I sent an email to an 18-year-old once.
She was just starting to do some work in a marketing group at a college where I do some mentoring. I explained a few important points, described my role, and hit send.
I've been waiting about two years for her to respond.
Now, that's meant as a joke--I haven't really been waiting. But I did locate the email recently and noticed she never did respond, and has no plans to ever bother replying.
Email is like a foreign country to Gen-Z workers. You visit infrequently, and when you're there, you have no idea how anything works. The food tastes terrible and you don't even like the water. You ask the "locals" for help, but they are just as confused.
Email, it seems, is dead.
Now, that student does respond by text message, Facebook chat, on Slack, and sometimes by finding me in person. In fact, she's an excellent communicator. Most people in her generation communicate constantly, almost too much.
What's happened is that email has lost all power as far as a form of digital communication for her age group. I once predicted that email would die by 2020. It's 2018, and it is already firmly in the dead pool for many young workers; Gen-Z don't even bother.
For one thing, email was great when people actually used a keyboard and worked in a cubicle all day. Today, I know younger workers who not only use a smartphone for all communication, they use the device for all work (sometimes typing entire articles on their phones because, they say, it's faster). And, they move around constantly.
What's remarkable about this is that people over 25 or so just don't understand it. I wrote about how Gen-Z workers will take over the world someday. They are natural born technologists. They spent their formative years surrounded by Wi-Fi and mobile devices.
For those of us a little older than 25, using a laptop or a desktop to check email is a major part of our daily routine. Some of us complain about it a lot.
More and more, I've been ditching email for tools like Slack and social media chat sessions. Even since 2015, this trend in my working life has evolved even more. An email is almost quaint, a relic from a different age that reveals a lot about the sender and their age, because they are almost always from strangers and business associates who don't know I prefer other methods of communication.
I mentioned way back in 2015 that most of my closest colleagues never send me an email. There's always that one stubborn outlier who insists on email, but ironically, that's become extremely unusual and an obvious sign that you are not aware of modern trends.
Here's what's really changed, though. Since 2015, Gen-Z workers have started entering the workforce. The oldest Gen-Z workers are around 20 or 21 right now, but they are starting to do internships, and many have already graduated from college if they did two years of early enrollment for college credits while still in high school.
They have arrived.
And they are absolutely frantic on a phone.
They swipe like they are playing Fortnite, they text so fast the words spill out of their brains like a digital avalanche. It's crazy to watch them communicate, and to notice how little they bother with email. It's not fast enough. The truth is, email doesn't really match their entire persona. It's too slow and dated, too cumbersome, to ornate. Why spell everything out in 500 words of well-crafted text when you can discuss over chat in 20 seconds?
In the anatomy of every email, there's an introduction, a few salient points, a good argument about a topic, a few decisions, and a salutation. Finger roll.
Gen-Z workers have already decided an action plan over chat before someone scribing that email even gets to the middle section. It's a complete waste of time and resources in the modern age of incredibly pervasive technology. If you added up the time for your company that people spend crafting long and elaborate emails over the course of the year it would probably amount to...a colossal waste of time and resources.
Usually, the people who get the most upset about any predictions about the death of email are the email marketers, the ones still relying on this form of communication to reach young people. They know the entire field is dying, that a 20-year-old is about as likely to buy a luxury car tomorrow or dine at a supper club as read an email from a stranger filled with promotional content. If they don't know it's dying, they're not paying attention.
This is not a prediction anymore. If you work with young employees, you will notice how much they despise email and don't take it seriously. It's a distant memory.