By Karri Perez
Business and business technology are changing at a faster pace than ever before. As a business owner or manager, it is impossible to keep up with every new advancement; however, smart professionals are always eager to learn new concepts, techniques and processes that will help them with efficiency and profitability.
Smart phone applications are one of those technologies that have taken off. Many are extremely helpful in managing your business, while others are simply silly.
Mature managers will do well to keep up with what more junior employees are using for technology, or they may find themselves out of the “technology loop” without even knowing it. It is also important to review and revise communication policies in the workplace to reflect the new technologies and what the organization considers as formal forms of communication. Not knowing how or what your employees are communicating is not good for management or the organization.
For example, many forms of informal communication are quick and easy, but they may not be considered a formal notification either under company policy or by code or law. Certain legal documents must be delivered in a very specific and public way, such as public notices.
Years ago lack of communication in the workplace was a problem; now the problem is confusion over how information is being communicated. Years ago the statement, “I sent it to you” meant that it was mailed. Years later it might have meant the information was faxed (many younger employees forget that some organizations still own and use a fax machine). Then e-mail came into existence and, more recently, texting.
Now there are smart phone applications, or “apps.” An example of a commonly used instant messaging application is “WhatsApp,” and many people use it as a quick and easy way to send information, including pictures, to individuals and groups.
Managers need not only be aware of these communication channels but should also learn to use them. Why? Because they increase efficiency in many instances, which means the manager has more time to devote to strategy and tactical decisions.
I remember when — years ago — several executives at a company I worked for used their computers as plant stands until being forced by the training department to take classes in basic computer operations. We are seeing the same hesitation to embrace new smart phone and tablet technology but from the same generation that embraced the computer many years ago, which is surprising. It appears that it is not new technology that is daunting, but each generation as it matures tends to be more comfortable with the way that business was done as they were moving up and through the organization.
Younger employees in the workplace are our best sources of current trends in business and business technology, and they may be an underutilized resource in many organizations as they are considered a resource to be taught rather than a teacher.
More mature managers may not even realize that employees are using new technologies to communicate. My realization that I was missing a communication “mode” came when I finally asked my supervisor how he was communicating the weekly schedule to the employees. I had expected to see an e-mail to the employees with a copy to me, which is the way we would have done it 10 years ago, but nothing came. Finally, I asked about the schedule only to find out that the supervisor had put together a WhatsApp group for the employees, and they had been having discussions and setting schedules through that application. I was not included in the group because I did not have a smart phone.
Never having used an “app,” I was apprehensive about using this communication method for an organization. I raised the same concerns about legal documentation and like, then I realized that these were the same concerns that were raised when we first started using e-mail versus “snail mail,” and progress marched on.
But I have to admit, this “old dog” — me — is absolutely amazed at how the new technologies have made communicating so much easier and more efficient. Learning how to download and use apps has made an impact in my quality of life and has actually made me much more efficient. Plus, I have found that younger employees have respect for mature managers who are using current technologies. It shows they are willing to continue to learn, even though they are in leadership positions and may not be directed by management to learn new technology.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? The answer is absolutely yes, as long as the old dog is willing.
— Karri Perez is associate professor of global resources at the University of Guam as well as a business consultant. She holds professional certifications in human resources, marketing and project management. She may be reached at [email protected].