Brace for impact, as they say on Star Trek.

I'm not even much of a Trekkie, but I do know  every time I've written about email not having a lot of value with the younger workforce, the diehard email marketing types emerge from their dark corner of the world (where people still use email) and erupt...on social media.

In a recent Quora question and answer session with the CTO of Slack, someone asked what separates high-performing teams from average ones. Cal Henderson, the CTO, is a smart guy. He noted how being an individual contributor doesn't work anymore.

He started his answer by saying this: "Success in today's workforce is increasingly about how teams work together, rather than work done by individuals. More and more work is becoming knowledge work, and all knowledge work is teamwork. Building a high-performing team is more simple and straightforward than most people think."

Henderson then cited a study at Google of 180 teams and found that the No. 1 indicator of success is whether the team worked well together and communicated with each other. He also talked about taking risks with your team. And said that the solo operator, the person who likes to stay isolated, will slow a team down.

In my corporate days, when I collected a paycheck on a regular basis, we had a term for people who were solo artists. We called them individual contributors. They were designers and testers and writers. They worked alone, often in a cubicle away from everyone else.

It's comical to think about now, especially since this particular company is known for its blue-shirt wearing retail team, who are all supposed to coordinate their activities. (I worked in a corporate office where you didn't even want to wear a light blue shirt or people would scoff.) Younger workers, as I've been mentioning over and over again for a while now, have a hive mind. They hate email. You might be able to convince them to use email, but in their normal life, they use text messaging, social media, Slack, and other group chat apps.

To argue otherwise is foolish and downright bone-headed. You have to have your head firmly planted in the sand to think anyone under 25 has any intention of processing email all day. Or that this is something they actually like to do and want to do all day long.

Henderson is not the best guy to advocate for the merits of Slack, since he is paid to say nice things, but please--spend some time around this age group. They only use email when they absolutely must. And here's the real clincher: We're talking about the difference between high-performing teams and average teams. We're talking about exceptional, real-time communication and teamwork versus subpar, '90s-era communication.

One of the things I've noticed about the email holdouts is that the ones who are good at using email to communicate simply use this messaging protocol (and by the way, that's all it is) like they would use Slack, firing off emails back and forth. It's really funny to watch. I've told colleagues--this person is Slacking me on email.

Most are curmudgeonly and stuck in the past. They like the old-school approach. They like spam marketing (or are paid to like it). Waiting 30 minutes to receive a message back from someone is their preferred strategy. They think that's smart.

They don't understand anything about generational differences. They have a hard time grasping why anyone would want to discuss a topic and reach a resolution in five minutes when you can send out emails like you're one of the ancient ones, scribing away in obsolescence. They choose to write 500-word essays that no one will ever read.

Email defenders come up with every excuse in the book. "Try to sign up for Facebook without an email" they say, not realizing you can actually sign up with a cell number. They cite studies, often paid for by email marketing firms, that talk about open rates and sales conversions, blasting off their opinion on social media while (most likely) sitting next to a Gen-Z worker texting on their iPhone. Meanwhile, the rest of us, working on teams that actually get work done, put up with email for now, but we know the real communication channel and the real progress has nothing to do with email.

Vibrant, high-value teams that communicate effectively do not use email as a primary channel. Period. The ones that are stuck in the dark ages? The email holdouts?

They are grinding their companies into nothing.

Published on: Jan 28, 2019