Frontline workers turn to unapproved messaging apps

25th January 2019
Alex Lynn

According to the ‘Bridging the Internal Communications Gap: What Frontline Employees Really Want and Need’ research study released by Speakap, frontline workers in the retail, hospitality and entertainment industries are turning to unapproved messaging apps for work-related communications, without HR’s knowledge. 

In particular, over half (53%) of global frontline workers said they use messaging apps up to six times daily for work-related communications. Yet, 16% said their HR departments are unaware of such usage.

Patrick Van Der Mijl, co-founder of Speakap, stated: “Just because these tools are popular or preferred doesn’t mean they are the right choice. There are three serious problems with using tools like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger for employee communications – digital wellbeing, data security and regulatory compliance.

“This is reinforced by the data from our study, with 30% of the respondents saying that the 24/7 nature of messaging apps and social media sites makes it difficult to maintain a work/personal life balance and 12% expressing concerns that sensitive data could be left exposed and susceptible to data breaches. Worse yet, the unapproved use of these tools could potentially cause a company to fail an audit without ever causing a data breach, especially in highly regulated industries.”

With the EU General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) going into effect as of May 25th, 2018, many businesses are now banning the use of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat in order to comply with EU GDPR. Deutsche Bank, for example, has banned the use of SMS, WhatsApp and other messenger services as of January 2017 due to the stringent documentation obligations that fall on banks for regulatory compliance.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Maintaining a healthy personal and work life balance impacts employee satisfaction: When asked to clarify the most important aspect of how their company connects with them, 24% said finding a good balance between their personal and work lives is most important.
  • Increased product/promotion knowledge and better job performance are where the value lies: When we asked respondents about the most important criterion for how they want to receive internal communications from their company, the top answer was to learn about new products, promotions and offers (weighted score of 9.31).
  • Targeted messaging, access to learning and development content and regular feedback are keys to converting unengaged employees into brand advocates: 24% of the respondents said an enterprise social network would make it easy to access interactive training and development content to increase their awareness and knowledge of the company’s purpose and vision. Plus, 22% said an ESN would enable them to participate in polls/surveys regularly to shed light on their knowledge level.
  • Lack of collaboration and information sharing can hamper two-way communications: 27% of the respondents said their biggest frustration with how their company delivers two-way communications is the lack of collaboration and sharing of relevant company/product information and learnings with their fellow colleagues, teams, office staff and management.
  • Move over AI and voice recognition: clear timeline, organisational groups and document management are the most beloved ESN features: The top four features that deskless workers care about are, in order of importance: clear timeline (weighted score of 14.92), news (weighted score of 14.63), organisational groups (weighted score of 13.38) and document management/access (weighted score of 13.13). But it was also found that the types of features most often categorised as innovative, such as artificial intelligence (weighted score of 2.60), voice recognition (weighted score of 3.22) and video (weighted score of 4.05) ranked lowest on the list of desired features.

Interestingly, 68% of the respondents said they would stop using messaging apps and social media sites if their companies provided an internal communications platform. This finding signals two things: first, a disillusionment with the current processes and flaws of consumer-focused messaging apps and social media sites and second, a willingness to embrace and use a smarter alternative.

Patrick Van Der Mijl, concluded: “One key to solving these problems is implementing a single technology platform that can replace all of the unapproved messaging apps and social media sites used by deskless workers. Essentially, an internal communications platform that acts as a one-stop shop and can integrate with hundreds of CRM, HR, payroll and workforce management tools will make things run a lot smoother within your organisation, and make it easier to minimise this huge gap between what HR believes is occurring and what actually is occurring among your employees.”

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