This article was originally published on Milken Institute
Human Connection: An Investment in a Future of Trust
For nearly two years, COVID-19 has kept us apart from our families, friends, and colleagues. This physical separation taught us poignant yet pragmatic lessons about maintaining connectivity.
The simple inquiry of “How are you doing?” has transformed from a routine opening line of a professional conversation into a sincere and meaningful question. We learned to take an extra minute to check in on each other’s well-being and get a true update, rather than racing to start the “work part” of the conversation. As boardroom discussions were replaced by living room video calls, parents of young children discovered shared experiences—many of us saw each other’s kids for the first time, either in family photos in the background, or when one of them wandered in during a meeting, making a more or less thoughtful contribution. Those shared experiences have made the “virtual” less synthetic and more real, adding connectivity despite the physical separation.
As we hope to emerge from the worst ravages of the pandemic, it is important to think about what we have learned. Every action we take is enhanced by the power of human connections. As business leaders, we make better decisions when we have a real connection to the people whom we depend on to implement our strategic initiatives and all those affected by these initiatives.
The pandemic gave many of us pause to reflect on what we want to achieve from life—and from work. Arrangements that were once considered “fringe,” such as working from home, have proven to be productive in the mainstream. The future belongs to organizations that learn, adapt, and combine the best of both the virtual and physical worlds, always having human connection at the center.
It has become clear that the relationship between companies and their employees must be a two-way street, with both sides articulating their needs of the other, and finding a mutually agreeable path to achieve those needs. To me, this is the most relevant lesson from the pandemic—human connections lead to a change from the “us and them” relationship between leadership and employees. At my firm, we strongly believe in an “Us and Us” model that aligns the interests of all stakeholders. To do this well, human connections and mutual understanding are crucial.
Despite facing hardships, many frontline workers have stepped up and accepted a tremendous amount of change in these last two years. Many organizations have gone through tremendous lengths to survive the economic lockdown and support their employees. Together, both parties can create a new world that is much better than what we had before. I look forward to helping build that world, both at my own firm and with all of our stakeholders.