Tuesday, 19th October 2021

Communications chaos?

Research from Maintel reveals extent of unauthorised comms platforms at work and highlights the dangers to businesses unless they regain control.

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.


In a survey of 1,000 employed adults in the UK, a substantial proportion of employees say that they would like to use consumer-grade tools such as Snapchat or Facebook Messenger for work. According to the research, 24 per cent say they would like Snapchat to be approved by their employer, 19 per cent Twitter, while 17 per cent say they would like to use Facebook Messenger and FaceTime to communicate with colleagues, customers and partners.


The report also finds a significant disconnect between the way that workers wish to communicate and the platforms that are actually sanctioned by businesses. Maintel advises that the best way to avoid the security and compliances risks of this "communications 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.


Unsanctioned comms can be most popular


According to respondents, consumer-oriented tools are much more popular than many enterprise-grade platforms, with ease of use, speed of response and collaboration cited as the chief benefits. Three in ten employees (29 per cent) say that they use WhatsApp for two or more hours each day, while the figures for Instagram (41 per cent) and Facebook Messenger (32 per cent) are even higher.


What's more, the use of new, mostly consumer-oriented tools is on the rise, with the majority of respondents reporting that they have increased their use over the past three years. These include platforms such as WhatsApp (with 62 per cent reporting increased use), FaceTime (87 per cent), Snapchat (77 per cent), Instagram (70 per cent), and many more.


Currently, however, these platforms are largely used for non-work activities unless it is to speak to colleagues. The most popular use for consumer communications tools is to communicate with friends and family: for example, 70 per cent said they use Facebook Messenger to speak to friends, 38 per cent to siblings, and 39 per cent to children or grandchildren figures that were broadly similar across different platforms.


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 per cent of organisations, Facebook Messenger in 34 per cent, and Snapchat in 38 per cent.


Communicate with employees


Rufus Grig, CTO at Maintel, says: "Employers have a good reason for providing effective, safe and sanctioned communication tools at work. 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."


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:


  1. 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.


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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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 a path of unproductivity. 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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