The business world is rapidly changing. Mobile devices, cloud computing, the retirement of Baby Boomers and the influx of Millennials are all having an impact on the way organizations communicate internally and with their customers. The new Apple devices hitting the market will only accelerate this. There may be no “I” in team, but every team has someone with an iPhone, iPod or, coming soon, iWatch (or call it by its proper name, the Apple Watch).
Today’s businesses are struggling to keep up and despite all the latest methods of communication, frustration and inefficiency are running high. Smart business leaders realize they no longer can do things and communicate the same way they did in the past. However, they also cannot abandon best practices and common business sense and courtesy. It’s a fine balance all organizations are trying to walk.
Here are five tips to help you navigate through the communications chaos.
- Proper Email Protocol 1: Most organizations do most of their communications through email. Email has become the de-facto business tool, even for official documents. But it is also abused and not used properly, with many users simply being unresponsive. With the amount of technology at our fingertips there is no excuse not to respond within 24 hours to any business request. Employees need to understand that their “to do” list many times is their email inbox. Common business acumen always dictated a response within 24 hours—email responses are no exception. Even if you don’t have all the materials or answers, a simple “Got your note, will follow up” will suffice. The casual nature in which email is being used should not replace business acumen.
- Proper Email Protocol 2: In email, be specific in the subject line and take people off group emails when they are no longer needed in the conversation. Many subjects in emails are discussed and the conversation tends to change. When that happens, change the subject line and the folks needed to receive it to keep it focused and productive. Otherwise, not only does the email end up getting ignored or lost in the daily flow, it’s harder to retrieve and search for when needed.
- Use the Phone: If three emails have gone by on the same subject, finish the conversation via telephone. So many discrepancies can be worked out with a five-minute phone call. Also, people also can misunderstand the tone of an email very easily and once a written form of communication starts getting cantankerous, it is time to call that individual before someone puts something in writing he or she will later regret. Stop it before it gets personal.
- Leave a Detailed Message: it sounds cliché, but it is true. When you do finally have that need to move more than your fingertips and reach for the phone but get voicemail instead, leave a detailed message, starting with your name and callback number before rambling on about the purpose. “Hey it’s me, call me back,” is not good enough. Start with your name, then your contact info, then the reason why you need to speak. You will get a quicker callback and resolution and avoid confusion and unnecessary anxiety.
- Embrace Texting: That’s right. You read it here. Although emails and phone conversations are the staple of corporate communications, the new generation of employees put more emphasis on their digital social networking avenues. They prefer texting, Facebook messaging and other instant communication forms. If you want them engaged—and you should—you are going to have to reach them when and how they want to be reached. That means, to a certain degree, texting in some way, shape or form. The Millennials entering the workplace are glued to their phone but not their email. If you want an answer from them after business hours, find a way to text them.