You can’t email a handshake

Yet another thought-provoking piece from the excellent this weekend.   Entitled “The phone call is dead”,  the article, written by Alexia Tsotsis, evidences the following ;

According to Nielsen data, voice usage has been dropping in every age group except for those past the of age of 54. Text is just easier.

“Now, 78 percent of teens recognize the functionality and convenience of SMS, considering it easier (22 percent) and faster (20 percent) than voice calls (though still fun). Voice activity has decreased 14 percent among teens, who average 646 minutes talking on the phone per month.”

There was once a time that I could not conduct my day job as a Recruiter without the telephone.  It was (and in my view still is judging by the number of calls on my call log) the business critical tool.  Is this changing?

Nothing gets done without talking with each other.  We feed off others, we need to communicate.  People love people, evidence the rise and rise of Facebook.   What happens if we simply stop talking with each other?

Think this through however and I realise we are still communicating, we are just finding ever more efficient methods of so doing.

I have recently spent a great deal of time in hotel lounges packed with people conducting business meetings, face to face, talking, engaging, communicating.  Face to face works because we have the benefit of facial expression, intonation of voice, body language that we simply don’t get from SMS or other forms of electronic communication.

However as I reflected on just how my meetings in these venues came about, I thought about the mechanics of how they had been achieved.

The initial introductions were communicated by email and followed up with a phone call.  Meetings were confirmed electronically, followed by SMS or other forms of messaging to confirm arrangements on the day.  Meetings were followed up electronically (again usually email).  All things that perhaps as little as two years ago would have been handled in a telephone conversation.

SMS, email, electronic forms of communication are more efficient, allowing us to get to more of the face to face stuff.  I look at my desk, there is not a dial-up hand – set in sight.  Yes I have the mobile, but Skype is open in the browser.  I don’t need the traditional handset anymore to do my job effectively.  I need to be able to communicate, sure and I fail to see as a recruiter how you can do your job at all well without meeting candidates face to face.  However my ability to stay in touch, to communicate is massively enhanced by the plethora of electronic forms of communication that are right in front of me.

All of this however worries me.  I can name a couple who would sit in the same room and text each (it didn’t last).   Is our increasing reliance on technology meaning we communicate more but talk (and indeed listen) less?   I cannot imagine a time when an interview will be conducted by SMS, Instant Messenger or email.  (Skype is a different story, it already has enormous value).  I cannot imagine hiring someone without the benefit of a face to face meeting.

The traditional dial – up call may well be in decline, but you cannot email a handshake.  Long live the handshake, let’s not let it die.



Filed under Hiring, Recruitment

2 responses to “You can’t email a handshake

  1. Lee, an interesting discussion. You’ve got me thinking, and that’s going to cause problems. Here’s my take.

    The ‘human touch’ will decline in utility as other communication channels increasingly gain mind share. This may be lamentable, but it is an inevitable consequence of the proliferation of speedier and more efficient alternatives of communication. Indeed, our emotional commitment to the personal meeting probably stems from how we’ve learned about these communication channels in the first place, rather than any evidence that is substantively ‘better’. Let me explain:

    Our generation (I’m assuming you are as old as I am!), bridges the gap between those who have never used alternatives to phone & face2face, and those who don’t know a world without mobile, email and the social web.

    We have, therefore,’added’ new techniques of communication as we went along. Meeting before call, call before text, text before video con, video con before social etc.

    However, a consequence of this linear progression is that we are conditioned into imposing a hierarchy of value on these channels. i.e ‘face 2 face is better than text’. We value the familiar, and because we have used it more often, we probably have direct personal evidence that it works. But there is no objective evidence to say that it is better.

    Can we assume that those of us who have never gone through this progression would impose the same order of hierarchy?

    The generation who is now growing up know they can facebook, SMS, tweet, update, Skype, use the phone or meet up. They do not know of one ahead of the other, and will not grow up with evidence that one is better than the other. Rather, they might see each of these more like ‘palette’ of communication options, rather than a linear hierarchy that we do. Would they value the personal meeting, with it’s obvious logistical issues, time consuming rituals and other assorted vagaries in the same way that we do?

    They will not have the warm glow of life affirming nostalgia to ease them into this conclusion, that’s for sure. They even may see it as something of a waste of time.

    Personal meetings won’t die of course – us old timers will keep them going, and young and old alike will always want to meet up to pair up. But from the business POV they will become quaint throwbacks to a by gone era – the recruitment equivalent of taking afternoon tea.

    • Thank you Hung for getting involved in the discussion and for such an interesting, insightful and thought provoking response to this issue. I don’t think there is anything else I can add other than to say I agree with you! Thanks again, I really do appreciate it.

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