In today's business environment, communication needs are diverse and complex. Employees must communicate to clients, providers, and coworkers across regions, departments, and divisions quickly and efficiently. This can be especially challenging considering that people have different communication needs, and due to the nature of their jobs, many of them do not have access to the same tools.
Companies are using various internal methods and channels to communicate across their organization: mobile apps, email, video conferencing, online collaboration tools, intranet, etc. This is achieved by using many platforms like Facebook Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, mobile phones and others.
Although variety is a great asset in many situations, it isn't so great in business communication; in fact, the decentralization of communication processes can lead to significant losses. Here are some of the drawbacks linked to the use of multiple communication channels and tools within a business.
1. Inefficient communication
When staff members use different tools to communicate, they waste time going back and forth between platforms and multiplying the number of messages required for every action or transaction.
Here's an example: An employee requests to trade a shift with another employee. (Although your shift management tool should offer an automated process for this scenario, for the sake of this blog post and because most WFM tools still don't provide this capability, your team currently manages these situations manually.)
Let's assume that staff members use an average of three platforms to communicate and use a mixture of Facebook, SMS messaging, and email.
Suppose an employee wants to change their schedule: they want to swap a shift with a coworker. What happens then? Let's follow the chain of communication:
- The employee must communicate with the manager to see if they're allowed to swap a shift: 1 MESSAGE
- Once approved, they must send a message to all available employees across 3 different platforms. Depending on the number of compatible employees: anywhere from 3-15 MESSAGES.
- They must then communicate with each employee who expressed a desire to swap their shift: anywhere from 3-15 MESSAGES.
- Once an agreement has been reached, they must contact the manager(s) again to seek their approval for the shift swap: 1 MESSAGE. If the manager rejects the request, the entire process must be repeated.
- Once complete, a manager must update the master schedule and communicate any changes made to the schedule: 1-3 MESSAGES
Based on this example, it can take anywhere from 9-35 messages to process one shift change request. Now, consider that this process is repeated every time a change request is made. That's a lot of messages!
Moreover, similar inefficiencies become obvious in businesses with high turnover; setting up and coordinating multiple communication platforms for part-time, seasonal and fixed contract workers is a nightmare.
2. Communication conflicts
When employees can use whatever and however many platform(s) they want, conflicts can arise very quickly. For example, what happens if one employee does not have access to a mobile phone such that she cannot send/receive text messages and calls? Nor use mobile-based platforms? Or, what happens if one employee does not want to use the same platforms that others use? In these cases, the employees must resolve the issues themselves, which can lead to problems for the company.
3. Security/Privacy concerns
If employees are using third-party (i.e. non-mandated) communication platforms, there is no way to guarantee the privacy and confidentiality of the messages being sent and received. Such platforms do boast security measures, but they are often insufficient and subject to change without notice.
Furthermore, the presence of these tools presents a significant issue for IT departments since they do not have complete control or visibility over sent messages. This is made obvious by the fact that employees that are no longer part of the company can still access workplace chat threads and cannot realistically be removed from them. Granting company communication access to ex-employees is a massive potential risk.
Often, communication platforms construct long user "Terms and conditions" agreements which stipulate the rights they have over the data being shared on their platform. The conditions stipulate that they own the user's data, which means they can do what they want with it, like sharing it or selling it to unknown buyers without permission. Facebook's recent widespread privacy violations with Cambridge Analytica is an alarming reminder of this.
4. Potential liabilities
If an employee sends a harmful and/or inappropriate message to a coworker, then realizes they may be in trouble, they may permanently delete the message to avoid being found out. In this case, it is imperative that the sent message(s) be retrievable for legal purposes. When using platforms that own and store your business' communication data, it may be impossible to retrieve such message(s).
5. Context loss
Many communication platforms used in today's workplace are not meant to be used for work (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, text), yet are being used for that very purpose. When this happens, the boundary between personal and professional contexts is blurred, and both suffer as a result. For example, employees can easily become distracted, thereby decreasing productivity and the overall quality of communication as a whole. One way to ensure that communication remains strictly work-related is by integrating one's communication method(s) into a business' existing workforce management tool.
In light of the reasons stated above, using a single communication platform dedicated to work is worth considering.
WorkAxle offers a centralized, simple, easy-to-use and secure communication platform. Since it's built in-house and the data is stored on our servers, there is no potential for data sharing or selling. In addition, it's designed specifically for work, so the communication lines are always clear, and the boundary between work and life is respected. When joining, employees automatically inherit all communication channels relevant to them and can start working right away.