Friday, August 5, 2016

Communication overload

We live in a world that is so connected yet is seems that we have become disconnected.  I watch people walk around and instead of looking people in their eyes, smiling and offering a greeting they are staring at a mini screen in their hands.   I have seen people that send thousands of text messages in a day and likely do not say anything of consequence.  Companies have communication systems and tools yet the employees are not sure how they are performing or where the company is going or the company’s progress.  This process seems to be a continuum rather than a destination.  We are slowly moving down a path where we are becoming one with our technology rather than becoming one community, one family, or one company.  I would like to explore the cause of this situation and potential outcomes and offer some recommendations.

I recall my first cellular phone.  Back in the early 1990’s I had a phone installed in my vehicle.  It was so big that it had to be placed in a box in my truck.  The service was very limited but provided a great tool to stay in contact with the office when I was in range.  Over the years the technology improved and we evolved to bag phones then to the classic Motorola brick phone.  This progression helped restoration companies maintain contact with our clients and the office.  Walking around with a cell phone strapped to our hip showed that we were modern and even became a status symbol of sorts.  Being connected was a great tool.  In our 24/365 industry we were able to maintain contact with our clients, improve our service and even cut down on cycle times for projects. 

Improved cellular technology has progressed into instant email contact and messaging.  Prior to email communication every employee had an inbox or cubby in order to receive important written communication.  Now messages are transferred immediately throughout an organization.  The challenge today is that in many organizations the messages can become overwhelming and extremely time consuming.  In an effort to keep everyone in the loop and to communicate important details about projects, the company, clients, events, programs, meetings and activities, we send a message or email.  I have worked in companies where employees receive hundreds of emails every day!  There are several substantial problems with this.  The first is that important details can be lost in the clutter.  We want to be inclusive and communicate our message so that everyone is in the loop, yet we have done quite the opposite.  Personally I cannot take a vacation without taking several breaks each day to review messages.  If I wait until I return then I have an overwhelming amount of information that cannot effectively be prioritized and filtered.  As a result I review email every day – even on vacation or at family events.  If an employee gets over one hundred emails every day it is easy to see how an important detail can be overlooked in message number 62.  The additional concern with the sheer volume of emails in most companies is the time that it takes to review and comment if necessary on the messages.  Most management employees are spending an hour, or potentially substantially more time, each day with electronic communication.  This is significant if you think that this is 15-20% of your available time each day.  When this adds to efficiencies then this is not a problem.  The problem starts to occur when the time spent reviewing communication takes away from knowledge transfer or simply adds to the tasks and responsibilities for your staff. 

Look for a continuation of this article in the September issue of Cleaning and Restoration Magazine. 

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