Since 2005, the beginning of the Digital Era, change has been sweeping through the manufacturing world at a pace...
Do We Need A New CommunicationS Tool?
Did you notice that it’s harder to get answers when reaching out to people, personally and professionally?
Nowadays, we’re inundated with information, but I often can’t get questions answered, even from people we know. It’s frustrating!
We then wonder why people don’t reply or at least don’t acknowledge they received our messages.
A simple, immediate “I got it “or “I’ll get back to you” would be nice, but it doesn’t happen often. We’re waiting and waiting and send a follow-up message and get annoyed. Worse, we make up stories.
Are they ignoring me? Did I say or write something that offended them? Maybe my system isn’t working and they didn’t get my message.
From the dawn of history, communication has been fundamental to humanity. From sending smoke signals to the telegraph to texting, we’ve always needed good communication tools. With the phone, then the mobile phone, then the internet, and now social media, we thought we had it covered.
Unfortunately, not so. It seems like, depending on our age, we favor one or two types of communication tools, and those differing preferences can cause problems when either party is not willing to meet the other halfway and use the same communication method. I can’t imagine myself sending smoke signals today, or using a rotary phone for that matter, but I am “live” on so many channels almost 24/7, and I still can’t seem to get an answer to basic questions. Is it me?
Let’s look at the problem a little deeper: We have so many tools at our disposal, but we’re still lacking good communication with each other. A baby boomer trying to communicate with a millennial or a Gen Xer trying to reach a Gen Z is not always easy, especially when they don’t use the same communication channels.
Baby boomers and Gen Xers tend to favor the phone and email compared to millennials and Gen Z, who are into texting and sometimes don’t even look at their emails anymore. If you are not on some social media platforms, you may miss some communications with people who use messages on Facebook or direct message on Instagram and TikTok.
A Personal Note
When I, a Gen Xer, recently told a millennial that I would email him a contact number, he told me that emails are for older people. I’m in our family group texting with my adult children, and even when I text them, I sometimes don’t get a reaction from anyone, making me wonder if they saw my message.
Our CEO encourages us to pick up the phone or talk directly to people when team members cannot reach a client by email, or communicate effectively in the office with co-workers to avoid misinterpreting emails because of how they’re written. He says that if you get a work-related email from someone, you should respond within 24-48 hours, depending on urgency, even if you can’t answer the question or provide the information requested, and write “I’ll look into it and get back to you as soon as possible.”
I also run a nonprofit. To organize events, I either call people because they don’t look at their emails, text some others because it’s their preferred mode of communication or send an email to others because I know it's the best way to get a quick response from them. Regardless of the communication method, I seldom get answers from everyone after 48 hours.
Also, with emails, I have to ask the group to reply to me only to avoid getting chain emails and be uncertain about what was asked in the first place, as some people don’t realize they are sending their replies to the entire group. Trying to use tools like signup.com doesn’t always work because some people don’t feel comfortable using them and therefore don’t reply. It’s difficult to send information to everyone and receive responses from each person promptly.
What communications tools do you favor at work or in your personal life, and do people around you use the same ones? Are those tools working for you?
I learned that even being highly connected doesn’t matter. It’s impossible to be on every communication channel 24/7. I’ve also learned that simple is better. We’re experimenting with basic rules at work. For example:
1. IM, TXT or VM must be responded to within 4 business hours. We use them for urgent matters only.
2. All routine requests are sent via email and/or email notifications from our various systems. They must be answered within 24 business hours. We use one email per topic and only one person’s email address appears in the "To" line. (i.e., "If you’re cc’d, read later, when you can.")
The other important factors in achieving high email “open rates” and “response rates” are brevity and clarity. If the header and text preview are attractive, then you’ll get more traction. If the message is three screens deep, forget it.
My ultimate question to the tech community is: “Where is that new magical communications tool that we need now?" Has it been invented yet? I’m looking and hoping.
I hope you and your loved ones are well and staying safe.
In this post, I'd like to expand upon the recent...