I believe that we must look back to move forward, and today we shall explore how a simple technique I call the 3Rs will help you increase productivity, improve employee engagement and raise awareness on the impact of a rapidly changing world that has consequences for future generations.
As we transition through or should I say as we are propelled through the 4th Industrial Revolution which only started about a dozen years ago we are expected to assimilate information much more quickly than any previous generation, we are expected to adapt our mindset to a world that is changing more rapidly than at any time in our evolution and we are expected to do all of this while trying to look after our mind and our body, and guess what we are not doing a very good job of it. Why, because for the first time ever science, communication and technology have come together in ways we could never have expected, in ways we are struggling to cope with and even more frightening, in ways we cannot even predict.
So today we shall examine the importance of the 3Rs and how they might help you make sense of the changes around you by anchoring yourself to the lessons of previous generations and taking that knowledge, applying it to what is happening and taking back control of this runaway train that appears to be careering into an uncertain future.
The 3Rs are Recognise what you are seeing around you on a daily basis, acknowledge it – Respond to what you are seeing on a daily basis by changing your behaviour, lead by example and Review the changes you are making constantly.
How it was – email
Let’s start with communications – email did not exist. People communicated using letters and that put certain disciplines in place:
- You had to consider what you were going to say, no cutting and pasting, no deleting sections, you had to start again. Your communication needed to be clear and easily understood, otherwise it was a waste of time and it was probably overseen by someone in a senior position to ensure it was appropriate
- The post arrived once per day and was despatched once per day. This meant that replies were considered, possibly held over for review and after consideration were then sent. This meant that time and expectations were managed, instilling patience in those involved
- The letter was given to the appropriate person, photocopied only if necessary and if accompanied by a document that needed to be shared, the document was photocopied and only given to those who needed to see it
- There for the most part is no consideration or planning given to emails. So many are reactive and are poor in their construction. That is according to the Int… 46% of emails do not clearly articulate the action required and 20% of them are cc’d for no apparent reason. No wonder email is costing organisations between €5k and €10k per annum in lost productivity
- Replies to emails are expected immediately and because of their volume in many cases, this is what happens. This leads to mistakes, misunderstandings and feeds into an impatient world where the appetite for instant gratification puts unnecessary pressure on all involved. I spoke with a Barrister who told me of the sleepless nights caused by requests for opinions that once took a month but were now needed in less than a week. He was terrified of making a mistake, of losing his reputation and of being sued
- As I have already mentioned, 20% of the emails circulating are cc’d for no apparent reason. It is probably greater than that but you know that from what you are receiving. On top of that many emails include documents that again take time to evaluate but are not for you so waste valuable time
Let’s apply the 3Rs
- Recognise what lessons we can take from the past and adapt for today. Namely, what emails am I receiving that I should not be getting, what emails am I sending that need not be sent and who am I cc’ing when it is not necessary?
- Respond by creating a new culture where employees are trained to use email in the most efficient manner and lead by example
- Review the progress you are making and adjust your strategy accordingly.
How it was – the phone
It is strange to think that the smartphone has only been with us for just over a decade and yet it is hard to imagine how we survived without it. It must be the greatest piece of technology ever invented and that is not just my opinion, just look at sales numbers and see the exponential rise in numbers over that period. This talk could be about the advances in technology, the number of apps available and our ability to communicate with virtually anyone on the planet in seconds and free of charge.
But let’s look at how it was:
- Phones were an integral part of the fabric of business but their usage was controlled so ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs would be seen outside conference rooms or where brainstorming sessions were taking place
- Phones used a landline you went into the office and your phone was on the desk, possibly shared with others and when you went home you left it in the office which meant that there was a clear delineation between work and home
- Work phones were for work only and it was frowned upon to use them for chit-chat
- Phones are an integral part of a business but control no longer rests in the hands of the employer. Look at the disruption to meetings a phone creates or how those engaged in serious discussions have their train of thought interrupted
- Because everyone has a personal smartphone, employers saw an opportunity to reduce costs and make significant gains by allowing employees to use their personal phones for business purposes which means that there is no clear separation of work and the home
- Personal phones are used in the workplace and that has serious consequences for productivity
Let’s apply the 3Rs
Recognise what lessons we can take from the past and adapt for today. Namely:
- Recognise that it is not sustainable for employees to use their personal phones for company business. Companies need to have control of the contacts list, control of the documentation and access to all data on them for best practice. That means the response has to be the issuing of business phones which can only be used for business purposes and perhaps the installation of appropriate apps to help individuals’ wellbeing
- You have to recognise that the phone is actually an addiction and your response now that bad habits have crept in will be to agree on times when personal phones may be used
- You will have to recognise that all phones disrupt the workflow and need to be banned from certain parts of the working environment, for example, meeting rooms, or you may need to create technology-free spaces so that employees have a safe place to immerse themselves when they need to concentrate on a project
Finally, in relation to communications we see people every day in the street so absorbed by their phones that they are oblivious to their surroundings, they are not present. We see it in restaurants where children are now using phones instead of being engaged by the adults around them. I am not against phones being used but phones are being overused and it will have an impact on the communication skills of the next generation.
Recognise what is happening, respond by encouraging more adult children conversations and of course review.
The clues and cues to help you navigate the future are in front of you every day but only if you are present.
Recognise the signs, take note of them, Respond which may mean engaging with your employees and agreeing on a strategy going forward and Review the results and keep tweaking.
In terms of society, the 3Rs will help you understand the dangers as they develop and hopefully navigate a safe passage.