It’s not unusual in the modern office for people to describe an email or text exchange with the same terminology used for a live conversation. I often have to take a moment and clarify the distinction with my employees. When I ask, “did you speak to him” …or the related question, “what did he say”, I’m referring to an actual oral conversation. But I’m learning. And I’m getting comfortable with the fact that more and more of our business communications are occurring in a digital format.
That said, it’s important for organizations to train their employees on the preferred methods for conducting business communications with people inside and outside the office. It not only impacts the accuracy and efficiency of the deliverable (whether an exchange of information or the performance of a service), it makes employees more confident, as well.
A misperception among some (er, more seasoned) managers is that this is a generational issue. Those damn kids and their smartphones don’t know how to have a conversation. Well, I’m not a Millennial, but I can attest to the fact that members of all the major groups are defaulting to the digital platform. For the record, as a member of GenX I feel like I can empathize with both sides of the divide.
It’s often thought that the GenY workers possess intuitive digital skills, while older generations have to learn how to adapt the technology to the traditional communication methods they were taught. The reality is a bit more nuanced.
The business organization is in a constant race for greater efficiency and technology has always been the driver of that effort. Email, text, and instant chat are merely the latest iterations of business communication tools – just as the cell phone, fax, and conference call were 20 years ago. Thankfully, we’re finally reaping the benefit of cheap video communications, as well.
Based on a several surveys of Millennial workers (as well as more experienced employees), an important factor in choosing where to work is how up-to-date the employers’ digital platform is. People don’t want to work with old technology – they want to have access to at least the same level of connectivity they get from their smartphones. Even more, they want to work for organizations that value fast adaptation of new technologies in their business processes and strategy. But these surveys also indicate a need for more training.
New and experienced people alike are open to receiving training on how to use the tools. Not just functions but methods. This is where our focus as managers must be. Never assume that your well-educated, tech savvy employees can effectively communicate with their coworkers and customers. Provide them with the benefit of teaching them how to convey and receive information in the best way for your business.
The first lesson should be on deciding when a live conversation is better than a digital exchange. The rule of thumb we follow is to email/ text when the information requested can be conveyed in one sentence and there’s no ambiguity in the response (i.e. providing dates for a meeting). When it’s obvious that a more detailed exchange is required – we pick up the phone.
Love your Work!