Conference calls, email blasts, web based training, instant messenger, virtual conferences and job fair, etc, etc. All these technological advances have removed human faces from normal business practices and increased our dependency on little black boxes with buttons. In a world where instant messaging the coworker in the cube next to you isn’t considered lazy I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on what these “advances” have done to corporate America.
At a previous company I worked for the recruiters and sales people were spread out in three cities of the state and their working relationship paralleled the symbiosis of a tank full of betas. Lot's of finger pointing, rounds and rounds of the blame game, and of course the bi-weekly conference call that was about as team oriented as a game of tether ball. I am sure there are conflicting roles like this in every industry so I hope you all can identify regardless of if you have experience staffing.
The best thing that company did was get us all together in the same city for a two day "training." Of course I couldn’t tell you one thing I learned about technology terms (I take that back, I remember learning the term Meta Data) in that training class. I could however, tell you where the sales person on the Halliburton account went to college, or how many kids the sales person on the Exxon Mobile account had. That two day interaction did wonders for the cohesiveness of our team because it forced us to see these people as humans and not irritating stumbling blocks to our professional successes. When I would grow frustrated instead of immediately assuming I was right, I would try to see things from their perspective and guess what… I would realize my own inadequacies.
As cost effective and time effective it may seem to keep people on opposite ends of the country and have them communicate by phone and computer, there is a lot to be said for face to face interaction. People become people instead of voices and words so we treat them as such. Obviously I can't come up with a solution that fits every companys time and budget contraints to allow for human contact, but I can give a little advice to my readers. Candidates... if you come across a company who is dedicated to investing in avenues for face to face team building count it as a tremendous asset. I encourage you to expose their team building activities and strategies in the interview process. Technology has certainly done wonders for corporations travel budgets, but I would hope they take some of that savings and invest in team building. I can say without reservation their employee retention will be better for it.