To Type or Not To Type?

To Type or Not To Type?

For over seventeen years now I’ve been hiring employees to do all sorts of jobs, all to do with computers. In today’s world, not knowing how to use a computer is like someone telling me they don’t know how to read or write. There really is no excuse for it any more. Ten years ago I might have said, “Yeah, I understand”, but today? Well, I just don’t understand. Your cell phone is a more powerful computer than the systems I use to program on years ago, and our computers on our desktops are like super computers 20 years ago. In this article I’m going to cover a few ways that people can use to interface with a computer, and what my opinion is on what works best and what probably won’t be improved on for some time to come.

Touch Screen:
For some businesses that don’t have a lot of options for what they sell, like food, bars, small stores, a touch screen may serve the purpose for data entry very well. Of course, this depends on the business and the information that business wishes to collect. For example, a company that wishes to have access to customer information, email addresses and so forth, may do better with an actual keyboard or other input device. This is mainly because, entering information that you must type, is a long tedious process if you have to do it one button at a time. It can be done, but how often and how quickly will dictate if this is acceptable.

Speech:
How many times have you been on the phone trying to work through a fancy voice switchboard and have someone walk in and start talking to you? Those things don’t work! Eventually they might get where they can recognize a single persons voice, but even then, answer the person while you’re on the phone. The system will hear you and try to interpret what you’re saying, where a real person could hear the other person and your response and will think nothing of it. I personally hate speech recognition systems unless you’re alone in a quiet environment and don’t need to take notes during a conversation. Otherwise, they just waist time and make the solution that much more complicated.

Thought:
Now this one has always amazed me. We’re going to create devices that we hook to our heads and the computer will figure out what we want to enter by what we’re thinking… I don’t know about you but lots of things scurry through my brain every millisecond. In fact, while I’m writing this I’m thinking of things we need to add to Lizzy™, things I’m going to do this weekend, tonight…. If this were to be recording my thoughts it would make no sense what so ever. So while I won’t rule out this might one day work, I would not look for it in our life time.

Magic Wand:
Better known as gestures, and yes, they do work for basic input processes like zooming, moving around the screen and the like. Apple has proven this with its iPhone and iPod devices. But in the world of data entry thats about as far as it goes. You can’t easily type someones name while moving your hands around in the air, and can you imagine walking down the street if this were the means of communicating with your phone? People would be knocking each other out trying to enter “hello mom”.

Keyboard:
The old classic! Why can’t we do better? Why has there been no real improvements on the keyboard in all this time? They’ve gotten smaller, wireless, smoother, but they still look the same and they still operate the same. Why has no other means of communicating with the computer replaced it? I have a simple answer: Give me any other device that lets you use 10 of your quickest digits to enter information all in super fast succession and without moving your larger limbs and without much thought. There really is no better means of communicating with the computer, and I am going to go out on a limb and say that in my lifetime there won’t be a better way.

So what does this mean to my business, to your business? I’m going to let you in on a secret here at nizeX, Inc. that we insist upon with every new employee. They MUST learn to type before starting their job! We pay them to learn, we supply the computer and the software for them to learn with, but before we allow them to start entering customer data, logging phone calls or selling items, they must learn to use the keyboard properly. The sad part of all this, is that it also applies to most of the developers that we’ve hired over the years. Somehow, our wonderful education system thinks it is ok to teach people to program, but provide no mandatory typing classes!

So as a business owner, you must put your foot down early on, and you must provide the necessary tools to encourage the employees to learn to type properly. Tell them up front that you fully realize that they will type slower in the beginning. Set aside 15 minutes every single morning for 2 weeks for them to take lessons. Tell them this is a mandatory part of their job and that they must perform the task the same as anything else you give them to do. Don’t allow it to be an option!

Being able to use the keyboard properly is what will allow them to enter customer data, email addresses and notes in a flash, without ever looking down at the keyboard. You can not beat this in any form and there really is no excuse for not doing it. In my opinion its like allowing a guy on the old hunting party to throw his spear with his foot. The old hunters taught them to do it the proper way to improve the likelihood that they’d bring food back to the table. So acknowledge that you’ll loose 2 weeks of productivity (15 min/day) to gain a 100% increase later on. The only reason this wouldn’t make sense is if the employee will only be with you a short time.

For less than $20 you can purchase a typing tutor to load on a computer. Mavis Beacon is the one I’ve been using for years and it does a really good job at teaching these basic skills. It’s actually a fun program to use and you’ll benefit from every minute spent with it.

–glenn hancock