Emojis have become a cultural phenomenon–much more than just fun characters and smiley faces we exchange in texts, tweets and emails with family and friends. They are shaping how we express business ideas and emotions in the workplace in a huge way. Linguists and data scientists are seeking new ways to study language and communication in the digital ideograms. Graduate students are writing dissertations on the subject, and emoji enthusiasts gathered at Stanford University for the International Workshop On Emoji Understanding And Application To Social Media to study how emojis are changing the way we communicate online.
Photo by Fausto Garcia on Unsplash
Are Emoji Users Viewed As Unprofessional?
The 2019 Emoji Trend Report was released last month, and the results are in: 61% of employees use emojis at work. The report said that emojis help users better communicate their thoughts and feelings and connect to people they routinely text or online message. But despite the majority of workers now integrating emojis into their daily email and instant messaging routines, 72% reported being hesitant at first – likely because using emojis in the workplace has historically been seen as unprofessional. According to a study in Social Psychological and Personality Science, adding an emoji to an email increases perceptions that you’re incompetent. The experiment had participants read an email about a business meeting from a new employee to an unfamiliar administrative assistant. Participants in the study rated the messages with smiley faces lower in competence than the emails with plain text. But not so fast. Oh, how times are changing, according to professional business experts. Emojis are being used in more global, diverse and innovative ways and for good reason.
Innovative Emoji Uses
In collaboration with organizations such as the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf, Apple has proposed a series of emojis to better represent people with disabilities. Among the proposed options for iPhones are emojis showing an ear with an attached hearing aid, an image using sign language, and others with service dogs, wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and a person using a white cane. Diversifying emoji options, the proposal says, “helps fill a significant gap and provides a more inclusive experience.” Today In: Leadership
Vik Verma, CEO of unified communications platform company 8×8, encourages the use of emojis in workplace communications. He told me, “Plain and simple, emojis help employees communicate more effectively with each other. They can indicate tone that might otherwise be misconstrued and can boost credibility. What’s really important is getting your message across as clearly as possible, and if emojis can help with that, then go right ahead.”
As the line between personal and professional communication is increasingly blurred and with multiple generations in the workplace, we’re seeing a shift in both the tools people use to communicate and how they communicate on a daily basis.
More companies are looking at new technological advancements that can help alleviate cognitive overload, compassion fatigue and employee burnout. One such technology comes from Cogito, which leverages a foundation of behavioral science in combination with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to guide employees, especially during stressful customer interactions, empowering them and helping them perform better. Cogito’s AI coach analyzes human behavior through voice and provides in-the-moment feedback during conversations. The software provides nudges to call-center agents via the display of in-the-moment cues—for example an image of a coffee cup when energy is low or a heart when a customer’s emotional state changes, indicating a need for empathy. It guides agents during conversations to be more emotionally intelligent, which takes some of the cognitive burden off of them and helps better control conversations. It also helps them lead customers through challenging situations without taking on the emotional burden.
According to Verma, emojis are the future of workplace communications: “Businesses of today simply cannot afford miscommunications. With increasingly digital means of communicating, it’s becoming all too easy for employees to misread the tone and intent of the many emails, instant messages, and other correspondence they receive. The difference between ending a sentence with a period versus an exclamation point, for instance, can drastically shift the tone of the message. We’re increasingly seeing emojis incorporated into workplace communications. Plain and simple, emojis help employees communicate more effectively with each other. They indicate tone that might otherwise be misconstrued, and can boost efficiency. They are a universal language regardless of your native speech. As we move into the future of work, we’ll continue to see communication channels evolve to incorporate tone, voice and personality in ways that are more aligned with real-life interactions.”
It looks like organizations are just beginning to scratch the surface with innovative strategies on how emoji ideograms can be used in electronic messaging to aid in productive and diverse workplace communication. Can’t wait to see what the future brings~!
Smiley face included. 🙂