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Communication Tools Changed the Workplace (From Memos to Emojis)

Communication Tools Changed the Workplace (From Memos to Emojis)

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that we have new ways to communicate. Technology has made communication and relationships easier than ever before. In today’s video, I have a bit of a back-and-forth with Javier Pereira about communication tools in the workplace and how they have changed things over the years.

Watch Us Debate Communication Tools:


Emails Replacing the Corporate Memo

I won’t lie—I don’t like my email inbox. As I said right at the start of the video, the inbox stresses me out. It really is like this pile of paperwork that’s waiting for me as soon as I start my computer. But, even that is still better than the old corporate memorandum (i.e. memos).

In the video, Javier reflects a bit on corporate memos, talking about how formal and stiff they tend to be, and how they’re used today. Specifically, he asks:

“If I were to say ‘okay, Steve. I’m writing a memorandum to you—a formalized Dear Mister Goodman’ and I sit it in your inbox—which used to be on your desk… imagine if I tried that communication now. If Ingram Leedy sent you a formalized writing, you know what you would think you need to do? Clean out your desk.”

The modern email completely replaced the paper copy corporate memo a long time ago to the point where such memos are only used for super-serious communications—like termination of employment. But why did emails replace corporate memos in the first place?

One reason might be that memos had a horrible turnaround time compared to the near-instant communication of emails. The whole process was a bit of a bear from start to finish. With a memo, you had to:

  1. Think carefully about the memo and its contents;
  2. Carefully write the memo to some arbitrary professional standard;
  3. Transfer the memo to the recipient;
  4. Have the recipient respond to the memo;
  5. Perform the task related to the memo; and
  6. Write another memo back to respond.

As you can see, the time and energy exhausted by these memos could really cut into employee productivity.

How Replacing Memos Revolutionized Businesses

With delays for the memo to be physically shipped to someone, and then waiting for that person to carry out their response, there would be a horrendously long turnaround time—especially for busy people who would have to respond to dozens of memos a day. In the video, Javier recalls a story about how things used to work for selling computer products. The process involved:

  1. Someone flying out for an in-person meeting;
  2. Making an agreement;
  3. Codifying it into a memo;
  4. Sending the memo to the client;
  5. The client holding an internal meeting before signing the memo;
  6. Mailing the memo back;
  7. Forwarding it to fulfillment; and
  8. Fulfillment processing the request.

That’s a lot of steps for something simple. As Javier notes, the turnaround time for something as simple as a printer was like a month. At minimum.

Compare that to today, where you can go to an online storefront and place an order for that same printer and have it in your hands (or even have it professionally installed) within 24 to 48 hours. Electronic communication methods and automated process workflows that evolved from the switch to emails have made the ordering process so much faster and more efficient than ever before.

Has Email Killed Business Relationships?

While the switch to email and other remote communication methods has helped speed things up considerably for businesses of all sizes, there is some worry about how modern, internet-based business models may have harmed the traditional interpersonal relationships that businesses used to cultivate. As I note in the video, the “biggest problem with Amazon is that it’s a faceless transaction.”

Javier took that a step further by citing the prevalence of faceless internet trolls that have arisen in the last few decades. “There was a picture I saw years ago. It was like ‘Bob has an opinion,’ and (opinion + anonymity = ass hat).” These same trolls would be a lot less aggressive if they were in person and had to face the consequences of their actions.

Is the increased efficiency worth the potential loss of that personal touch? The success of online storefronts and internet-based services like Netflix over traditional storefronts seem to indicate that people prefer the less personal, but faster and easier to access, business models of today.

However, using technology tools to communicate with customers doesn’t necessarily mean losing that personal touch and that opportunity to build a relationship. Just because we’ve moved our communications and tools to the cloud doesn’t mean forgoing taking the effort to know our coworkers and customers. Instead, it’s up to us to learn how to use those tools to their fullest.

As Javier puts it: “Now we need to learn to work in a new way—and with the modern tools, such as 365 and Teams and whatnot—you get to figure out how to become the best employee. And the tools are there for you to do it.”

Be sure to watch the video up above for the whole discussion! If you have any questions about the video, or about communication tools like Microsoft Teams, be sure to reach out to us.


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