"In an effort to use high tech to connect with people more effectively, we are losing the human “touch” – that critical person-to-person connection which is still the engine of commerce."
TOUCH is a narrative on how businesses have become less human in their efforts to be efficient, and offers solutions to reverse this trend. Using its namesakes as an acronym, the book identifies five factors that can positively influence the way an organization engages with their employees, consumers and stakeholders in a more meaningful way:
The content focuses on specific areas (Leadership, Communications, Customer Service, Marketing, Web/Social, Human Resources and Legal) that can help you restore the human element in an organization. Overall, the book is a very enjoyable read with many real life examples: the good, the bad and the ugly, and offers the reader five actionable takeaways at the end of each chapter. I was hooked after the opening letter from the authors to the reader hinting at things to come.
All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten
"Be a good Netizen. Be collaborative. Co-operate, and operate with digital grace. Play with good karma. It could help you when you need it most."
Do you remember the poem by Robert Fulghum? It is a simple tale about sharing everything, playing fair, saying sorry. In order to do these things authentically, we need to seek to understand the context, content and the motive first. It does not matter whether you are dealing with a customer complaint, a negative comment on the company Facebook page or a less than stellar review on Glassdoor. As Maffin notes, misunderstandings are often the rule, not the exception. The world around us changes at such a fast pace, accurate facts and information are essential to determining the most effective course of action. Not only is it the right thing to do, you will feel better about it. Taking this approach one step further is adopting a win/win perspective. Before reacting, ask yourself, is it possible for both of us to retain something positive out of this experience. Explore what this could look like before you rationalize the validity of your own defense.
Use common words to say uncommon things
"Speak with a human voice and you’ll have taken more than one small step"
There are simple phrases and words that we use regularly and especially in corporate speak that are merely extra words and detract from our message and make us sound just a little like a robot. I wish to thank …..Why do I wish it? If I mean thank you, I should simply and directly say it. Putting words like “I wish” or “I’d like” in front of what I am about to say diminishes the effect. Another new found word to work on for me is “but”. Have you ever noticed the effect of making a statement and then following it up with “but”? “But” and “and” are words that connect two thoughts together. One is inclusive. The other is not. I’ll let you figure out the implications of that one on your own. Lastly, “I’m sorry”. It doesn’t carry the same authenticity and emotion, nor does it generate the same human reaction when I put the words “I regret to….” In front of it. If I feel I need to start a statement with the words “I regret”, I am 100% confident the person on the receiving end of my message is going to feel a heck of a lot worse than I do. If I have made a mistake, then I need to own it and I shouldn’t expect any sympathy from the person I am apologizing to. Keep it simple, concise and straightforward. I bet we’ll be surprised with the uncommon response to what we would view as common words.
Erin’s YODA moment
"Do or do not. There is no try."
For you HR people out there, investigate the concept of video interviews. Not conducting interviews on video, but providing candidates a few select questions which they can video (from their smartphones) themselves answering. You can adopt this practice when you are hiring for locations away from the corporate office or industries that have high turnover like retail or hospitality or positions that are consumer facing and significantly impact your brand. A paper application or CV doesn’t give you insight into the uniqueness of each candidate and his or her ability to bring their passion to the work he or she would like to do for you.
Benefit plans. Don’t treat everyone the same. The concept of flex plans was very popular a number of years ago, but they are expensive to administer and my experience is that employees don’t really leverage the options available to them. But these are two extreme ends of the spectrum. Provide two plans. Keep your basic items in place for ease of administration and economies of scale, but customize an “employee with your family” or “empty nest” or “wellness” option. Although it is a very small level of customization, it does a better job of acknowledging that we are providing benefit coverage to individuals and not ID numbers in a spreadsheet.
TOUCH positions itself squarely about business, but I believe many of the actions can apply to the enrichment of our everyday interactions outside the four walls of our offices. The book touches on most functional areas within a business. I chose to highlight for you the actions that I felt could transcend all functions but I saw a few things I would immediately put into action in my own (HR) world.
I must admit that I am a little puzzled and truly perplexed about how we keep the human element top of mind as technology advances and becomes more integrated into our lives. It’s almost like it has snuck up on us and we don’t even realize how impersonal some interactions have become. I worry for my profession as we leverage technology to automate and streamline processes. I worry for my parents as they age and get lost in the maze of numbers on a hospital chart and a voice on the other end of the line from TeleHealth. I worry for my son. What does the future hold for him? I would like to leave you with a few thoughts.
“Convenience has become the enemy of meaningful connections and gestures to deepen relationships”.
Do you think we have reached the Tipping Point? If not, how will we know when we get there and what can we do to slowly take those baby steps back from the edge? Like Maffin and Blevis, I don’t think this topic receives the attention it deserves. It’s not sexy and doesn’t sell ad space, but it is a common problem with uncommon implications.