The Anti-Social of Social Networking

Scott Esposito

For the past decade, we have seen a boom in the on-line world of "meet and greet" and relationship building. While this expansion has provided a tremendous increase in the number of connections and contacts made, the quality and value of human interaction has diminished. The world is getting smaller, but in a sense, more impersonal.

This also holds true in a company setting as many HR services are delivered to internal employee customers without the need for human intervention. Manager self-service, employee self-service, workflow transactions and electronic signatures characterize our modern operating systems. In large measure, the self-service world has grown to the detriment of high touch employee relations – in essence, human interaction and genuine relationship building have been eclipsed by the need for speed and efficiency.

Of course, there are many positive aspects and benefits of our electronic age, among them: the ability to grow and operate globally without the need of a physical presence; the ability to share and collaborate across the world with lightening speed; the richness gained by incorporating cultural diversity into our daily activities. How do we reconcile the positive and negative aspects of our virtual world? One approach is to set a conscious strategy to interject a human element in all that we do. Listed below are some practical examples of how this might be done.

Professional and social networking groups
– leverage your on-line relationships by forming local sub-groups who meet face to face. Keep track of business and personal travel schedules that might afford the occasional opportunity to interact with other local groups. This simple enhancement further strengthens the on-line relationships.

Human Resources
– study the touch points along the employee life cycle where human interaction would offer high impact. For example, the on-boarding and assimilation stages are critical junctures when employees form opinions about the work environment and culture. Both formal and informal human interactions can be used to "touch and feel" how the process is working – letting new hires see HR and not read HR promotes credibility and trust – the foundation for a healthy relationship. Similarly, performance management, a highly automated process in many large companies, is only as effective as the collaboration and discussions that go into establishing the right goals and the coaching and feedback that guide performance improvements.

Leadership Communications –
Emails are quick and efficient, but a supervisor’s face to face communications drive employee engagement. There are many alternative communication methods bypassed due to the convenience of email and memos. However, leaders need to be visible and available to forge an emotional connection with the workforce. Some techniques that work include old fashion management by walking around, skip level meetings, all hands meetings, tool box meetings, and serving as an invited speaker.

Recruiting / Staffing
– the world of talent acquisition has become highly automated. Millions of applicants post to job boards and screening software can quickly determine whose resume contains the right words. By far, the best and most effective way to hunt for a position or obtain leads on qualified applicants is through established business relationships. Develop a network of peers and colleagues who can share leads and market intelligence; keep in touch with the excellent candidates who did not get the offer or the one you spoke to when no openings were available. For applicants, send a hand written, thank you note to convey your excitement and interest in the position.

The world becomes a better place when we balance the progress of technology with the needs of human beings. In the areas of social networking and company / employee relationships there is big difference between getting together and being together. Seek out opportunities to add a personal touch in your daily interactions. The ease and convenience of electronic communications may suit your busy schedule but lasting relationships are built on smiles, handshakes and face to face discussions.