The Human Touch in Hard Times

By Kathy Miller on June 27th, 2013

Times are tough and we all need connections with others to help us through the turmoil.  Never has human touch been more important than now. 

I ran across an article recently that reported the latest research on how people feel about attending meetings.  The interesting conclusion was that people complain about too many meetings.  However, when their attendance at meetings is reduced, they report feeling isolated and missing the meetings.  The authors of the reports suggested that people underestimate their need for human interaction in this electronic world.  How much we still need to connect with people face-to-face, share jokes, stories, make eye contact.   Technology will never replace this need.

I would certainly agree with those who suggest that meetings can be very inefficient, use up resources, and generally waste a lot out time.  However, I think that the suggestion that meetings should, therefore, be curtailed if not eliminated may be missing the point.  The key to successful meetings is for those conducting them to know how to structure them appropriately, who to include, how to help people prepare, how to determine the meeting type,what to cover, and how to follow up afterword.  Well-planned meetings can be unsurpassed for value.  Not only can much work get done in a meeting, but people can strengthen the bonds that allow them to be more engaged in their work and collaborate better with each other when the tasks require it.  Meetings solidify the ties that last long after the meeting ends.  I find that people are much more likely to contact each other by phone or email when they have a question or a need after they have established relationships with each other face-to-face.  Let’s face it.  No one really likes to make cold calls — even within their own company.

I do a lot of professional and executive coaching.  I carry out the coaching face-to-face and by phone.  Most companies prefer that the coaching be done via technology because it is more convenient and cheaper.  However, over the years I have discovered that the face-to-face coaching offers far more value for the money in comparison with the phone coaching. We can accomplish as much in one 2-hour face-to-face meeting as we would accomplish in weeks of phone coaching.  Communication is clearer. Connections are stronger and commitments to the process are greater.

I’m not saying that people can make no progress in virtual meetings, one-on-one phone conversations, or through emails.  All of these approaches to working together have their place and their advantages.  I am saying that nothing will ever replace the face-to-face meetings that build human connections,  trust, collaboration and engagement .  Let’s not give up on the necessity of the  ‘human moments’ at work especially when times are tough and we are all feeling the stress of the challenges that we face.  The human touch is critical to productivity and morale in organizations facing hard times.