With the advance of technology, we are finding that
managers are succumbing to something called the
“digital distance.” The digital distance is the ease of
communicating without the emotional nuances of a phone
call or one-on-one meeting that erodes the interpersonal
connectivity that promotes positive human relations.
Recent studies have shown distinct correlations between
emotional disconnection due to digitization and the
unwillingness of employees to perform more and stay longer
As such, the excessive use of technology without the use
of interpersonal countermeasures increases the “distance”
between employee, managers, and the organization.
The Best Practices Institute (BPI) has identified many
effective ways to bridge the digital distance, encourage
emotional connectivity, and reap the benefits of increased
employee engagement and productivity.
An interesting observation by the BPI is, “Employees are
rarely motivated by compensation or perks. They don’t
want to have friends at work either. They crave the
feeling that they are valuable and respected.”
If this sounds like the old Maslow’s Pyramid, you are
correct. Despite the advances in technology or the latest
management program to improve the company, we keep coming
back to the basics of human interactions of mutual
respect, recognition, and feeling part of something (i.e.,
BPI has found that companies with robust and emotionally
connected cultures found ways to bring their people
together in real life, away from their screens.
But, bringing people together has to be more than casual
Fridays, bagels in the break room, or even generous
benefit plans. Certainly salary and benefits are the
basics of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but when these
“wear off,” what really matters is how employees are
treated by their colleagues and superiors.
As such, BPI has found that there is no substitute for
good old-fashioned face-to-face contact. BPI recommends
the following to lessen the digital distance:
#1 Find more ways for employees to collaborate in-person
rather than in-the-cloud.
#2 Increase ways to show respect and appreciation via more
interactive meetings, handwritten notes, small group
meetings, company activities, etc.
#3 Identify specific practices that show employees that
the company lives by the values that it espouses and holds
people accountable for actions consistent with those
#4 Establish an achievement orientation that allows
employees to see how the company values effort and hard
#5 Establish a positive work environment, that encourages
openness and a positive attitude toward the future and
makes a sincere effort to eliminate any toxic elements
that could negatively impact this culture.
In the end, BPI has found that a culture of personal
communication and respect is the great equalizer that
allows small businesses to successfully compete for and
retain talent in the face of Fortune 500 companies with
all their money and perks.
As such personal communication and respect are the new
currency that any business can supply in unlimited