Why Millenials don't pick up the phone as much? Why has texting replaced calling?
Why Are They So Bad?
The evolution of communication technology over the past couple
decades has played a key role in developing this dubious trend.
Millennials in the work force have considerably more communication
options available during their high school and college years than the
older generations once had, creating far less reliance on voice calls
while impeding their telephone proficiency as a result. Things were much
different for Gen X. Before email went mainstream in the mid to late
90s, phone calls were most often the best mode of instant contact. After
email came instant messaging, texting, blogging, social networking and
the myriad of options available today.
Older Gen Y and Gen X have an advantage over
younger Millennials because at least a portion of our adolescence came
before the great exodus from voice calls. I chuckle thinking back to the
period of my teenage years, prior to my first cell phone, when I would
carry around a master list of phone numbers scribbled on a sheet of
notebook paper. That same pocket that lodged my phone list typically
carried some loose change in case I needed to use a payphone, of course.
If I wanted to get anything done - get a ride home from practice, make
plans for the weekend, discuss a homework assignment – I had to pick up
the phone. Communication technology now provides young people with
several avenues to bypass that once crucial step.
Phone Skills in the Digital Age?
Text communication (social media, text messaging, email) cannot
possibly replace the interpersonal value of a voice call, so entry-level
employees who are in any way timid on the phone need to prioritize
improving that skill. They often bring many advantages to a team: new
ideas and perspectives, social media prowess, and an ability to quickly
adapt to new technology. The problem is, for any client-facing employee,
that those positives can be easily negated by an inability or
unwillingness to effectively communicate over the phone.
In the early stages of building my financial PR agency, Flackable, I
hired a young freelancer who was recommended to me for a small project.
We started with a quick (and less than impressive) call to go over the
project, and that conversation ended up being the only time we spoke
over the phone. I sent a request for a quick chat to discuss her
progress, and in return I got a lengthy email update. She sent me a text
message with a rather detailed question, and I replied, “Call me. I’ll
explain.” Instead of a call (because that would make too much sense) I
received a series of excuses as to why this person could not talk. What
should have been a simple project ended up chewing up too much of my
time, largely because of this young person’s phone inhibitions. The
final product was actually very impressive, but there is no chance that
she’ll ever get my business again – at least until she learns to pick up
My generation as a whole has no choice but to improve their
phone skills in order to be competitive in the professional realm, but
it’s hard to say when trend will develop. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve
talked to many impressive young professionals who are masters on the
phone, particularly those in media and communications fields. On the
other hand, many still lack the confidence and skill of rapport over the phone.
Phone skills, like any skill, can be developed over time with
training and repetition. Millennials shouldn’t count on employers to
provide that training, as most managers will expect any educated hire to
already possess a basic ability to conduct business over the phone.
Young people need to build these skills on their own. Avoidance is the
worst thing they can do. Instead, they should go out of their way to use
the telephone until they start building comfort and confidence.