Technology is everywhere. But the human touch still matters.

Automation customer service

Even automation needs a human touch.

That’s according to innovation and entrepreneurship expert Dan Lauer, in a recent post in Entrepreneur magazine.

Despite rapid labor shifts in several industries due to the advancement of technology—think retail and manufacturing—Lauer says recent research shows both consumers and technicians find irreplaceable value in human interactions.

Writes Lauer:

“According to the consumers who will propel future economies, the human element is still distinctly valuable. That’s not really shocking when you consider that the soft skills only humans can perform tend to have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line. At organizations with 100 employees or more, communication errors cost an average of $420,000 annually, according to Creative Communications and Training, Inc. So, knowing that even the most intelligent machines struggle with semantics, human professionals–not machines–are the ones likely to communicate and collaborate the most effectively.”

Entrepreneurs and business leaders aren’t the only ones toeing the line between technology and human interaction. America’s schools also are looking to strike a balance between technological efficiency and personal engagement. School leaders know that the human touch is invaluable, not just in how teachers teach, but in how school districts interact with and engage their communities.

Rising competition from charters and other alternatives has further underscored the need for personal service and effective personal communication.

While it’s shortsighted to make direct comparisons between public schools and private enterprise, there are some compelling parallels between the lessons many businesses have already learned and what K-12 schools are now experiencing.

Lauer recommends that entrepreneurs and business leaders take three distinct steps to ensure that empathy and human interaction remain central to their work. As new communication channels evolve, school leaders could also stand to benefit from this thinking.

1. Take a look in the mirror

Says Lauer: “Self-awareness is a big part of what makes us human…The first step in improving our self-awareness, then, is to understand honestly what we are good and bad at. That way, we can focus our efforts on turning weaknesses into strengths.”

For schools, one way to look in the mirror is to gather feedback from your community.

What do your students, parents, and staff think about the work your schools are doing? What are you doing right? What can you improve? By asking your community to give you their feedback, you can get a better sense of where you need to focus your strategic planning.

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2. Create strong action plans

Lauer says that creating action plans with measurable goals is a good way to effectively motivate organizations and employees.

Ditto for schools. A strong, well-defined, and well-considered strategic plan helps hold school leaders accountable and also gives community members insight into your goals and the reasons behind them.

The best strategic plans are built around strong community, staff, and student input. As decisions are made, school leaders should work to ensure that stakeholders are informed and that they have an opportunity to make their voices heard.

3. Keep your word—or be honest when you can’t

Instead of keeping plans private,” proclaims Lauer, “I announce them to my peers. Knowing that they’re holding me accountable motivates me to act.

Likewise, school districts should allow, even encourage, students, parents, and staff to hold them accountable through an ongoing conversation about their goals and strategies.

You may not always achieve every goal you set, but by keeping your community informed about where and why you struggled, your district will create a stronger sense of trust and loyalty among its stakeholders.

How does your school or district engage your community to build trust? Does your district put a premium on customer service? How? Tell us in the comments.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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