Effective Work Communication: Phone vs. E-mailSocialComm Daniel Brown Ann Bryson-Eldridge Lisa Kolakowski Artevia MurphyExecutive Summary Before viewing the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) module, it is important for learners to know why there is a need to address appropriate communication, phone or e-mail in the workplace. As a group, we concluded that misunderstandings and other communication disruptions in the workplace can occur when communication is used ineffectively. Having poor communication in the workplace can result in negative employee relationships and workflow, and it can create a negative image for a company when communication with customers is disrupted. By using the following module, learners will be more equipped to determine the proper mode of communication, a phone call or e-mail, in different scenarios and why that form of communication is appropriate. This particular topic allows us to define basic learner characteristics: learners should be those who are expected to use both phone and e-mail communication in some way, have prior experiences with both communication formats, and are working adults. The design team used Universal Design for Learning to accommodate learners of different age groups, educational backgrounds, and work experiences. The media focused development of the module is user friendly, providing real-life simulations and questions for learners to help determine the best form of communication to use in different situations. The feedback from the evaluation section allows us as a group to see the success of the module in its entirety and based on specific criteria. We hope you enjoy our ISD module and we appreciate all feedback concerning our topic.AnalysisObjectives The purpose of this module is to educate users on Workplace Communication, particularly the choice of sending an e-mail versus placing a phone call. After taking this module, users will have: • Improved awareness of the importance of appropriate communication in the workplace • Been provided information about the skills and knowledge an employee must possess to successfully choose the appropriate communication tool • Been provided opportunities for the learner to test these skills
Each member of the group contributed research to the analysis, including articles, anecdotes, and in particular a [[#|survey]] which was then distributed by each of the group. Our analysis allowed us to determine our specific topic, e-mail versus phone at the workplace. We found the survey particularly helpful because we were able to assess the target audience and determine their needs.Process used for this analysis For the analysis portion of this project, each member of the group took a type of analysis, needs, content, learner and context. For each type of analysis, articles, websites, books and a survey were used to come to any decisions. For needs analysis, we determined our topic based on the expertise of our content expert, communication; to narrow down the field to a topic that could be adequately covered in the scope of one lesson required further research. Through discussion of several topics of interest and need (based on anecdotal evidence) among the group, we focused on Workplace Communication, specifically the choice of e-mail or phone call as a method of communication in differing situations. For content analysis, we determined the main goal of this project would be to train learners to determine the proper mode of communication, a phone call or an e-mail, as many employees do not fully utilize work time. While there are various forms of communication, e-mails and phone calls seem to be the most prevalent in the business world. For learner analysis, we determined the profile of the learner by using several instructional design approaches. Each approach has a list of factors for determining the learner analysis, therefore conducting the analysis using several approaches allowed for a more complex understanding of the learner. For context analysis, we determined the first thing that learners need to know is “What are the steps involved in determining effective communication techniques?” After the purpose has been established, next is an analysis of the audience. Using the gathered understanding of purpose and audience, the user can select the communication tool and create the message.Needs analysis While in this case we have determined our topic based on the expertise of our content expert, communication, to narrow down the field to a topic that could be adequately covered in the scope of one lesson required further research. Through discussion of several topics of interest and need (based on anecdotal evidence) among the group, we focused on Workplace Communication, specifically the choice of e-mail or phone call as a method of communication in differing situations. As a group, we agreed that misunderstandings and other communication disruptions can occur when methods and practices of communication are not effectively applied. The results of such miscommunication can include poor employee relationships, negative impact on workflow, and even poor customer service, resulting in a negative impact on the company/organizational image.
Each member of the group contributed research to the needs assessment, including articles, anecdotes, and in particular a survey which was then distributed by each of the group. The results of our inquiry are as follows: Skill in communication is a quality employers have consistently reported as desirable in employees, as studies as early as 1988 report "listening and oral communication" among the top skills employers seek (Carnavale, A.). Yet, communication etiquette is changing as digital communication becomes more common and new methods come into play. Only 39 percent of men and 47 percent of women used the internet for any purpose work in 2003 (US Census Bureau, 2005), and by 2008 that number climbed to 86% of all Americans who use the internet or e-mail at least occasionally at work according to the PEW Internet and American Life Projects report, Networked Workers. Our group postulated that this would create a gap between the need for professional electronic communications skills and the development of those skills in the employee population. This has led to a debate about the validity of e-mail as a communication tool and the process for making such a decision through a variety of channels, official and mundane. See Resources below for some examples from this conversation. At best, communication methods are a choice, but one that should be carefully made. The results of our brief survey indicated that most people use e-mail more often than the telephone, unless phone communication is a part of their work (e.g. outbound or inbound calls), and that relationship with the recipient, type of communication, and the need for documentation or attachments all influence the use of e-mail vs. the phone. Through our evaluation, we found that opinions of proper communication formats varied, and that encouraging awareness of these differences might be a valuable addition to future updates to this training, or as a focus of the additional roleplaying exercises.Goal analysis The main goal of this project is to train learners to determine the proper mode of communication, a phone call or an e-mail, as many employees do not fully utilize work time. While there are various forms of communication, e-mails and phone calls seem to be the most prevalent in the business world. When deciding when to place a call or send an e-mail an employee needs to evaluate the receiver, the urgency of the information, and the primary purpose of communication. In order to assess the efficiency of the training itself, we estimate that at least 90% of the users will pass the assessment at the end of our training. E-mails can be used to communicate a wide range of information types, from a brief reply to a detailed report. The main advantage of e-mail is that it allows one to communicate with others when it is convenient without inconveniencing the receiver. E-mails are great to send when a record of the communication is required or when an agreement or proof of delivery is needed. E-mail is also useful to keep track of small details like dates, times, and locations of meetings. Finally, e-mails are a good choice when you need to send brief updates to multiple people working together.
However, there are times at which e-mail communication is insufficient. “Voice is also good for discerning tone when emoticons dont cut it"; therefore phone conversations are ideal for sensitive topics like complaints as the employee can both convey emotion easily, and respond appropriately to the customer’s emotional and practical needs (Krause, 2008). Phone calls can also be better for clarity, particularly in English, in which many words have multiple meanings and shadings dependent upon inflection and tone. Interpretation of the use of e-mail can depend upon the recipient’s age and technological familiarity. For some users, e-mail can seem impersonal, resulting in feelings of alienation and an inclination toward negative misunderstanding. In addition, any social faux pas can be magnified through time, distance, and even forwarding of the e-mail to multiple parties before direct confrontation can alleviate the problem. With phone calls you can ask for clarifications but you cant interrupt someone in an e-mail or use body language" (Bruce, 2001). In phone calls, the conversation is oral, requiring further communication in person or via e-mail for agreements that must be in writing. It is also important to consider the time zone of the person with whom one is communicating when using the phone. If the recipient is in another time zone, it may be inconvenient or disruptive to call, especially if the recipient’s business line is forwarded to a cell phone. Overall, whether to send an e-mail or to place a call should be based on the task at hand and the employee’s relationship with the recipient of the communication. In evaluating our content, we found that learner opinions were mixed, implying that for some users the content was needed and sufficient to its purpose, while some learners were familiar enough with the content to render it redundant. In reviewing results, the group determined that it would be important for management to carefully review employee history and performance to determine whether or not this training was required on an individual basis, rather than assigning it to all employees.Learner analysis In determining the profile of the learner, several instructional design approaches were considered. Each approach has a list of factors for determining the learner analysis, therefore conducting the analysis using several approaches allows for a more complex understanding of the learner. Robert F. Mager recommends analyzing and articulating several key characteristics of the learner, based on learner demographics and motivation: • Age: 18-65 • Sex distribution: both male and female • Nature and range of educational background: High school degree, associate degree, bachelor degree, master degree and doctoral degree • Reason(s) for attending course: Manager required, gain knowledge, learning credit for work
• Biases, prejudices and beliefs: Some learners may already have a preference, phone or e-mail or they may believe in only using one or the other Mager’s approach allows us to define the basic characteristics of the learner. Using Dick, Carey and Carey, more information can be determined about the target audience, focusing on the learner’s behaviors and prior experience: • Entry skills: currently use both methods in some fashion at work, some may have had positive experiences with one type, and negative experiences with the other type • Prior knowledge: own experiences, influence from others • Attitudes toward content and delivery: some learners may be in training departments, some may not like self-paced training Another aspect to consider in the learner analysis is Universal Design for Learners (UDL). Since the profile is of the learner would include different age groups, educational levels, cultural backgrounds and work experiences, UDL will help ensure it is captivating for all. User interactions such as quiz questions, “click here for more information,” and real life scenarios where the learner determines the outcome will be very beneficial. These aspects were incorporated in the training.Task analysis In order to determine the best method of communication (phone/e-mail) in a given situation, the first thing that learners need to know is “What are the steps involved in determining effective communication techniques?” Richards discussion of "Communication Techniques in the Workplace" shows the steps to determine those techniques, which have been narrowed down to phone and e-mail communication for the purpose of this project. The first step is to determine the communication objective. What is the purpose of the communication? Are you trying to inform, schedule a meeting, persuade, influence, evaluate employee performance, express feelings, etc.? Determining the purpose of the communication will help to determine whether to use phone or e-mail to get the message across efficiently and effectively. After the purpose has been established, next is an analysis of the audience. In this case, the audience would be supervisors, customers, or other co-workers. If you have a concern that you want to express to your supervisor, than sending an e-mail would not be appropriate. In that case, it would be best to phone the supervisor to avoid misinterpretations an e-mail may portray. That way the supervisor can hear your voice, use verbal cues to improve understanding, and get the “human touch”. Great relationships in the workplace result in using communication effectively which can then increase productivity. Properly determining the best communication method can help promote great relationships. Using the gathered understanding of purpose and audience, the user can select the communication tool and create the message. Phones are usually used to setup meetings, discuss items for a quick resolution, avoid misinterpretations, etc. It is
important to already have your thoughts written down during a call and take notes when possible in case you need to follow up with an e-mail. E-mail communication is appropriate to deliver factual information and should have a subject line. Effective use of e-mail includes the appropriate use of attachments and clear, concise communication of important information. Other research was gathered (see Resources), specifically related to when to use the phone and e-mail in the workplace, and tied together with the steps in the communication technique process. Further research was also completed on how to properly send an e-mail and use the phone at work. One aspect of context that became apparent later on was the importance of the conscientious involvement of management at every step of the training, from evaluation of which staff require training, to the concluding activities and follow-up evaluation after training. Without a focus on the importance of using new knowledge, it is unlikely that the new knowledge will be incorporated into new behaviors.Design and DevelopmentDescription of the instruction Setting, Activities, and sequence Setting: This instruction (E-mail vs. Phone Communication) will be conducted online, as part of a larger course set of instructional modules. Learning will be individual, on the schedule of the employee, but typically mandated by management as part of a larger training initiative. Some learners may be entirely self-directed, taking the course without direction. Activities: The instructional module is the primary activity, followed by a set of role- plays to be determined by the individual functional team. Examples of material that might be purchased to fulfill this need include: PhonePro - Offers online and in person training CRM Learning - Training DVD Sequence: The sequence of instruction, including other modules of as yet undetermined content would be as follows: 1. Management determines a need for Communication training and/or retraining. 2. Functional Team/Employee is informed of this requirement and sets a timeline for asynchronous training completion with the Training Staff 3. Individual Team Members/Employee take the Communication training Course, module by module, including the E-mail vs. Phone Communication Module, and utilize the CRM Learning Training DVDs as supplemental material
4. The Functional Team/Employee and Manager engage in roleplaying exercises to assess learning 5. Additional Training is pursued/purchased if necessary.Development process supporting the instructional approachMajor components 1. Testing and Evaluation Plans: Formative Evaluation via user survey in order to
gain constructive feedback for improvements to the product. 2. Grading Rubrics: N/A 3. Practice Activities: Simulations within the instructional module, follow-up activities purchased by the Training department for use within the functional team. (This is not a Face-to-Face course, so training will occur within the team, rather than directed by the Training Department.) These activities will serve both as extended learning/practice and an assessment of the learners skills prior to formal evaluation by management during on the job activities. Options offered by the Training department include: a. PhonePro - Offers online and in person training b. CRM Learning - Training dvd 4. Feedback Mechanisms: Learner Evaluation Survey in order to gain constructive feedback for improvements to the product. Formal meetings with management to review the results of the surveys and managerial observations at regular periods determined by management and the Training department. 5. Introductory Presentation of Instruction: Introductory text on the landing page of the instruction (TBD). 6. Motivational Strategies: The training is primarily mandated; however the short, interactive, multimedia nature of the training can help improve engagement by appealing to the needs of the user (relevant, easy to break down into small chunks of time, etc.) 7. A List of Materials in your instructional package: Captivate Module and a list of additional resources for those requiring additional trainingEvaluationKey development decisions and justification In order to ensure that the instruction was effective for learners we implemented several features. First, the instructional module contains a section on the objectives for the course. This was included to help users understand the goals of the instruction and to clarify its limits. We included both forward and back buttons on every slide except the scenario slides. This was to allow students to stop and review information they had already received, improving retention. For the purpose of instruction we kept the content short and simple, focusing on what we wanted the students to take away, rather than including extraneous content. This approach was inspired by the theory of cognitive load, as developed by John Sweller. In order to begin engaging learners in using the new information they learned within the lesson, we included two brief, simple scenarios to start the process of thinking about the instruction. The intention
was that further practice and role-playing would be introduced in a group setting at a later date. Finally, we also focused on keeping text to a minimum on the slides, relying on the narration and visual images to convey information, rather than cluttering communication channels with redundant information. In order to make the instruction easy for the students and trainers to use, we chose to use Captivate, an online instruction development tool to create a lesson that could be taken at any time, from any computer. Our plan was to use the HTML5 publishing option, allowing the lesson to be viewed from any device, including the iPhone and iPad, but due to problems with the software that were beyond our control, had to use Flash to publish. The forward and back buttons mentioned above were added to ensure efficacy, but also served to make instruction easier for students, as it allows them to stop in the middle of instruction and quickly navigate back to where they stopped, even from another device. We also included Closed Captioning as an option for the module, a function of Captivate, in order to reduce the load for instructors who would otherwise need a transcript of the narration for those employees with hearing impairments.Evaluation Our formative evaluation and summative evaluations were very similar, as our lesson was designed to be delivered to adults, via a web interface, without an instructors guidance. This is a common situation in training adults for professional and continuing education purposes. The difference between the two evaluations lay primarily in the functionality questions included in the formative evaluations. As Captivate is still a young software tool, and has been going through major updates with HTML5 functionality, it was important that we ensure that users were able to access the training, and that it functioned properly, on as many different systems and system set- ups as possible.Formative The results of our formative evaluation, from our classmates, were relatively consistent in regard to the professionalism and appeal of the lesson design and organization. Evaluators disagreed wildly on the appropriateness of our content, some seeming perfectly content with the difficulty, some believing it to be too simple, some too complicated. All technical aspects of the project worked for the evaluators, with two exceptions 1) one evaluator had problems with the sound which we could not replicate, and 2) the closed captioning was lost from production to implementation of the module. We continued to work on integrating the module properly in order to restore the closed captioning to the finished product, completing work on both integration and within Captivate in order to achieve the most accessible product within our power. In the end, in order to ensure that all accessibility functions were functional, we had to choose to publish our product in flash, rather than html5.Summative
Our summative evaluation was provided to friends and family in a variety of fields, results were included based on two criteria: 1) that each evaluator was an adult, and 2) that each evaluator was employed. All other results were disqualified based on intended audience. Our summative results were similar to the formative results, differing primarily on the relevance of the content. Several evaluators in both the formative and summative evaluations were unhappy with narration, leading the group to conclude that a professional solution to audio would be necessary for professional production of this module (something that we as students are unprepared to pay for). In addition two evaluators reported difficulty with the YouTube video example that could not be replicated by the team in any browser on several computers, and therefore has remained unresolved by necessity. Discuss your formative evaluation and how it affected your overall project. Then discuss how you conducted summative evaluation. Discuss your ISD process in terms of effects on student or learner achievement. Be sure to include the results from formative evaluation that you conducted and for which you received feedback – surveys, user trials, SME reviews, small group evaluations.Expected maintenance and distribution requirements The most difficult aspect of updating the instruction in the future is a common issue in asynchronous training development, the revision of narration. If one has a stable development team, it is possible to use a team member for narration without too much difficulty, as most training will remain stable, or be discontinued due to outdated material after several years regardless. However, if your development team is not stable, or you lose the person who recorded the training in the first place, it can be difficult to update the narration without recreating it entirely. If your company or team has the funds to hire a consultant to do the narration, this problem may be relieved if the consultant agrees to be on call for a certain period of time. However, this can get costly as the consultants time will have to be paid for every time revisions are required. If you do not have the funds for an outside consultant, or are completing a project for a class, revisions will require new recordings. Distribution is relatively simple due to the asynchronous nature of the product. Most professional organizations have either a LMS (learning management system) or an intranet on which the training can be deployed. If confirmation that the training has been completed is required, and a learning management system is not already installed, a basic Moodle can be installed and configured relatively easily for asynchronous training. While it would be an investment in time for the training team, the system only has to be installed once and then all asynchronous training can be uploaded into it. The additional training, roleplaying and simulation with management in order to improve communication as a team, is up to the management, will be purchased from an outside organization. Ease of use and distribution were primary concerns when developing a plan for our training, as most organizations are trending away from face-to-face instruction and toward asynchronous online training for the following reasons: Cost: instructors are expensive and face-to-face training is time consuming, requiring
that employees spend large chunks of time away from productive workConvenience: when instruction is broken into smaller sections, employees can view itquickly, in between meetings or customer interactions, first thing in the morning or atthe end of the day when time might be less productive, etc.Retention: Face-to-face training occurs once, sometimes with supplemental material,but isnt naturally geared toward review. Asynchronous training can be viewed as oftenas necessary.Our instructional module will continue to be available on this wiki page, which will bemaintained for at least two years as part of group members Educational Technologyprogram resources. In addition, the module source material will be distributed to eachgroup member for his/her use.We consider this particular training to be incomplete, suggesting that a professionalaudio solution be located and additional role-play material purchased by a largerorganization (as suggested in our design section). However, this training is not a stand-alone module, and will be part of a larger course on Communication in the Workplaceas a whole.
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