Employers Face Challenge as Workers ‘Bring Their Own Messaging’

Working From Home

Employers should be aware that over half—53 percent—of their deskless workers are using their messaging apps and social networks to communicate about work-related matters, an indication that the notion of “Bring Your Own Device” has expanded to include “Bring Your Own Messaging.”

Although that’s not surprising in this day and age of HR consumerization, it does hint that corporate efforts to improve internal communications aren’t aligning with the how workers actually get their jobs done, especially in public-facing industries like retail or hospitality.

Corporate efforts to improve internal communications aren’t aligning with the how workers actually get their jobs done, especially in public-facing industries like retail or hospitality. Click To Tweet

Speakap, an “enterprise social network” designed to facilitate communications between employers and deskless workers, surveyed over 1,000 deskless employees in the U.S., UK, Netherlands, Spain and Germany about their use of, and concerns about, internal communications in their companies.

Among other things, the survey found that 64 percent of deskless employees use their personal device to communicate for work-related reasons. A smidgen more—68 percent—said their companies permit them to use their own devices during business hours.

And they use those devices a lot. Speakap said 53 percent use messaging apps for work up to six times each day. Email was their primary vehicle for 31 percent of workers, while 30 percent favored messaging or SMS/text apps.

Patrick Van Der Mijl, Speakap’s co-founder, argues that although tools like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger may be popular, they’re not appropriate solutions for internal communications. His reasons: “digital wellbeing,” data security and regulatory compliance.

For example, 30 percent of deskless workers said the “always on” nature of messaging and social media sites makes it difficult to maintain work/life balance. Twelve percent were concerned unauthorized tools could expose sensitive data and increase the likelihood of data breaches.

That 12 percent is notable because it suggests most employees aren’t giving much thought to security. Van Der Mijl observed that the unapproved use of personal, consumer-grade tools could cause compliance headaches for many companies. “A company [could] fail an audit without ever causing a data breach, especially in highly regulated industries, he said.” Speakup said many businesses have banned publicly available messaging apps because of the EU GDPR’s documentation requirements.

Speakap also found that workers’ biggest frustrations with their employer current communications efforts is a lack of collaboration and sharing of company/product information and learning knowledge with colleagues.

Messaging Like Consumers Message

So what do deskless workers want out of their internal communications platforms? Clear timelines, news, organizational groups, and document management and access, Speakup said. But what was least important is more interesting: When it comes to communications tools, much-hyped features like artificial intelligence, voice recognition and video ranked lowest.

Of course, Speakap would like organizations to see its platform as the ideal way to “replace all of the unapproved messaging apps and social media sites used by deskless workers,” as Van Der Mijl put it. He argues that companies would operate more efficiently if their communications platform acted “as a one-stop shop” that integrated CRM, HR, payroll and workforce management tools.

So it’s not surprising the company emphasized that 68 percent of workers said they would stop using their own messaging apps and social media sites if their employers provided a single internal communications platform. Speakap said this signals “a disillusionment with the current processes and flaws of consumer-focused messaging apps and social media sites and … a willingness to embrace and use a smarter alternative.”

We don’t really buy that. BYOD was born when workers became frustrated with workplace technology that was more difficult to use than the products they were using at home. Soon after it become common for IT departments to develop approaches that, if they didn’t make it easier to use your own laptop, at least didn’t get in your way.

Now a similar dynamic is playing out with internal communications. Workers across several industries—most of them in some kind of professional services—have complained about the necessity of employing, say, Android for work when they’d rather use iOS as they do at home. Others dislike having to carry around two devices, one for business use and one for personal use, because of their company’s policies.

If only 12 percent of workers are thinking about the security issues involved with using personal devices, we don’t see how more than two-thirds are “disillusioned” with current systems and would “embrace and use a smarter alternative.”

In 2013, J.D. Power & Associates reported that customer satisfaction with smartphones stood at 796 on a 1,000 point scale. That means the challenge companies like Speakap face in winning over users isn’t about security or technical excellence. It’s about convenience and ease-of-use.

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