When viewed in the context of actions that comprise the daily business activities of most people in the workforce, communication—whether spoken, written, or practiced through listening; internal or external—consumes most of what we do. “Back in the day,” speed of communication exchange held nowhere near the significance it does today, given the burgeoning growth over the past 20 years in enhanced communication devices, e.g., cell phones, that enable SMS (short message service) text messaging. In 1997, Nokia became the first mobile phone manufacturer to produce a cell phone with a full keyboard; today, it is unthinkable to have a cell phone without one. The more than 6 billion text messages sent each day, in the US 2015 Forrester study, are a testament to the communication norm that text messaging has become. Speed matters. CTIA, a wireless industry trade group, offers that the average person responds to a text in 90 seconds; for email, it is 90 minutes.
Enhanced Communication Devices—A Business Asset
In business, speed to results is a form of competitive advantage. A mobile phone in the palm of a hand, a short message typed on its keypad or touchscreen, to send or request information, and a quick response makes things happen. The network of communication that comprises organizations, if viewed from a digital perspective, is humming with SMS exchanges. Information is conveyed, decisions are made, and actions are taken, with little time wasted. If it were not for the convenience and quick rate of information exchange between people that are texting offers, reliance on email, phone calls, or meeting in person could add delays that show up on the bottom line—missed opportunities, or decisions made and actions taken with incomplete input, could cost millions.
Enhanced Communication Devices—A Business Liability
The “anytime, anywhere” culture of texting poses a challenge for businesses, in the name of productivity. The fact that there are now four generations in the workforce, for the first time ever, raises the question of how younger generations that came into the world with access to texting, and older generations, now reaping a benefit they did not have early in their careers, apply the ease of access and silent nature of texting to work-only use. Studies abound of the impact of Millennials on organizational culture, a part of which includes their innate comfort with enhanced communication devices for conducting their personal and professional lives; yet, a poll conducted by USA Today indicates that the average adult spends 23 hours per week texting. How much of that time includes cumulative hours in the office that is not work-related?
The Answer Lies In Managing Your Communication Network
The advances in modern technology that enable enhanced communication devices to move information from one person to others, instantaneously, will continue to accelerate. The network of communication that defines a business should, and must, leverage this technology, or they will be left behind. In its current form, texting offers that advantage. In the same breath, it is also true that the pervasive nature of communication by texting encourages a communication network expansion that strays beyond a business-only boundary for those at work. Whatever math may be applied to calculating the cost of lost productivity due to workers sending or receiving text messages that are not business-related will only result in a number that unfavorably impacts the bottom line.
In many companies, email is regulated to an extent where personal emails during working hours are either off limits or monitored. I have not encountered a company where the same is true for texting, though they may exist. The point is, the growing prevalence in the work place of enhanced communication devices and the associated cultural implications of a communication network exploding with digital conveyance need to be managed. Left unattended, your bottom line may be the topic of a text you would prefer never received.