One authority describes the transition in telephony thusly: Really smart engineers advanced technology to evolve phones from wall hanging boxes with an operator making phone connections to little, fold-up cellular devices. Now the world of everything integrated - computer chips, display screens and communicating - has spawned the age of smartphones" (Oppenheim, 2011, p. 17).
Written messages were passed through a variety of media, including circulars, memoranda, policy letters, notices, forms, and reports.
All of the 1991 methods as well as e-mail, facsimile machines, and SMS together with the above-mentioned wireless "look-at" devices that are internet enabled.
Manually prepared bar graphs; tape-based video recordings
PowerPoint presentation, digital video recordings, clip art, stock graphics and pictures; user-friendly touch-screen devices (Gentry, 2011).
Audio and/or sound methods
Tape recordings (20mm et al.), vinyl disks, CB
VoIP, stock sounds, computer-based recordings and editing
As can be readily discerned from the changes identified in Table __ above, the various managerial communications methods, oral methods, written methods, visual methods, and audio and/or sound methods, has its respective strengths and weaknesses in any managerial communication exchange depending on the specific circumstances that are involved. In this regard, Ahmed and his associates report that, "Each one of these [methods] has merits and demerits. Therefore, managers should identify and select the most appropriate channel to communicate with their employees, taking into consideration both social and cultural barriers that may exist" (2010, p. 108).
This is an important consideration in the Digital Age where social networking sites such as Facebook has redefined how and where people come together to work, shop, recreate and receive an education. Therefore, by taking into account the specific skill sets that are represented in a given workforce, managers can help overcome constraints to communication and improve the flow of information and knowledge throughout the organization in ways that help achieve a competitive advantage and improve profitability and performance. For instance, Ahmed et al. add that, "Alleviating these barriers improves the flow of communication, which in turn has a positive impact on the growth and profitability of an organization" (Ahmed et al., 2010, p. 108). Likewise, Brown, Anderson, Bauer, Berns and Hirst (2006) emphasize that any discussion concerning what types of managerial communication approach is most effective will require an evaluation of the environmental circumstances in which such exchanges take place. In many cases, more than one medium will be required to create the top-down, bottom-up framework in which information and knowledge can flow. According to Ahmed and his associates, "Managers should establish both formal and informal communication channels in order to solicit feedback from their employees" (2010, p. 108). For this purpose, Ahmed and his associates (2010) recommend that formal employee satisfaction surveys be conducted every 2 years to solicit feedback from employees about the workplace environment and add, "Survey findings should be shared with the entire staff" (2010, p. 108). This sharing process has also been facilitated by innovations in ICT in ways that were not available just 20 years ago (Moss & Desanto, 2002, p. 97). According to Mason, Chang and Griffin (2005), in the past, employee satisfaction surveys provided useful benchmarking data for managers to track performance, but such surveys failed to provide managers with the insights they needed to effect meaningful change in their organizations. As Mason et al. point out, "Traditionally, organisations used benchmarking to evaluate their employee opinion survey data. This approach is useful for identifying strengths and weaknesses in organizational performance, but it does not tell us how to bring about improvements on those indicators" (p. 127).
By sharp contrast, managers today enjoy a vast array of powerful analytical tool suites that are part and parcel of virtually every personal computer in the workplace. Furthermore, today's workplace is characterized by interactive digital technologies that provide managers at all levels with the opportunity to interact with their superiors, peers and subordinates allow the timely dissemination of performance results. For instance, Ahmed et al. note that, "Interactive employee meetings with management should be arranged to compare business results and the performance of the organization against company goals and objectives" (2010, p. 108). Taken together it is clear that the innovations in information and communications technology that have taken place over the past 20 years have redefined the concept of managerial communication to include the need for enhanced multicultural and multi-linguistic methods. Another important difference that has emerged in the American workplace over the past 20 years has been the introduction of four full generations of workers, each of which has its own respective views with respect to ICT in the workplace, and these issues are discussed further below.
Generational Differences in Adoption of Information and Communication Technologies
The older generation is widely known as the "generation that saved the world for democracy," but it is also known alternatively as the "silent generation," "the Matures" or the "traditionalists"); this older generation is followed by the "Baby Boomer" generation, Generation X and the Millennial (or Generation Y) generation that includes people born between the years 1982 and 2000 (Verhaagen, 2005). The Millennial generation is characterized by a number of significant differences from past generations, including the proliferation of Internet-based applications, handheld wireless communication devices and other high-tech gadgetry that facilitates oral, written and graphic communications (Pardue & Morgan, 2008).
Not surprisingly, some preferred managerial communication methods that may have been effective in the past -- even just 20 years ago -- will no longer be as effective or perhaps even become counterproductive in the Age of Information. Indeed, compared to the "Old Guard" comprised primarily of younger Matures and older Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and particularly the Millennial generation will likely embrace ICT in the workplace far more readily. As Jackson (2010) recently observed of Millennials and their smartphones and other wireless handhelds: "These are their tools. The smartphone is their tool, the iPad is their tool They think differently than we do" (p. 36). Because the essence of managerial communication is the perception of the message that is received by the recipients rather than the message that is intended by the sender, the selection of the most appropriate managerial communication must also take into account the potentially disruptive intergenerational differences that exist in ICT expertise in the workplace today.
The most recent estimates indicate that the Millennial generation equals or exceeds the Baby Boomer generation in number, and the respective numbers of each cohort in the current workforce can be extrapolated from their respective percentages of the population. In this regard, Fabre (2007) reports the following breakdown for the current multigenerational workforce in the United States as set forth in Table 3 below, with an extension of the likely preferred managerial communication media included as well.
Current Estimates of Multigenerational Cohorts in U.S. Workforce and their Preferred Managerial Communication Media
Likely Preferred Managerial Communication (MC) Media
Oral methods (the spoken word)
Audio or sound methods
Source: Fabre, 2007
Figure 1. Current Estimates of Multigenerational Cohorts in U.S. Workforce and Preferred MC Method
Oral methods (the spoken word)
Audio or sound methods
Source: Fabre, 2007 at p. 55
These estimates also mean that for the first time in history, there are four full generations in the workplace, making the need for an examination of how these different generations view and use innovations in ICT in their managerial communication practices. Although it is reasonable to suggest that many members of the "Old Guard" remain tied to their favored managerial communication approach, the Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and the up-and-coming Millenials have embraced ICT in overwhelming ways. In this regard, the up-and-coming Millennial generation possesses the skills set needed to use these innovations to their maximum advantage compared to some of their older counterparts in the workplace. For instance, Montgomery (2000) observes that, "Generation Y -- the nearly 60 million children born after 1979 -- represents the largest generation of young people in the nation's history. They also are the first to grow up in a world saturated with networks of information, digital devices, and the promise of perpetual connectivity" (p. 145). Likewise, Wesner and Miller (2008) point out that, "The Millennial generation has been exposed to rapid technical advances. They are sometimes called the Connected or Net generation. As a result, they are unafraid of new technologies. But unlike earlier generations in the workplace, they are normally the ones excited about the use of technology and are spreading the word about new gadgets and technologies" (p. 90). The Millennial generation clearly perceives technology in vastly different ways than Mature and even older Baby Boomer counterparts in the workplace. In this regard, Van Horn (2006) points out that, "The Millennials…