don’t get it about the digital: they surely go for it and know very well they cannot do without it but they don’t figure out what it really brings that is much more performant than before. And sometimes, it even deprives them from what used to be their vision, their global strategy.  They end up with a medium that goes beyond the content, a tool that loses track of the gist and if you push it even further, their main strength and capacity to anticipate. I can already hear you saying that it is a question of generation and in a few years this CEOS and team members will be retired and the young ones will take over … OK I just hope the latter will be able to make a difference between what the digital improves and what is to be left aside.

I am taking another sector, Banking : you can now connect to your bank’s web site and  do your own money transfers and current operations. Right? You most of the time cannot reach your client manager, who is always busy in a meeting, whom you have to take appointment with only on certain days, and you finally manage to get that appointment, he does not know how to answer your question and has to call the head-quarters or regional management. If you are lucky you get your answer during your appointment but there are chances you leave without it and have to wait for another delay to reach the holy grail. Tell me where is the added value? Who benefits from it? The shareholders probably, the pervert effect being the decline of motivation and commitment with the lack of responsibility that they entail.  Mind you, thousands of people go now for digital banks…. Maybe corrections could be made in the banking world. I would be so curious to read a wide survey on the satisfaction rate of banks’clients ?

Within the same day, a few weeks ago, I read two articles on MOOCs , the first one saying that only ten per cent of them are followed up and that it is not something that is going to develop, the second one saying that is a revolution and something that is going to develop ….. Which one reflects reality?

Another one? One article saying that e-commerce has increased by 14.3% since 2004 and another one saying that e-commerce has shown a stop in progression and one can notice a return to shop trend. Well try to make yourself an idea!!! Sure one does not necessarily contradict the other but what is the real trend?

Trying to find our ways through digital information is a tricky trip and a puzzle.

Other example: we are bombed with articles talking about the five rules, the seven things, the three concepts… and a marketing specialist told me that it is the way the young generation wants to deal with things, quickly and with clear rules…..Once again, saving up time for what? to read another ready to eat article, avoiding having to deal with the building up of a productive and constructive relationship… Sometimes I really don’t get it either…Are you still human with a true inner life and aspiration, an inner vision?

Having said that , I still do believe in the Digital when  it helps us draw bridges, improves data transfer, gives an opportunity to reach information more easily when needed,  allows us to keep in touch and communicate with people we’d lose contact with should there not be FB or INSTAGRAM…..does the same for professional networks, helps us learn more when needs to be through well-organized blended learning, improves medical approaches and techniques…I also know that the world widening , the fierce competition spur people into the search of means to face it… but still… I really don’t get it when it separates members of a same family who are connected to their smart phone, tablets, computer, all the time, I don’t get it when I see 2 years old kids spending complete afternoons playing on their tablets without saying a word and without having any contact with human beings…. Who knows maybe one day they will get married without wedding ceremony, just on the  Internet,  with someone they’ll  have never met, and they will have kids through sperm and egg cells donation, just having picked up a profile, and maybe they’ll have it carried by another person, and a few years later will sell it back on the net…. Am I pushing it too far?

Well…. I don’t get it either when forced to push on button with vocal responder in all sorts of companies and public services. Why ? Because most of the time it does not give the answer people need and when it does it is incomplete. And when you finally reach someone, the person is in another country with already made questions and answers, unable to really answer your question or provide a solution. So annoying !!!

Pushing it further,  we’ll end up with teams of technically connected people, having dived into a sort of magical digital potion, with no emotions since they will not have been brought up in the right environment to develop them, no sharing, creating and inventing other machines and devices for the sake of it, having become robots, creating robots… and let us play A. HUXLEY… taking the risk to have them backfire on them..

Maybe this is what we’ll call artificial intelligence in the end : artificial everything leading to artificial something…

I am sorry but he word artificial does not generate any good feeling and emotion into my heart , the same way the word disruptive does not  have a positive effect on my brain… but sure I am a spoil sport !!!

But what I am sure of is that we are at risk of being apprentice wizards.

Therefore, let us make sure that when we go for digital and robots, it makes sense, that it is the most adequate solution  for a situation, problem to be solved, need to be met. Let us make sure that it is definitely going to be better with it than without it, especially as to human beings, human relationships, people we work with, that it will improve our capacity to co create a better world using the amazing possibilities and magical effects of truly connected people using their emotional drivers and fields of possibilities.  Let us make sure that is does not become a tyranny as one can have the feeling sometimes , where only digital start-ups are worth it, only digital jobs are valuable, only digtal learning is the good one, and so on and so forth. Transformation does not mean destroying everything that does not serve your purpose. Of course it does destroy part of your ecosystem to create another one but watch out not to lose who we are in the process.

Maybe we could start creating ‘watchdogs’? Trying to organize a little better the way people , employees and managers connect through digital devices.

To make a long story short, human beings remain the best lever for performance motivation and well-being  when they build up constructive and productive relationships. We are definetely risky challenges as human beings but the most valuable and productive ones as well.

Let us make sure that we really ask ourselves the right questions when entering digital issues, WHAT DO WE WANT, WHY DO WE WANT IT AND WHAT RESULT WE ARE SEEKING ? Let us go for developments that make sense , let us do these developments with people, and let us embark shareholders with us.