Avoid losing face
While the internet has created great networking opportunities for businesses and individuals, the value of face-to-face communication should not be forgotten. Some critics argue that the use of technology is causing people to lose their interpersonal or soft skills, both in terms of external networking and communicating with their colleagues.
Since most business communication has migrated online, such critics believe a static workforce has been created, one that is losing confidence, dynamism and the tangential benefits of real human contact. In a knowledge-based economy, it is a high-risk strategy for individuals to neglect person-to-person connections. Companies should help their staff to learn to network more effectively, both in person and online.
E-mail should be no substitute for human contact and companies should develop their staff's softer skills, as there are gains to be made whether within or outside the organisation. Staff who are isolated by e-mail can become a threat to an employers' competitiveness, so offering formal training in networking skills is of benefit to both companies and the individuals concerned.
Introductions via technology can be a good starting point, but professional relationships are often cemented in person. If you want your business to succeed, sooner or later you'll need to meet the people you would like to turn into clients or staff.
You should also not underestimate the need to get people together physically to create the required trust and common understanding necessary in business.
Marc Burrage, regional director, Hays in Hong Kong