How Digital Communication is Eroding Your Competitive Edge

Think about this: 10 years ago, we couldn’t dream of working in offices without email, video conferencing was blossoming, and Blackberries were a vital business communication tool. Within the past 5 years, we’ve seen the advent of social media in the forms of Facebook, Twitter and the like, and today with the prevalence of SmartPhones it’s virtually impossible to escape from being “pinged” at any place or time. Is all this communication technology great for staying in touch? You bet! Is it healthy for developing strong workplace relationships? Not as much as you might think.

In this brave new world of workplace communication, we can – and in fact often do – establish and maintain virtual relationships with clients, teams, employees and consultants whom we’ve never even spoken with, let alone met. Take a step back, and realize how crazy that is! Besides tangential factors such as resumes, recommendations and background searches on Google, we’re exchanging dollars and trusting reputations with people whom we have never seen, heard or spoken to in realtime. And yet, this is how business is conducted today.

In plowing ahead into this new digital corporate reality, where will your people learn to:

  1. Hone interpersonal and public speaking skills?
  2. Develop an eye for nonverbal cues?
  3. Trust their instincts and judge others based on intuition, rather than recommendation?
  4. Project themselves in a favorable light “offline,” as well as digitally?
  5. Learn to listen actively and genuinely?
  6. Truly bridge the gap between digital and meaningful relationships?

There’s something to be said for live, in-person communication which simply cannot be replicated through technology, no matter how convenient it becomes. Human beings are hard-wired to express and pick up on fine details which help us decide whom we can trust and do business with, and whom we can’t. As the word becomes flatter and virtual workplaces continue to replace the traditional office model, what will become of business communication skills which allowed us to get this far in the first place?

An even bigger question, of course is: does this even matter?

I think it does. If you want your company to be able to compete in this volatile economy, you had better make sure that you and your employees take full advantage of every edge at your disposal, including the soon-to-be lost arts of interpersonal communication – with both your customers and each other. After all, who would you rather work with? A company skilled in “offline” communications as well as digital, or one which prefers to remain safely anonymous behind the virtual curtain?

It’s a brave new world, alright- yet only those who are willing to embrace the communication skills of the past as they master the tools of the future will distinguish themselves.

Do you agree or disagree? I welcome your views below!

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