It’s difficult to recall how the workforce operated in the pre-email era. Email has been the leading force of business communication for more than two decades, and today’s professionals spend about 6.3 hours a day sending and receiving an average of 123 emails. The vast majority of employees check their email before stepping foot in the office and many continue to monitor their inbox during weekends and vacations. Email not only facilitates work, it has become a form of work in itself. But despite its enduring reign as a workplace staple, the long-term viability of email as a primary communications platform is worth reassessing due to our nation’s changing professional demographics and the increasing functionality of “smart software.”
The newest generation entering the workforce – Generation Z, which outnumbers even millennials – clearly prefers social media, instant messaging, and texting to emails. In fact, a 2012 Pew study found that while 95% of teens had an active online presence and 81% regularly used social media, just 6% of them sent emails – and these individuals are now joining organizations en masse.
Email may someday become obsolete, and employee communications will need to adapt to our nation’s shifting workforce. Despite its endearing history and nearly inseparable connection with the surge of the World Wide Web, email is not an effective collaboration tool, and the progressively outsourced global workforce is shedding light on its numerous vulnerabilities.
For starters, inboxes have become increasingly overloaded, including a high percentage of automated messages alerting users to their new followers, upcoming travel arrangements, or recent bank transactions (not to mention spam). Even regarding legitimate professional communications, crowded CCs and BCCs make it necessary to shift through endless repetitive email chains, and sending document edits back and forth further increases the likelihood of error and confusion.
Email is also one-dimensional and simply outdated. Consider the fact that 35% of 18- to 29-year-olds flocked to social media for information about this year’s election (with news websites and apps coming in second at 18%), suggesting that, even in terms of major world events, Generation Z prefers open forums and discussions to simply being told information. Collaborative software encourages that same kind of user experience, delivering information and comments in real time while inviting responses from numerous users. All data is easily accessible and searchable. As a bonus, these platforms are incredibly intuitive for most of the workforce regardless of industry, thanks to their familiarity with similar consumer-based product tools.
Mobile performance is another essential function of future platforms, as mobile devices continue to outpace computer sales and more and more workers are conducting work-related tasks on their smartphones and tablets. We have already started to see glimpses of new collaborative technology peer through our personal mobile devices – smarter, more intuitive augmented intelligence, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. These burgeoning technologies can discern the meaning and context of what we want to say or what we are searching for and complement it with such visuals as emojis, photos, or videos.
Technological business solutions are typically designed to assist the end user in one of three ways: help them complete a task themselves, do it with them, or do it for them automatically. Truly innovative software strives for the latter whenever possible. Augmented intelligence is now being primed to provide predictive auto-respond messages, which could completely transform not only emails but the entire communications landscape. These prognostic solutions draw from past interactions and can increase the productivity of digital workers by decreasing unnecessary distractions.
Today’s leaders have access to the data, tools, and smart software necessary to proactively manage their people and perform essential business functions with less effort than ever before, often on mobile sites or apps that can be accessed 24/7. HR software, for example, has evolved from basic payroll and attendance tracking to include comprehensive collaboration tools, social recruiting, data tracking, and predictive analytics.
Some even offer the familiar feel and functionality of social media while delivering immediate access to real-time company information and human capital reporting, promoting both awareness and engagement. Employees can directly access their personal pay, benefits, and performance information at their convenience, and predictive analytics allow HR managers to gauge everything from potential retention risks to future top producers. Finally, advanced employee-survey solutions can now analyze open-ended feedback, measure how people truly feel about their work, and help improve communication among teams.
It’s clear that companies wanting to remain competitive and attract the best talent must deliver technology that empowers real-time collaboration, is mobile-optimized, and makes life simpler for the end user. For Generation Z, which grew up with smartphones and sees new iterations of apps continually rolling out to address every need, technology that naturally integrates into and helps them do their job is simply expected. A recent national survey conducted with The Center for Generational Kinetics even found that one-third of American employees said they would quit their jobs if the technology they had to use was outdated – and this number is likely to increase as Generation Z further populates the workforce.
The best approach for implementation is to use software that is accessible to the entire organization and helps people with their needs, whatever those may be. Collaborative tools and relationships with LinkedIn, Yammer, and other professional-based sites are an added bonus that fosters engagement and adds to the ease of use. Implementation is always a process, but once you’ve obtained software advantages, it then becomes a process of staying on top of the latest tools and watching out for points of integration while enjoying increased productivity.
The more software we have to automatically assist us with necessary tasks, the better. Just imagine it: our world … without email.
This article was written by CIO Central Guest from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.