The digital divide

Research from Loughborough University in 2013 revealed that ‘email stress’ is leading to health problems and reduced efficiency in business, particularly among the fastest growing segment of today’s Generation Y workforce of 18-24-year-olds.

The rise of the digital age and its addictive nature is linked to Generation Y. Employers cannot ignore the needs and attitudes of this generation as they compete for talent.

In partnership with Professor Tom Jackson, Director of the Centre for Information Management at Loughborough University, a study by Jurys Inn and CrossCountry trains, attempted to gain a better insight into how this generation communicates and how this could impact the future meetings market.

Key findings

Email is the preferred tool for communication in business, providing a quick response mechanism. The study finds a fifth of Generation Y-ers would consider handing in their notice by electronic communication rather than addressing the issue in person. Forty per cent of them confess telephone communication makes them nervous.

Despite the efficiency of email, it can have detrimental effects on productivity. Professor Jackson suggests the way employees use email to communicate is costing the average company £10,000 per employee per year.

The majority of employees (70%) react to email within six seconds of it arriving, often interrupting their current task. This has led to 76 per cent feeling they don’t have sufficient time to do their work. Yet, on average, according to the study, only 15 per cent of emails require action.

The study shows misunderstandings occur more frequently via written communication. Over two-thirds (68%) of employees said their emails are sometimes difficult to decipher, whether it be a misinterpreted tone, or rushed explanations, and could be resolved much more efficiently via telephone or face-to-face.

Should we fight for face-to-face?

Alternative means of communication, such as telephone or face-to-face meetings, not only help reduce email overload and enhance our understanding of each others’ messages but, as a study on behalf of the Business Visits and Events Partnership suggests, show that events are still essential to inform, motivate and achieve objectives. Communicating in person allows you to delve deeper into your customer needs.

Meetings.org suggests just seven per cent of communication is spoken. The other 93 per cent is made up of tone (38%) and body language (55%). By communicating primarily via email, many of these key signals can be missed and misinterpreted.

One way of achieving this is to provide training on the importance of face-to-face meetings. Our own Jurys Inn GROW Graduate scheme provides training to assist graduates when dealing with face-to-face communications with employees, while also equipping them with key negotiation skills for external communications.

Guidance on how to run efficient meetings is also paramount, helping to ensure Generation Y has the knowhow to plan a productive meeting, from setting agendas, chairing meetings as well as selecting venues.

Time for new values

In a fast-paced digital age it is important to understand the importance of taking time out of busy schedules to meet important contacts, colleagues and suppliers.

As the professor’s report has highlighted, an over-reliance on email communication can lead not only to reduced profitability but also to a redundancy of core skills required within any profession: being personable, demonstrating confidence and the ability to deal with difficult situations.

Business leaders must instil these values now and challenge how we communicate before talking to each other becomes a thing of the past.

As a Britain for Events report suggests, far from reducing the need for meetings, the proliferation of text, email and messaging has increased the value of face-to-face communication. Making messages memorable has become the greatest business challenge of the 21st century.

It is imperative that today’s business leaders take responsibility and ensure that they are leading by example.

This was first published in the December issue of CN. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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