Unauthorised communication platforms causing workplace chaos

Organisations must listen to users’ concerns around corporate-approved communications platforms or risk their employees using unsanctioned tools, according to a new report from Maintel.

A substantial proportion of employees are moving towards consumer, not business-grade tools, such as Snapchat or Facebook Messenger for work.

There is a significant disconnect between the way that workers wish to communicate and the platforms that are actually sanctioned by businesses.

The best way to avoid the security and compliances risks of this “communications and workplace chaos” is to concentrate their efforts into making mandated tools as easy and intuitive to use as possible, by listening to employees’ needs and concerns.

>Read more on How workplace communication is changing

“Employers have a good reason for providing effective, safe and sanctioned communication tools at work,” said Rufus Grig, CTO, Maintel.

“They want to maximise efficiency and productivity, reduce costs and travel, ensure compliance and optimise security. When employees fail to use these tools, it’s usually because the experience – compared to consumer platforms – can be poor; hence why we see such significant use of the likes of WhatsApp and Facetime for business use.”

“Businesses should appreciate that blocking certain tools and mandating others is only part of the solution. Organisations should work closely with employees to understand what frustrations they experience with existing tools and select and develop solutions to make these platforms more compelling.”

Rufus Grig believes it is important to use the customer to inform his strategy as CTO
Rufus Grig believes it is important to use the customer to inform his strategy as CTO

Unsanctioned comms can be most popular

According to respondents of Maintel’s report, consumer-oriented tools are much more popular than many enterprise-grade platforms. This stems from the ease of use, speed of response and collaboration. The use of new, mostly consumer-oriented tools is also on the rise.

>Read more on How machine learning is changing the face of business communication

Currently, however, these platforms are largely used for non-work activities – unless it is to speak to colleagues.

The security risks and impossibility of corporate oversight means that many of these platforms are often blocked in the workplace. For instance, Instagram is not approved in 41% of organisations, Facebook Messenger in 34% and Snapchat in 38%, according to the report.

Communicate with employees

The challenge of balancing user experience with compliance can seem daunting, especially with so many tools available. That’s why Maintel recommends that organisations consider the following advice when reviewing their communications strategy and infrastructure:

• Listen to your users

Businesses should make every effort to listen to users’ concerns about mandated communications platforms and do all they can to improve the experience.

The best way to drive your employees into the arms of insecure, unmonitored consumer-focused communications platforms is not to listen and react to their feedback on existing, business-based tools. Dialogue between management and users is the best way to encourage workers to use the right tools and can also lead to improvements in policies and business-approved platforms that will make the user experience more enjoyable and productive.

>Read more on The increasing impact of the digital workplace

The reasons for using a particular communications tool need to be as good as the reasons not to use a competing platform; and whichever one the company chooses, rules of best practice need to be clearly communicated.

• All platforms need policies

Businesses also need to abandon the belief that just because they have a “corporate-appropriate” communications system, it cannot be misused either on purpose or by accident. Policies need to be completely clear on what’s acceptable and appropriate at work, and what is not.

In addition, it’s worth explaining the reasons for these policies to encourage adherence and establish greater security awareness among the workforce. Businesses should also ensure that the same clear guidelines are advertised to anyone who uses corporate systems, such as a business partner or other guest.

• Persuasion, not compulsion

Banning or blocking certain communications platforms will most likely lead to resentment, not least because workers will feel that their employers are forcing them down an unproductive path. There needs to be a good, well-communicated reason for banning a particular tool, especially if it’s one that has proven popular among the workforce.

Like the BYOD phenomenon, doing nothing is not an answer to the challenge of a more complex technological landscape. If we are serious about improving collaboration, building better relationships and moving into the modern era, companies need to offer modern tools to their staff in order to communicate with each other.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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