There is one thing that is evidently clear to me: if we are to attract talent we must develop an organization that appeals to the younger generation. Very few organizations are ahead of the curve when it comes to meeting the needs of their employees. Most are reactive in nature. The organization of the future will be one that anticipates the needs of its employees far before it ever reaches a suggestion box. We want to be that type of organization.
With this intention in mind, not too long ago I sat with our younger generation in the office to understand their needs going forward. In trying to understand their needs, there was one thing that became very apparent to me: their methods of communication had far surpassed the methods deployed in the organization. Their desire to “chat” using mobile devices now presents us with a unique opportunity to improve business communication going forward. And it is an opportunity we intend to grab.
When I joined the workplace in 1993, email was not in place. The preferred method of business communication was the facsimile (fax). Relationship management was largely about face-to-face meetings and phone calls. Even relationships with the opposite gender were formed over the phone. My own personal experience was very similar. My romantic escapade with my girlfriend, who is now my wife, was largely a telephone experience. There was no email, no skype, no facebook, no whatsapp and no BBM. There was the phone and the personal human interaction. The world was a simpler place. As email began to become the preferred method of communication, Microsoft began to dominate desktops and devices such as the Blackberry came to the forefront. Now, a decade and half later, both Blackberry and Microsoft have lost their dominance and one doesn’t have to look too far to verify this. My own children use Apple computers and iPhones. Windows is unfashionable and Blackberrys are for the retired.
Over a year ago, I recall reading that Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook had predicted that email would die. Having closely observed the “younger” generation and the older generation, I can see why Zuckerberg is truly a genius. Kids loathe email. They feel no dire necessity to answer each and every email like we do. After all there is an alternative that is quicker, less formal and more fun. And that is chat. There are various chat platforms out there: Whatsapp, BBM, Facebook and Snapchat to name a few. Is there a need to standardize on one? I would say no. It’s quite normal for the younger generation to wake up in the morning and have a few messages awaiting them on multiple platforms. So if we are to be an organization of the future, among other things, we must wholeheartedly welcome chat. On the contrary, we must not only welcome it, we must encourage it. And there is no need to be obsessed about picking one platform. This is not the 90s when we had to choose between Microsoft and Apple. This is a new century, where choice is welcomed.
There are many negatives to chat, including privacy and security issues, but organizations that continue to hang on to these concerns will be left behind. Just looking at my communication methods with my friends and direct reports – I chat with them: some using BBM, some using whatsapp and some using iMessage (have not quite moved on to snapchat yet!). So one really has to question what is the purpose of email if chat technology allows us to send attachments, photos and even videos to one another. It’s a good question and one we will have to answer sooner as opposed to later. For the time being, at ESG we will not only chat, we will chat like never before.
PS: don’t forget to add those emojis every so often