You don’t have to go far these days to notice how technology pervades every aspect of our working lives. But who is in charge – you or the technology? As a business woman, I enjoy the benefits of being ‘always on’ with immediate access to emails, websites and social media. Yet because it has such an impact on our business lives, it is useful to consider some of the issues that the use of technology presents to all of us.
How many times have you been at a business meeting or having a conversation with someone when they stop in mid flow and attend to their smart phone that has alerted them? Whilst technology enables us to be connected 24-7, it is still down to us to choose what we pay attention to, according to an article in USA Today that provides some interesting questions to consider. If you think about people you have met at business events, it is likely that those who have left you with the most positive feelings are people who have truly listened to you and been genuinely interested in what you had to say. So make sure you don’t let technology get in the way of building meaningful relationships.
Quality vs. quantity of communication
What we say and how we say it has changed. Professional business language now seems to have been replaced by communication in 140 characters or fewer. This is noticeable in messages which tend to be short and to the point, sent via mobile devices . So our expectations have changed and now seem to be “I expect a prompt but short reply to get your reaction or to confirm an action”. However, when we react instantaneously, mistakes can occur. There are numerous examples of people who have inadvertently sent an email when they are in some sort of emotional distress, only to regret it immediately. We are no longer prepared to wait and allow the recipient of our communication some time to think and come up with a well-considered quality response. As a business owner, I try to respond to clients with a quick “Thank you for the communication.” And then let them know that “I will get back to you in x time”. If it’s more urgent they tend to be straight on the phone, but at least managing their expectations allows me time to think.
Need for connection – is that community?
There appears to be an increased need for connection in the digital world. Success is measured by the number of followers on Twitter or LinkedIn connections. But does this constitute community? With more people spending a lot of time in the digital world as opposed to face to face communication, it can be beneficial to consider what steps you and your employees should take to ensure that you are effective in online communities or working in virtual teams. Recently I was asked to help a virtual team that was ineffective because every time they held an online meeting, it was poorly organised with no opportunity for everyone to engage and so gradually fewer and fewer people took part. After they developed a few principles for working in virtual teams, the level of engagement increased.
Reliable information – trust?
Many people use the internet to carry out market research, checking out competitors and learning about their industry and the wider business community. But with so many websites and information available – how do we know what information is reliable? It seems the safe bet is to use brands that we know and trust – such as the BBC website, or FT, Reuters and trade associations – but it is always worth thinking about. Is the information you are using reliable and trusted?
Your online brand – perceived credibility
Following on from the last point, consider your own business brand and to what degree it conveys a level of credibility in the digital world? If someone was to ‘Google’ your company name or your own name, what would they discover? Invest time in ensuring that your online brand has credibility. This can be achieved by offering to write articles for online sites that already have a good reputation (such as Prowess!) so that when the search results appear for your business, there are references to credible sources. Also make sure that your messaging is consistent; how your business appears on social media and in real life – is it the same?
Collaboration and sharing – open source
Finally, technology has enabled many more people to get into business because it provides access to the global community. Many women in developing countries are now able to run business ventures because they have a mobile phone and access to the internet. Professor Linda Scott, at Said Business School has carried out a lot of research in this area. So technology has the added benefit of making a positive difference in many communities around the world. Global organisations focused on supporting women entrepreneurs, such as United Succes, Global InvestHer and Women Presidents’ Organisation are able to now connect women around the world to help them grow their businesses.