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How technology can boost the interpersonal office dynamic

Whether it’s across the country or just across the office, technology is great at connecting co-workers, but it’s no replacement for in-person collaboration.

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Too often, the modern workplace encourages distance between co-workers as they try to do collaborative work.

Thanks to the ubiquity of email and workflow tools like Slack, workers can send a note and reach team members at any time. That’s great when teams work remotely, but the downside comes when technology replaces a good, old-fashioned face-to-face conversation with a co-worker who just sits across the room.

“It’s true that online communication and automated processes have largely replaced interpersonal interactions like walking over to someone’s desk or handing in a physical form,” says Amanda Daering, CEO of newance, a NEWaukee-powered talent agency. “While the convenience is nice, we build connections during even the most basic face-to-face interactions. As my business partner, Jeremy Fojut, says, ‘Trust equals time plus shared experiences.’ That’s true even if the experience is seemingly mundane, so those interactions must be somehow replaced.”

Amanda Daering

Replacing those interactions isn’t something companies can afford to ignore. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 50 percent of the workforce now works in some sort of telecommuting role, and 80–90 percent of all employees say they would like to work remotely at least part of the time. Staying connected is more important than ever.

The answer, says Daering, is for companies to take a human-centered approach to incorporating new technology.

“Companies that take a human-centered approach use technology to enable time for connection,” explains Daering. “Rather than status meetings where everyone is physically present but mentally on their phones, these companies create connections through design sprint workshops or creative brainstorming sessions. Instead of manually entering data, they use dashboards of real-time relevant information. In these tech-smart rather than tech-cold companies, people are spending meaningful time with their teammates and customers instead of mundane bureaucracy.”

So, where did the idea of using technology to better facilitate a conversation between co-workers come from? Is it just another “silly” idea brought to us by those “entitled millennials”?

“We believe this shift was less a generational thing than it was an internet thing,” says Daering. “People have access to exponentially more information and choices than they did when millennials were still too young to be in the workforce.

“Millenials and especially Generation Z are the first to enter the corporate world with the expanded options of the digital age, but it’s not exclusive to them,” Daering continues. “While each generation may have trends about what matters most to them, the ability to assess and find opportunities is there across the board.”

Daering offers the following example to illustrate her point. In the past, someone mid-career would have been limited to friends, newspaper ads, or a headhunter for exploring other professional opportunities. Today, people can find and apply for a new job from their phone without even speaking to anyone.”

“To thrive, businesses need to cut through the noise of competition and earn loyalty rather than expect it,” advises Daering. “A human-centered approach is the best way to do that, even if it is much easier said than done.”

When she takes the stage during the upcoming Disrupt Madison 4.0 on Wednesday, June 5, at the Sylvee, Daering will discuss how the evolving digital future holds a tremendous opportunity for talent teams to provide much needed human connection.

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