Email still default comms tool for virtual teams, despite drawbacks

emailEmail remains the preferred way corporate teams stay in touch, but there is a widening technological gap between the generations. Although it remains the most widely used form of communication (87 percent) email also has the greatest potential to cause misunderstanding in nearly half (49 percent) of teams. The survey from EF Corporate Solutions of over 800 executives based in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Middle East, Russia, UK and US, indicated that a primary cause for conflict stems from language barriers (39 percent) but 45 percent said there are also barriers to communication between associates over 50 and under 30 in the way they use technology. Respondents also suggest that email has the potential to cause ‘information overload’ and teams can suffer from a lack of interaction when it is the preferred communication method.

Yet it was also revealed that email can be an effective tool for less confident members of a group to share their ideas when they might not be inclined to share their thoughts face to face, particularly if language is an issue.

“Virtual teams are the norm for most multinational businesses today,” said Peter Burman, President of EF Corporate Solutions.

“But what’s clear from the research is that most companies are failing to pick the right tools for the right job – and this is hindering their ability to communicate effectively.”

While email is the default tool for businesses, misunderstandings will always exist unless teams find better ways to understand each other, like a common language of business argues Burman. “The fact that face-to-face and Skype meetings provide a lot of clarity shows that people still love to connect, see each other’s expressions and body language,” he added.

The report covers trends, barriers and success strategies for collaboration in global virtual teams, including the widening generational gap between the youngest and oldest employees in the modern workplace.

“We’re in a unique position now, where Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers are all in the workforce at the same time. While there have always been generational gaps in the workplace, it’s now more important than ever to learn how to manage these differences in thinking as workforce retention is a priority in our post-recessionary environment. There’s a lot of potential here to turn conflicting ideas into opportunities,” Mr. Burman said, referring to the report’s findings on the positive nature of ‘good conflict’ arising from diversity in the workplace, which encourages differences of opinion to ultimately lead to creative new ideas.

Download the full report and view additional rankings, insights and graphs here