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Are Smartphones to Blame for Employee Skill Reduction?

August 08, 2014

By Michelle Amodio, Virtual PBX Contributor

Smartphones, while considerably smart for many reasons, may actually be to blame for making its users less smart, and it’s all thanks to “social media slang.”

There’s some research to back this up, at least as far as student use is concerned. Drew P. Cingel, a doctoral candidate in media, technology, and society at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. published a study while at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., that found that the more often students sent text messages using text-speak, the worse their grammar.

When tweens or those between the age group of 10 to 12 write in “techspeak,” they often use shortcuts, such as homophones, omissions of non-essential letters and initials, to quickly and efficiently compose a text message. This has, in turn, led to a decline in grammar.

That’s what’s going on in business, too. According to a recent Nextiva blog post, this trend of abbreviated language seems to be killing what is known as “soft skills” in the business world; writing correctly, courtesy, and holding face-to-face conversations with some modicum of decency. Of course, this sort of thing is specific to the younger crowd. The newer generations who are growing up with smartphones as common day tools are the ones falling victim to this lack of skillset.

Many people arguing against the use and or acceptance of “text speak” say that it encourages people to be lazy, destroys or diminishes peoples understanding of punctuation and grammar and results in the younger generation actually speaking that way in everyday conversation.

This form of communication will not go away with regards to the younger generation and the arguments both for and against will continue for some time for parents, teachers and employers. So, how can the older employer generations help the younger employee generations of the future?

For one, despite the prevalence of social media as a communications tools, employers can insist that tried and true voice communications through VoIP technologies maintain their importance. Younger, less-seasoned employees can gain back some of these “soft skills” through tried and true practice. While hiding behind the veil of a screen is easier to deal with, using voice communications can help build common decency and proper speaking techniques, something that was once a given before the digital age.

Those acclimated to writing in Twitterese, or 140 characters, use shortcuts to get their message into Twitter’s sardine-can post, and those texting use abbreviations to fit in the constraints of a miniature screen.

This trend has oozed its way into books, articles, blog posts–everywhere. More and more, publications accept work that is less than, um, well, what it should be. It’s time to get back to basics and employ the use of voice communications as a means to help the new digital era.  

Edited by Alisen Downey

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