Remember when computerized communication technology first came into being? If you’re too young to know what that was like, it was magical! We went from waiting impatiently for the mail carrier or staying near the phone to receiving emails and texts in minutes or seconds. We went from wading through file cabinets and encyclopedias to getting information instantaneously from the internet. We went from living in siloed communities to being globally connected. Think about it: we now can access just about anyone or anything at any time!
But, have you noticed how the magic is starting to wear off and anxiety is moving in?
Business leaders are finding their enterprises rely too much on technology and not enough on people. Employees are suffering from overwork, owners have lost control over what their employees are doing and saying about their companies, and the general public is suffering from social media addiction.
There’s a longing to slow things down and go back to the personal principles and values that made companies grow and operate better, such as culture and reputation. Customers and employees are also crying out for privacy, to protect their personal information and to go back to having control of what they share with others.
Ironically, communication technology is the driver of many communication problems. People are feeling more isolated than ever before, company reputations are suffering, and conflict is rising—and it is costing companies a lot of money.
- Employees lose an average of one day of work per week to their phones—and they’re getting paid for that day. Nearly 50 percent of people say they can’t live without their phones, which people on average check every 12 minutes and touch 2,600 times a day.
- American businesses are losing $62 billion per year from poor customer service, according to Forbes Magazine, because of autoresponders and pre-recorded help messages or remote call centers with people who don’t speak the language well.
- Tesla’s stock dropped over eight percent in a day in response to Elon Musk tweeting he was thinking about taking the company private. Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet cost over $1 billion and 200 people lost their jobs from cancelling all of her shows.
These problems all have one thing in common, what I call the tech effect. The tech effect occurs when communication technology loses its human focus and/or the people who use communication technology lose their human focus. It’s when people communicate with their screens in the form of makeshift messages to ephemeral followers and measure reactions in quantities, instead of building relationships with people.
How do we combat the tech effect? We need to get the people back in. Business leaders need to change the culture in their companies to be more human-centered, modify structures and practices within their companies to increase employee and customer engagement and loyalty, and promote healthy, humane work practices and products that sell.
How do we do this? I have lots of ideas and systematic solutions. Stay tuned for more on the tech effect…