Building Personal Relationships in a Digital World

In today's digital world, communication practices are greatly impacted by technology. A report released by Radicati estimates that 319 billion e-mails were sent and received each day in 2021. Everything about the search process is going digital, too. But while technology innovations have opened up new horizons for search firms and leadership consultants, giving them powerful new tools and a broader reach, it’s vital that they continue to make the personal connections that are so important to successful placement. A handful of strategies can help search professionals maintain high-touch relationships in a high-tech environment.

3 Strategies to Maintaining Professional Relationships in a Digital World

Beyond a Digital World

Tap into the value of real-time interactions

E-mail is an efficient way to communicate, especially when all that’s required is a quick exchange of information. There are times, though, when placement professionals should take the opportunity to reach out on a more personal and immediate level to clients and candidates.

The simplest solution is to pick up the phone.

A few minutes chatting with a contact can do wonders for the relationship, helping to build a personal rapport and creating an opening for more insightful discussions than may normally happen through e-mail or instant messages. To get the most out of a phone call, be mindful to avoid locations with a lot of background noise or where the cell signal is spotty. And the temptation to make these calls while driving? Resist. It’s distracting for the other party and limits the ability to make notes about action items or follow-up questions.

In-person meetings are always a good option. Unfortunately, given the nature of today’s remote workforces, dwindling travel budgets and the sheer logistics behind assembling everyone in the same physical location, they aren’t always possible. The good news is that, with a little planning, geography doesn’t need to be a barrier to strong professional relationships.

Consider using video conferencing as a low-cost alternative to increase engagement beyond what a flurry of digital messages might support.

Video conferencing is a great solution for conducting candidate interviews and reviewing data with clients. Facial expressions come across in a way not possible via phone or e-mail, and participants feel more connected to others in the meeting. Many platforms also provide add-on functionality, such as in-frame document review, giving consultants the ability to maximize productivity while connecting with peers, clients and candidates in real time.

Get to know business partners as people

Remember that behind every executive, job candidate and organization contact is a person with aspirations and interests. Even the most mundane digital interactions can be made more human by tapping into what drives other people’s daily lives.

  • Has a candidate recently relocated? A quick e-mail with links to top-rated nearby restaurants or information about recreational activities will make them feel welcome and more connected.
  • Did a client mention a hobby? Inquire about how they became interested in it or make a note of the time of year it starts to occupy their time (skiing in winter, school athletics in the fall, etc.).

It isn’t necessary to look like a stalker—a brief discussion about shared interests is all it takes for candidates and clients to see their search consultant as an individual, rather than a generic business contact.

Make time for better connections

When it actually occurs, face time with a search candidate or client firm is too often muddled by a frenzy of introductions or trying to fit as many people into a limited schedule as possible. When attending onsite meetings, industry conferences or network events, consultants should identify those individuals whose personal attention is most valued and carve out time for a genuine discussion. Does the candidate have time for a one-on-one lunch? Would the client like to attend a late afternoon ball game? It isn’t about offering them a perk. Instead, these brief chunks of time should focus on cutting through the noise that hampers an authentic back-and-forth so that a meaningful connection beyond the digital world can be formed and maintained.

Read more: Communicating in the New Normal: Digital Body Language with Erica Dhawan