The power of in-person communication

The increasingly distributed and global nature of organisations means that most communications do not occur in ‘real-time'.  However the majority of business leaders consider in-person collaboration as critical to business success.The Economics Intelligence Unit (commissioned by Cisco) has published a white paper on the value of face-to-face interactions in business.  862 business leaders, representing a range of sectors and business sizes in Europe, the US and Asia Pacific were questioned about the business value of ‘in-person' (face-to-face) communication.Over three-quarters of the respondents felt that in-person communication (with colleagues, partners and customers) is critical to success, fostering improved problem resolution, creating better relationships and improving the identification of business opportunities.However, most business leaders indicated that the majority of their business interactions are ‘non-real-time' (e.g. via email) and that the absence of visual and audio cues makes it difficult to assess levels of engagement.Meanwhile, a report by communications firm RW3 suggests that employees in global businesses feel under-skilled when it comes to communicating within cross-border teams.  The 2012 Virtual Teams Survey Report - Challenges of Working in Virtual Teams summarises responses from 3,300 people based in more than 100 countries.  The respondents agree with the business leaders - the absence of visual clues makes it more difficult to collaborate and build trust.  In addition, time zone differences and cultural differences can make virtual team work challenging.  More than 40% report they had never met their colleagues face-to-face.Although the large majority of those responding conduct at least part of their work virtually only 16% had been trained to help them get the most out of virtual working.