I hear it all of the time from recent college grads…confusion over how best to manage their email, how best to communicate using email, how to fit in the business world where our communication resolves around email.
They aren’t prepared.
We shouldn’t expect them to be.
Many things are taught in college, but a session or class on email is not one of them. If we aren’t prepared to show them how best to use it, leverage it, and control it, email will control them. They will become that 30 or 40 year old who hates email because it never ends, it won’t go away and they can’t get it under control.
So while the PEW Research center talks about the decreasing trend of teenager email usage, the business community has to understand that we need to prepare our college students and new hires on how to use email. It is not a part of their vocabulary or skill repertoire. To a Millennial – having the email app on their phone is not nearly as important as the ability to text or have Instagram, Twitter, or the SnapChat app installed. Because text messaging and social media is how they communicate with friends, family and their professors (my students are more likely to text me than email me). They are certainly wired to understand email we just have to give them the tools. But just because our Millennials are digital natives doesn’t mean they should be expected to “figure email out” on their own.
And before you say it – yes – Millennials do have exposure to email. They probably have some experience with Gmail, Yahoo or their school email system. But exposure to and limited experience with the beast that is email is different than having an email address you give to J. Crew or Banana Republic to receive sale notices.
We have to be proactive in teaching them the best way to communicate via email (not the same as text messaging), how to leverage the folders and task list, and how to set up rules that make their inbox do some of the work. We also have to help them to discern when you email and when you get up and go talk to the other person. Helping our younger employees overcome the ‘email divide’ is one of the easiest training you could ever deploy and in doing so they will become more productive. Helping someone become more productive is a wonderful gift.
Here’s to your employees becoming their productive selves!