It has now been eight years since Forbes ran a piece by Psychologist Sebastian Bailey entitled: “How To Beat The Five Killers Of Virtual Working.” Dr. Bailey listed the five as:
- Lack of everyday non-verbal, face to face communication
- Lack of social interaction
- Lack of Trust
- Cultural Clashes
- Loss of Team Spirit
Have We Stopped the Virtual Problems?
The world has now gone through about a year-and-a-half of lockdown leading to partial socializing most probably leading to a semblance of near normalcy by this fall. When the Forbes article appeared in March 2013, it was a “nice to know.” Subjects such as pandemics or COVID or vaccination rates were not on the radar; Zoom was about a year old and virtual working was minimal.
How Have We Progressed?
As to the lack of everyday, non-verbal communication, some of the training yielded miserable outcomes. 2020, and partially to 2021 brought educators (again, I use the widest possible descriptors) under fire for virtual problems.
Students, may have lost months if not years, of academic and social skills. In terms of adult learning, everything from safety training to ethics training to law enforcement, the results were mixed. In terms of safety training, accident rates were virtually unchanged in 2020 versus 2019; fraud was at an all-time high; law enforcement’s problems continued to be far-reaching and embedded in long-standing bias.
Have we progressed in terms of communication and social interaction? As long as we have relied solely on the virtual in its narrowest form, we failed. When we incorporate training into smaller groups that are interdependent, we do a lot better. At Virtual Training Associates (VTA), we recommend breakout sessions, hybrid in-person and virtual and shared, often spur-of-the-moment communication, and constant reinforcement.
If your organization believes a once-a-year ethical training without reinforcement is sufficient, you are probably going to get negatively surprised.
Is Trust Overrated?
Here again, is another issue that is troubling and has been ascribed to an over-reliance on the virtual. “Trust” in an organization comes from the top-down along with reinforcement. It is why, frankly an attitude of “do as I say, not as I do,” has never served organizations.
Numerous cases of bribery, scandal, sexual harassment, workplace bullying and other unacceptable behaviors were pervasive during the maximum lockdown-greatest virtual period = virtual problems. If there is no support, if there is no nurturing and dare, I say, no compassion and empathy, virtual or in-person are irrelevant constructs.
While VTA favors follow-up (either virtual or in-person) to maintain an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, it is mandatory no matter the mode of communication that buy-in is organizationally-wide.
Diversity and inclusion have been ethical issues since the dawn of time. These are not new ideas. At VTA, our position is that an ethical organization is an inclusive organization. We have not seen it fail that when bigotry of any kind stems from a lack of ethics and ethical expectations.
Training large – and then breakout groups on ethical behavior does not lead to a lack of inclusion anymore than an in-person presentation encourages inclusion.
Our contention is that a motivated and trained speaker and consultant who is well-steeped in ethical training will prove effective to getting important points across. We do feel, not to be redundant, that a lack of follow-up and expectation will lead to the avoidance of uncomfortable conversations and action.
As for losses of team spirit supposedly curtailed by having an over-reliance on the virtual, we would begin by asking who in the organization has been the acknowledged leader in encouraging and supporting the team?
Having a “team spirit” is a rather ill-defined term. With respect to Sebastian Bailey, team building can be virtually encouraged providing the team is willing to be led. No speaker, virtual or in-person can replace a motivated, spirited team. We can encourage it virtually or in-person, but it comes down to inspiration and attitude.
Is Virtual Over?
At the other end of this lockdown period, with higher vaccination rates, schools looking toward a re-opening and offices creating hybrid work models, and such, is the end of the virtual-era at hand? Hardly. However, we feel that substandard, virtual teaching is at-hand.
No matter the scenario: virtual, in-person or hybrid, nothing will substitute for excellence and its “friend,” professionalism. Speaking, counseling and teaching subject matter such as ethics, sexual harassment avoidance, gender issues and such, is not a game but talks to the lifeblood of an organization. The teacher must be as serious as the intention.
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