Note to internal communicators: We’re drawn to human faces even before birth

New research with third-trimester fetuses indicates that we are drawn to human faces, even before we’re born. Scientists in the U.K. used light to shine patterns of red dots into the womb while observing babies’ reactions. When the patterns represented human faces, the babies responded by moving their heads to keep watching the “faces.”

In internal communications, we talk frequently about the power of face-to-face interactions. When CEOs and other leadership show up in person — at offices across the world or the manufacturing floor or in a retail location — they’re able to build a stronger human connection with employees. When employees in far-flung locations or different business units are able to meet face to face, they find it easier to collaborate with each other later, even if it’s via email or phone.

But actual face-to-face interactions aren’t always feasible, especially for large workplace populations. That’s why we look for technology and other methods to reap some of those benefits without actual proximity.

For instance, a streaming Town Hall can allow employees all over the globe to hear what the leadership team has to say. When those are held monthly or quarterly, that human connection (as well as important information about the company’s achievements and plans for the future) can be reinforced over time.

At Tribe, we often use video to bring that human connection to life. For one client we do a series of monthly videos that give employees a chance to see the faces of their leadership team — and hear them discussing a wide range of topics, from values and vision to acquisitions and business strategies. A headshot on the company website can’t build that connection in the same way.

We also urge our clients to invest in photography of real employees doing their jobs. The objective is to show the people doing the real work of the company in a way that makes them look heroic. Employees respond to people like them being treated like celebrities — but they also respond to seeing those real faces.

This recent research indicates that our attraction to faces is innate. By the time the babies in this study are old enough to be employees, internal communications may be using holograms or telepathy rather than video and photos. But my money is on human faces continuing to be a unifying force in employee engagement.

Interested in building human connections with your internal communications? Tribe can help.

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