Updated: Jan 19
When futuristic movies were made in the 80’s or 90’s depicting what our time now would be like, everything on screen was completely digital - there were flying cars and robots everywhere. While our present system of things doesn’t look quite like what screen writers had predicted, it’s not that far off from the truth.
We are undeniably living in a digital world, a world that is run by emerging or advancing technologies. Digital technologies probably affect more aspects of our lives than we’re aware of. Think of the computer you use for work, or the smartphone you’re probably on right now.
With many companies also undergoing a digital transformation recently, it’s imperative that we don’t lose our “humanness” while conducting business in a virtual world. July’s program of Cadence: Keeping business human in a digital world tackled important topics such as how to build strong connections and how to maintain a positive work environment in an online setting.
Cadence is a new monthly series organized by ACE Virtual Events and beedance, created for professionals in the events, marketing, and communication industries, or for anyone who wants to know more about how to navigate their business in a virtual era. Ideally, experts in these areas are invited to come and share their best advice with the audience. For the July program, our panelists were Ashleigh Vogstad, Suzanne Kelly, and Jeff Baietto.
Panelists at our Cadence event
Ashleigh Vogstad is the CEO of Transcends - Channel Partner Marketing. Ashleigh founded Transcends on a passion for people and is a strong advocate for diversity in technology. Transcends is a digital marketing agency that accelerates growth for B2B tech companies from startups to Fortune 100's like Microsoft, Adobe and NTT across Asia Pacific and North America. Ashleigh actively supports the entrepreneurial business community with a position on Microsoft's Geo Expansion council and as a board member for Redfund Capital, an accelerator of global wellness brands.
Suzanne Kelly is a Founder at Acquisition Intelligence, LLC. Her years spent as a recruiter taught her the hiring process inside and out. She understands business and leadership. As a Chief Talent Advisor, she curates unbiased referencing for C-suite executives. When companies select their top-tier candidates, they can’t accurately assess a candidate’s soft skills, work ethic, or integrity. With her proprietary method for unbiased referencing, she finds out if a candidate is exactly who they say they are even before they interview. Suzanne uses her 20+ years in recruiting and her human touch to vet high-profile executives.
Finally, Jeff Baietto is the COO & Co-Founder of InJoy Global - a company aligned with his personal mission to help as many people as possible live the life of their dreams. He is also Host of the InJoy Success Podcast. Jeff has a Master's in Spiritual Psychology and a background in the video game industry, along with years of experience in executive coaching and personal development. Jeff’s experience, stories, and overall energy will make it clearer than ever that no matter where you are in your life or what change you want to create for yourself… YOU CAN DO IT.
Our incredible lineup of speakers spoke about keeping business human by using different communication channels to create good business practices, focusing on people development by challenging them and accepting feedback, and honing the right qualities to establish new connections.
Making use of different communication channels
Effective business communication is crucial to any company or business to foster good working relationships and to boost overall morale. Business managers know this and, as a result, some make use of as many communication channels as possible. However, the mediums they use to communicate with their employees could prove to be ineffectual if they don’t take the time to truly know their team.
Asleigh Vogstad mentioned that there is a richness in making use of different communication channels, but it’s also important to recognize that there is a fundamental difference among each of them.
For example, digital and face-to-face are completely different, so one recommendation she offered for using digital mediums is to always have your video on.
In her role as CEO of Transcends, Ashleigh aims to create meaningful impact and accomplish change. The only way she can do that is by creating motivation and excitement among her team.
She advised that when you’re limited to virtual experiences, turning your camera on and interacting with others is the best method to get your message across.
Although Transcends was founded on a remote work culture, Ashleigh stated that before the pandemic, they put a lot of effort into prioritizing face-to-face events. She made it a goal to meet with each of her employees on a quarterly basis. Since the pandemic made that impossible, they continued with face-to-face meet-ups for people living in the same region, and weaved in a digital component to bring all teams together virtually.
Focusing on people development
Jeff Baietto argued that when it comes to change and communication, a lot of organizations are doing it wrongly. He compared creating a culture to building a muscle. You can’t expect to work out for one day and be in shape the rest of the year. Similarly, you can’t have one event or one training and expect to create lasting motivation and impact.
Just as companies focus on their structure and accountability for other important areas in business, such as marketing, sales, or operations, Jeff states that the same should be done for their people development. One of the problems he notices with hosting one or two events is that there is a huge disconnect.
To encourage deeper engagement and communication, leaders need to understand four main things about their employees. People need to feel:
1. Valued. Lack of value is the biggest complaint on surveys by employees of large companies. It’s important that employees feel valued by their leaders.
2. Connected. Whether it’s digital or face-to-face, employees attend company events, but many don’t feel connected to the people around them. Fostering those connections is crucial to the success of a business.
3. Like they’re part of a mission. Employees need to feel that, regardless of their role, they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
4. That they’re growing. Employees want to grow professionally and personally. They want to become better versions of themselves, so it’s vital for companies to create an environment that brings out the best in people.
Using challenges and accepting feedback
The way Jeff’s company, InJoy Global, ensures they offer their employees what they’re looking for is by using challenges. They provide simple, practical ways in which everyone in the organization, from the CEO to the person who’s starting their first day, can develop values that are really important to the company, values such as good customer service, emotional intelligence elements, and leadership behaviors.
He states that when organizations do this, they immediately become part of that very small percentage of companies that people want to work for. This is what makes employees want to go to work. It’s a different approach and it works for companies of all sizes.
When Steve Boyce asked him if he has to explicitly explain to the participants the purpose of the challenges, so there’s no doubt in people’s mind that it’s a driving force for change, Jeff said that it is important to be truthful. He explained that it doesn’t matter how good the platform or technology is, if it gets rolled out poorly, it’s going to have a very low chance of success.
However, if employees feel that they are being heard and that they have a say in whether the tools used are going to be kept or removed moving forward, they are more open to trying it. Knowing that their honest feedback is valuable is a motivator for them to accept those challenges.
Key qualities leaders need to develop
Suzanne Kelly’s advice on how to get people to accept change is by having impeccable communication and showing empathy. Since she works in what is called forensic referencing, she connects with senior executives all around the world. In her role of vetting executives, she is mindful and respectful of other people’s cultures.
Since she only has around 7 seconds to connect with someone before they lose interest, she has to get them to earn her trust and to stay on the phone and listen to her. She does this by being clear and concise and approaching them in a friendly manner. Although Suzanne says there are many variables to her success, the key in accomplishing that connection and establishing trust is to make it all about the other person.
Of course, at the start of a conversation, she has to introduce herself and state her reason for calling, but she never makes it about herself. Suzanne acknowledges them and ensures she does her research on the candidate before making contact. Once she brings what she knows about the person into the conversation, it becomes a game changer.
Other important qualities to establish trust quickly involve being as transparent and authentic as possible, without divulging confidential information. Once she gets a candidate to start listening to her, she then moves on to breaking the ice by asking them questions that will invite them to tell stories. Suzanne pointed out that people love talking about themselves and they love when others show interest. Using her methods, Suzanne boasts about a 90% success rate.
Suzanne’s best advice on connecting with someone who is new and establishing trust quickly boiled down to using clear and concise communication, infusing empathy into the equation, acknowledging people, and being as transparent and authentic as possible.
Building trust through digital means
When Steve asked the panelists what advice they have on establishing trust through technology and digital means, Ashleigh shared that at Transcends, they’re always looking for creative ways to break down barriers. She mentioned that every couple of weeks, they host a session called “Digital Freedom”, a cultural session that focuses on a different theme each time.
During these sessions, Transcends employees are asked really personal questions that aim at getting to know them on a deeper level. For example, they’re asked to relate their most fearful experiences and how they overcame them, and people can choose to share as much as they want. Ashleigh recounted that it’s amazing what people choose to share, and she thinks that is a huge way to build meaningful relationships.
From a transparency perspective, Transcends is also structured in a way where employees have full access to internal finances across the organization. Their clients are also aware of all their fees and commissions. With their digital-first organization, Ashleigh stated that being transparent was their best way of building trust and facilitating empathy both with their clients and their team.
Jeff’s perspective was that providing challenges in a fun and easy way was the best method to get people to look forward to getting things done. Jeff believes in using gamification to motivate people to get important tasks out of the way quickly. He also shared that one positive thought in the morning can really shape the experience for the whole day and inspire people to stay focused.
Suzanne’s take was to be patient and to invest time in getting to know more about the other person. She also spoke about the importance of being grateful for the things we have. She admitted that the pandemic gave her a new perspective and she doesn’t dwell on minor problems anymore.
Cadence in business
The Cadence series is always centered around human connection and engagement. The speakers at the July episode did an amazing job interacting with the audience and keeping the attendees intrigued throughout the entire event. The panel shared well observed tips on how to keep business human by making use of different communication channels, focusing on people development, and developing qualities such as empathy and authenticity when establishing new connections.
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