How to Best Use Workplace Technologies

How to Best Use Workplace Technologies: Tips for New Professionals, Part 1

5/18/2010

Today’s college graduates are no strangers to communication technology. For over a decade, “traditional” tools of connecting people—like the land-line telephone—have been widely replaced with devices like mobile smart phones such as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Droid. New graduates are entering the workplace with a great deal of technical experience and know how. However, they may not fully appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of popular communication devices in the workplace.

Not all features of mobile communication are equal.

Unlike the “ancient” telephone—which only allowed people to speak to an individual or, at best, on a conference call—the typical cell phone offers these features plus the ability to send instant text messages, e-mail, and a variety of other types of information. Occasionally, new employees pick the wrong feature to communicate with colleagues, assuming that in any circumstance, communication via-any feature is acceptable.

When a situation is urgent; when a message is complex; when there is a conflict…

  • Pick the feature that prompts the most immediate response. Although instant messages flash “instantly” on your intended receivers screen, you can’t know if or when the message gets read - the same goes for e-mail. Moreover, responding to texts or e-mails with follow-up messages can be time-consuming. A real time exchange on a telephone call or video conference will often trump “instant” instant messages or e-mails.
  • Pick the feature that increases non-verbal cues. Discuss urgent/complex situations via telephone or video conferencing. These systems provide great insight about the situation because they allow for non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, speech rate, vocal pauses, etc. These kinds of non-verbal cues are as important as words alone in indicating the urgency or complexity of a situation.
  • Pick the feature that allows you to use natural language. Many mobile communication devices, such as instant messaging, require you to express yourself in very short messages. Users have gotten around these space limitations by adopting and creating acronyms and abbreviations for almost everything—to the point of excess. Subsequently, it can be confusing or difficult for many to pick up the urgency or finer details of your communication from an abbreviation-heavy message. To effectively discuss an urgent or complex work situation, avoid this limited method of expression by placing a phone call, with a complete, follow-up e-mail.
  • Pick the feature that makes the intent of the message and your expectations stand out. If your message is a complicated one, don’t use shorthand. Make sure you don’t leave your recipients with questions about your meaning or what’s expected of them in return. People need to know how they should respond to your message. Should they answer a question? Should they take some action? Communication via telephone or video conferencing gives you the most opportunity to clearly express your objective and what you expect in return. While a well-worded, complete e-mail message will also help deliver all of your points without interruption.

In part 2 of this “How to,” get additional advice on how to best employ new technologies in the workplace.

 

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