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What Makes Human Relationships Irreplaceable in the Digital Age

Monday, July 10, 2017

Human relationships are at the very core of virtually everything we do.
There is hardly a person on this planet that is not touched by some kind of human relationship. The qualities that define human relationships defy reduction to data points. Human relationships are based on deeply felt trust, belonging, and connectedness with others. Such feelings simply do not compute.

These qualities of the human experience cannot be synthesized into charts and graphs with analytics tools. They are what drive human innovation and engagement the world over. In fact, without trust, a sense of belonging, or connectedness with others, we wouldn’t have any recognizable cultures or societies.

Indeed, we wouldn’t have relationships at all.

So, what are these qualities and why are they of prime importance to us? How do they make human relationships irreplaceable in the Digital Age?
Join us as we explore these questions and attempt to answer them.


One of the most fundamental aspects of human relationships, trust is the glue that connects us with one another. At its core, trust is about being able to count on another person to fulfill a promise, honor an agreement, or do the right thing when presented with a moral dilemma.

Without trust, few relationships survive very long. Even the most dysfunctional relationships involve an element of trust rooted in knowing what the other person is likely to do.
In the absence of trust, there is little to hold us together.

The Role of Feelings 

Feelings are the barometers of our inner worlds, shaping our awareness and informing us about others in a way not possible with mere logic, reason, or analytics.

Logic and reason render human relationships as two-dimensional drawings, empty representations of the facts. Without feeling, the graph is meaningless.

Feelings are part of what make human relationships irreplaceable. We love our visual data and statistics and the logic used to create them, but we place supreme value on our feelings. Without them, we would no longer be human.

The Need for Human Interaction

We humans are social by nature. We have a fundamental need to interact with other human beings. When we are deprived of human interaction, we quickly descend into mental illness, even insanity.

Why is that? Human interaction, and by extension, human relationships are a fundamental human need. We may love the camaraderie of our favorite MMORPG, but nothing compares to seeing an old friend or hugging a loved one.

No matter how far the Digital Age takes us with new technologies, we will still crave physical human contact. It’s what makes human. Indeed, it's what makes human relationships irreplaceable. 

The Importance of Touch

The keystone to human relationships is touch. In an article in Psychology Today, Ray Williams, President of Ray Williams Associates, says that scientific research has correlated physical touch with decreased violence, greater trust between individuals, improved well-being, and other benefits.

The importance of touch cannot be over-emphasized. It is the fulcrum upon which our most meaningful human relationships balance. Without touch, we lose an important dimension of human experience that connects us with others. Not even millions of followers on Facebook or Instagram can begin to compare with the power of touch and its central role in human relationships.     


We desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves, and human relationships provide us with that opportunity. Through our relationships, we experience a deep sense of belonging that is based on being accepted by others and our own acceptance of them. 

Social media may promote a deep sense of belonging through connecting with (thousands of) others, but it has fallen far short. In a recent NPR Shots article, Holly Shakya, Assistant Professor in the Division of Global Health at UC San Diego, says, "What we know at this point is that we have evidence that replacing your real-world relationships with social media is detrimental to your well-being."  

Social media may try to replace physical human relationships, but it is doomed to fail. Only genuine, physical human relationships can provide a lasting, deeply meaningful sense of belonging. 


David Bornstein, writer for the NY Times, mentions Director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self Sherry Turkle and her book Alone Together in a discussion of significant increases in loneliness. As of 2004, one in four Americans shared that they had no one with whom to discuss important matters.

While some futurists praise the technological advances of the Digital Age, few seem to be paying attention to the long shadow it’s casting on human relationships. It would seem that, the more we are involved with Internet-based relationships, the lonelier we get. 

Social Media

Facebook is a towering social media leviathan, with nearly 2 billion users as of May 2017. Then there are Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, plus many others. 

In an ironic twist, some research has shown a correlation between greater social media status and declining mental health, including lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Unironically, one of the most effective ways to reach out to someone with social media addiction is to physically be there for them, spending time with them and offering them support.

The idea is to replace the time they would otherwise spend on social media with quality physical time working out or just hanging out. 

What Does the Future Hold? 

While no one can accurately predict the future, we know many things will change, and life in the distant future will be very different from today. In the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots may be an integral part of our lives, with some even conversing with us as though they, too, were human. They may even be programmed to love us as though they were human. But, no matter how close AI can come to mimicking human thoughts and behavior, no matter how life-like robots become, they will still be technological marvels, and nothing more. A hundred years from now, we will still yearn for and seek out relationships with other humans.

Why annual reviews fail and how continuous feedback succeeds

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Why companies are doing away with the annual performance review

The Annual Performance Review is almost universally hated by managers and employees. For decades, it has been the tool of choice for evaluating the performance of employees and their overall value to the company.

Research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), found that 77% of HR executive believe that performance reviews don't accurately reflect employee contributions. Rose Mueller-Hanson, HR Practice Leader at CEB, says that "Our research shows that individual performance ratings have absolutely zero correlation with actual business results."

This blog post talks about how the Annual Performance Review has failed...and what has emerged to take its place. We'll also share some insights that can be used to help your company make your performance reviews more relevant and less hated.

How 3 Companies Are Redefining Performance Management

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What GE, Adobe, and Google are doing to redefine performance management and how to apply their strategies to your business

The Annual Performance Review is widely loathed. Josh Bersin, an HR analyst and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, says, "Our research shows that more than 70% of all organizations dislike the process they have, and I have yet to talk with an employee or manager who likes it at all..." As more companies move to an agile business model, HR must move to toward a continuous performance management strategy that provides employees with ongoing, actionable feedback.

This article covers what three companies have done to redefine their HR performance management strategies and the results they have seen. We'll also show how you can use what these other companies have done to help you redefine the performance management strategy for your business.

How 360 Feedback Software Solutions Address Performance Management Challenges

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

360º feedback is a powerful HR Performance Management (HRPM) tool that can be difficult to implement and maintain. Software innovations in HRPM provide software solutions that aim to make 360º feedback much easier to work with. It is important to understand what 360º feedback is and its limitations before choosing a software solution. An effective 360º feedback software solution should be easy to implement, configure, and use. It should also provide user access management and customizable performance management tools. Moreover, 360º feedback software should also preserve the anonymity of individual reviewers while delivering aggregated data in formats that are easy to understand. Finally, an effective software solution should be able to quickly adapt to changing business needs.  

Conducting Performance Management the Right Way

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Invest in your best asset: your employees

Engaged and satisfied employees are at the core of every successful company. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. What does perplex and stall many organizations is how to best capture and manage employee engagement and performance. For decades we have been striving to do this, with varying success.

"A lot of our performance management systems don't do a really good job of capturing ideas or insights...They capture hours or things that come off an assembly line, and the world just doesn't work that way anymore." - Brian Kropp - HR Practice Leader, CEB, The 3 Performance-Management Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

The Role Communication Plays in Driving Employee Engagement

Monday, February 13, 2017

Your organization may have all sorts of innovative programs in place to boost employee engagement, but do you capitalize on the simplest yet most effective technique of all - communication?

There's no doubt that communication is key in terms of employee engagement - get it right and the results will include improved performance, increased employee engagement, and ultimately organizational growth. When employees are fully engaged they're much more likely to show the commitment and loyalty that's needed for a strong, forward-moving business. 

An employee who understands strategic business objectives and goals (not only at a high level, but also where they fit in to the bigger picture), is going to be a much more engaged, motivated, and high-performing one. Here are some of the ways your organization can use communication to boost employee engagement

Why You Should Always be Documenting One-on-One Meetings

Monday, February 6, 2017
Whatever your organization's employee performance management system, it shouldn't simply be a once yearly event.

Regular one-on-one meetings throughout the year are essential to keep up the momentum of performance improvement, though the one-on-one can often be seen as the formal annual appraisal's poorer cousin. This can lead to planned meetings being missed out if something 'more important' crops up, but it's important to recognize just how valuable they are.

Employee Engagement and The Importance of Clarifying Roles

Thursday, January 26, 2017


No matter how big or small a business is, employees should always be given the tools to completely understand their role, not only on an individual scale but also how their role fits into the overall structure of the business and organizational strategy. 

You may think that as long as employees have a job description they can refer to they will be OK, but they need more than that to really understand where their role sits. They may well know what their function is and what their day-to-day responsibilities are, but what about where they fit in the grand scheme of things? How do they impact the success of the business as a whole? What role do they play in achieving organizational goals?

Here are some of the reasons having a clear understanding of their role is so important in terms of employee engagement.