A recent study by independent media regulator Ofcom confirmed what most employers are starting to see in their companies: 16- to 24- year olds prefer texting over voice calls and other e-messages. Also, 97 percent of this age group text at least once each day, whereas only 67 percent of this group talks on the phone daily.
Moreover, this demographic is part of Generation Y, or the millennials (individuals born roughly between 1977 and 1994), who comprise the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce today at almost 80 million strong, according to careerbuilders.com. With the expected growth of millennials entering the workforce and their preference for texting over emailing and phone calls, these workers pose several risks in the workplace for employers.
First, text messages are virtually impossible to retain as part of an electronic filing or tracking system. Although there are software programs that allow users to transfer text messages to a computer, these solutions are awkward and onerous. Simply put, there is currently no intuitive or easy way to assemble and archive text messages. In order to save a text conversation on an iPhone, for example, a user must take a screenshot of the conversation and then email that screenshot for later saving or archiving. It’s fair to say that employees will not be diligent in saving text messages this way if they routinely use texting as a means of communication at work.
Second, most major wireless providers do not retain the context of text messages for any appreciable length of time. In fact, only Verizon Wireless keeps text-message content, and only for a few days, at most. Therefore, if employees are conducting business by texting, they are doing so in the ether, with no digital trail. This can cause major problems when disputes arise with customers or one employee accuses another employee of harassment.
Third, texting is often a careless form of communication. How often have you fired off a quick text and wished you could call it back? How often do you have to clarify a text you just sent? These communication breakdowns rarely happen when you send a handwritten letter, or a carefully crafted email. Yet, when we text, we often engage in lazy and poorly thought-out behavior. Employers, therefore, should be concerned when their employees communicate with each other or with customers in this way.