When you miss out on face-to-face communication for so long, you realize just how powerful in-person interactions are until you experience them again.
I’ve been to India over three dozen times.
Pre-pandemic, I would fly to Delhi a couple times each year to visit our operating center in the nearby city of Noida.
On these routine visits, I would meet with the team, acknowledge their good work, and sit down to strategize with COO Samrat Malakar and our senior leadership.
Then COVID-19 hit.
For nearly 2 years, flights to and from India were not possible.
During that time, Empaxis US and India communication was exclusively digital. Despite geographic distances, we stayed well connected, always the press of a button away for a Teams call.
That’s all great, but for a prolonged period without in-person communication, you miss a lot.
Travel restrictions to India were lifted earlier this year and I immediately planned my return, but a broken foot delayed travels and I spent an entire summer rehabbing.
Fast forward to December 2022, foot on the mend, I returned to India for the first time in three years.
Between 2019 and 2022, so much has happened at Empaxis:
With all this in mind, I couldn’t wait to return.
My first stop in India was Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the site of our second and newest office.
This was my first visit, and I was so impressed: the facility itself, the Empaxis decor, our team members, and their warm welcome.
It was a wonderful experience being greeted with a red marking on the forehead, known as tilak in Hindi (teeka in Bengali, the main language of Kolkata and surrounding region).
In Indian culture, the tilak symbolizes well wishes, good fortune, and a positive energy to be shared with everyone. Tilak on display, I felt that positive energy with the team.
And this is why meeting in person can’t be beat:
These were all things we missed so greatly the last 3 years.
The next stop on my visit was Noida, near Delhi.
If I had to claim one place in India as home, it’s Noida.
Our first and main operations facility is there, and that’s where I have stayed for my 36+ visits to India. Additionally, our longtime senior staff and team members I’ve known for many years are in Noida.
So, being gone for 3 years, returning there felt like a homecoming.
To see them again and meet with a warm embrace, it felt like reconnecting with family.
And being greeted by the team with another tilak welcome, it was great!
We’ve spent a lot of time together over the years in professional and non-work settings, and as Founder and CEO, I feel so blessed to have such loyal team members.
Their dedication has given me the privilege to be part of their lives in some way. They’ve been with Empaxis for so many years that I’m lucky enough to see their children grow up and even be called “Uncle Stephen” by them.
While I enjoy sharing with you my travels, the main reason I share my India visit with you is so that:
Fresh off an in-person visit with the team after a 3-year gap, here are some of the main takeaways from the importance of face-to-face communication:
Teams and Zoom calls can go only go so far. Computer and phone screens block the emotion and nonverbal cues you normally observe when meeting face-to-face.
But when you meet in person, you're taking in all the cues as you observe their reactions and emotions.
In a business setting, it gives you a better sense when team members agree or disagree with something you say. Based on those cues, you know how to respond most appropriately.
When meeting with leadership and making important decisions, in-person communication gives you full understanding of those you're working with and a better chance at reaching consensus.
When meeting online, especially in large groups, there are factors that work against engagement:
While we've made the most through digital communication, we know how much we benefit being together.
Speaking with the team individually or in a group, I see them and they see me. Nobody is tuned out, conversing with others, or working on another task.
We're all focused.
Whether they've known me for years or met me for the first time, all of us feel more connected after being together.
We are all working towards the same goal: delivering a world-class operation for investment managers.
To know personally the people you are with on that journey, you feel more committed to that goal.
It's one thing to acknowledge your team on a video call, but to individually recognize team members in front of their colleagues, you see the positive emotions and how it builds confidence, motivating the team to accomplish bigger and better things.
When Empaxis is together, be it for work or social activities, these interactions increase one's accountability to the other.
Nobody wants to let their team down, especially when they personally interact with their colleagues and supervisors.
All of us have an interest in the well-being of Empaxis, and when we think about our team members whom we respect and care about, it motivates us to do the best we can.
Of all my trips to India, this recent visit is one of the most rewarding.
Being away for 3 years, I realize how much I've missed being together with the team in person.
Not only that, I see how necessary those face-to-face interactions have been over the years.
The team and I have built trust and a greater sense of commitment to each other.
In turn, these positive interactions lead to increased engagement, higher productivity, and longer employee tenures. Our clients benefit tremendously from this.
So, if you're an investment manager and considering Empaxis, you see the benefits of working with an operations outsourcing provider that stays well connected, both digitally and personally.
I leave India knowing our company culture, values, and goals are strengthened, and I look forward to my next visit soon enough!