“We’ve always taken the view that we have to physically be together from an employee perspective. People don’t work as well remotely … We want employees all in the same physical space to have more collisions. In fact, we’ve done weird things to prioritize collisions over convenience.” – Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.
“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” – Jackie Reses, Yahoo Human Resources executive vice president
Having worked in Silicon Valley for 15 years, Almost DailyBrett gets it when it comes to the Internet. It’s hard to argue with 2 billion users around the world and growing, sending 2.8 million emails every second…and that was way back in 2011.
The Internet was supposed to free us to work any place, any time in any attire (or non-attire) and contribute just as well to our employer or even obtain a degree online. The Net spawned a wide variety of new acronyms (e.g., SEO and SEM), even some that are getting outdated (e.g., HTML) and others that are gaining steam including MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.
We can digitally communicate and self-publish with a few taps with our mobile device or legacy laptops (desk tops are now so 20th Century) to anyone at anyplace at any time. We can send “selfies” of our mugs and other anatomically parts (right, Anthony Weiner?). We can also use the Internet, whether wirelessly or with the remaining wired devices, to NOT communicate with anyone at anyplace at any time.
And there lies the rub.
Back to the Future; Back to the Office?
Tony Hsieh is seen as a pioneer when it comes to delivering a “Wow” experience to Zappos customers The company name is a play off the Spanish word, Zapatos, naturally sells shoes over the web. Sounds a little dull…until you and Harvard Business Review take a deep dive into the $1 billion-plus business.
Tony (last name rhymes with Shay or Shea) follows the mantra of under-promising and over-delivering. Your shoes are supposed to arrive in three days (e.g., piece of cake for Hsieh et al.); Zappos will get your order to you in two days or less. The customer is happy…real happy. Sounds like a Pharrell Williams song. Tony is real happy too as a result of Amazon purchasing Zappos for $1.2 billion.
Zappos, located in Lost Wages, Nevada, is continuously ranked as a super place to work and has even adopted the management concept of a holacracy or a self-governing operating system; no more imperial edicts from the corner office to the great masses of unwashed employees.
And yet when you weigh the coolness factor of Zappos’ “Wow!” customer strategy and its holacracy management system, it still requires the old-fashioned show up for work and deal with your colleagues approach. Sorry no more working remotely.
What does this message say for the future?
“Public Relations helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics.” – Public Relations Professor and founder of “Public Relations Journal,” Rex Harlow
The threat posed by the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Kaplan University, Capella University, Ashford University and other online diploma mills to the traditional bricks-and-mortar universities is real. They are not constrained by space and offer an endless “long tail” to their perspective students.
In fact, you can secure your bachelor’s degree or above from these hallowed institutions. It will just be you, your online instructor and conceivably other students typing away and maybe even Skypeing from remote locations around the globe.
A few questions come to mind: What about building, enhancing and solidifying relationships? What about developing qualitative skills or the ability to interview people and describe their experiences as a result of direct interaction? What about effectively working in teams? And what about the “collisions” mentioned by Tony Hsieh?
There is no doubt that MOOCs are here to stay, and even the venerable bricks-and-mortar universities are offering their imprimaturs to one-up the University of Phoenix types. And yet neither the online courses offered by the new kids on the block nor the digital courses presented by the old guys can replicate real face-to-face communications.
This need for direct people-to-people interaction is particularly salient to public relations. The whole notion is relating to the public, particularly difficult reporters and editors. At some point, you have to meet people. You can’t just hide behind your monitor.
Some may seriously disagree with the movement to compel folks out of their pajamas, forcing them into business attire and into their vehicles for the dreaded fossil-fuel commute to the office. And waiting for them there will be colleagues, superiors, subordinates, customers, partners, distributors, butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers.
We have to deal with all of them, like it and be adept at this skill. Digital codes have transformed the world, but only to a point. We still have to learn to interact and co-exist with people, preferably in person as opposed to an impersonal email, tweet or text.