I recently read an article by Robert Whipple that addressed the communication habits of Millennials in the workplace today. As he discussed the shift in communication tools across generations, the statistic that stuck out to me the most was that during 2009-2010 email usage grew among seniors by 28%, but fell among teens by 59%. I sometimes worried that my teenage son might be behind the technology curve because he rarely checks or responds to e-mail, but I’m understanding that the next generation will not use e-mail to communicate socially. They may not even use e-mail to communicate at work the way we see it today. It is highly likely that 20 years from now even more of the transactions we process will be automated and people will interface with computers through their eyes, voice, or movements but not by typing keys. Communication via e-mail as we know it will seem as old fashioned as faxing or writing letters does today.
So what does that mean right now to Gen Xers like me and the other generations that Becky described in her blog entry? It means that if you got upset 10 years ago when your company transitioned from their home grown intranet communication system to Outlook you should call your therapist now and get a head start on the changes coming. Mankind’s technological improvements have grown at an increasing rate over time. Based on various online sources, the Hunter/Gatherer Age lasted 590,000 years. Then we started farming and The Horticultural Age lasted 6,000 years, followed by more organized society and the Agrarian Age which lasted 2,300 years. The Industrial Age lasted 260 years and took us from the earliest mechanized factories to nuclear weapons. We are currently in the Information Age. It will probably last less than 100 years and take us from a landing on the moon, through the development of the PC and internet, and into a debate about the nature of humanity versus Artificial Intelligence.
Those dates may not be correct and the future of “space age” technology is up for debate, but the point is we can be sure that social media, e-mail, IM and handheld devices will continue to merge the flow of communication into a constant stream. The best thing for those of us already in the workplace to do is embrace the changing communication landscape and get ready, ‘cause here it comes.