Building Trust in a Virtual World

July 22nd 2020 in Chris Andrew, Employee Communications, Corporate Culture, Change Communication

I recently did my first webinar. It was a session with my colleagues, Christopher Hopkins and Vicky Johnstone entitled: Accelerating Change: 5 Actions for engaging employees in a post-pandemic world. I don’t think it’s too biased of me to say that I think it was rather good.

Anyway, perhaps surprisingly (bearing in mind we have well over 50 years of collective experience in communication between us) we were all a bit nervous about it. We’ve spoken at conferences, presented at big pitches and joined panel sessions but this was different.

Why

Because we were all in our homes, desperately trying to get some positive reinforcement from a laptop screen that unfortunately just showed an equally nervous looking reflection of ourselves.

Webinar Screen Shot

One of the positives to come out of the disruption over the past few months is that it has shown that people can work effectively from home using digital technology. It has also shown that you can use a variety of channels and techniques to bring people together in different ways to help them feel connected to one another and to their organisation. We are all now using video calls more than ever – and that’s great as it helps us to see one another and to pick up on nonverbal cues, which we as humans are designed to do.

But is it enough?

Well, bearing in mind that many experts believe that at least 70% of communication is nonverbal,  I would say absolutely not. In any working day, there are so many ‘in between moments’ – that quick tap on someone’s shoulder to double check something; that all important 3 minute chat at the end of the day on your way down in the lift? These kinds of interactions are not only hugely productive, but they help us to bond with one another. These very human communication moments can be a real challenge to recreate in the digital world.

Here at Caburn Hope, the things we value most are the relationships we have with our clients. I’m not just talking about the companies we work with, but the actual humans who work within them. Working remotely over the past few months with our existing clients has taken some getting used to. For the most part, it’s generally worked well because we have built up trusted and respectful relationships over many years (decades in some cases).

But what about when you don’t have that base relationship to build upon? For someone working at a company who needs specialist support delivering a new project, how can you confidently place trust in someone who you have only ever seen as an image on a screen? Equally as the service provider/expert, how can you establish and nurture a relationship of mutual trust and respect? We are fortunate enough to have welcomed a brand new client during the lockdown and we are very much looking forward to meeting them face to face at the earliest opportunity! It did, however, take a different approach where we have been almost over communicating in order to get things off to a strong start.

I heard a story about a billionaire entrepreneur who, when closing a deal with someone and they can’t be together, always sends them an identical bottle of wine to the one he’s about to open to celebrate.

That may not be possible (nor appropriate) for every scenario but I would love to hear people’s thoughts on building trust in a virtual world. I’m sure there are some big ideas and software solutions out there, however, I think it will come down to the simple, little, human things that make all the difference.

If you missed our latest webinar and you would like to find out more about it and future sessions, just get in touch with me, Chris Andrew, or my colleague Vicky Johnstone.