The Human Connection

by margaret turner

I was talking to Crystal, FLOW’s Buzz Builder, the other day, and she said something that got me thinking.

She was talking about relationships—virtual, business—and pointed out that the common factor in all relationships is the human connection.  She thinks of social media as a practical tool to make human connections, to listen and respond, to find out what the people who make up businesses do and why.  Only then can a company like FLOW determine how best to add value.  She’s convinced that a business relationship, even a virtual one, will be successful only if there’s a human connection.

What she said about the human connection reminded me of another conversation, this time with a friend Catherine who’s a former government manager.

Catherine told me a story of learning about the human connection from an employee in her department named “Tom.”  Some years ago “Tom” had been hired to do clerical tasks, and was successful at his job until he was overtaken by technology.  As routine tasks became more automated his job changed, and he had difficulty meeting new expectations.  “Tom” became “A Problem” for his supervisors and my manager friend, because time had to be spent reinforcing his training, monitoring his performance and dealing with his colleagues’ complaints.

Eventually “Tom” retired, and some time later my friend read his obituary.  And Catherine found out that although “Tom” had been an ongoing management challenge for her, she hadn’t known him at all.  His family and friends had called him Tommy, and had treasured his warm personality and his sense of humour.  He was loved, admired and respected by his children and grandchildren.  Tommy was someone my friend Catherine had never met.

Clearly the human connection had failed here.  And if it can fail in a face-to-face workplace, how much more likely are we to lose, or never make, the human connection in our virtual enterprises? 

Something to think about this week—the human connection--