Did you know that in 1889 in London, the postman didn't call twice but 12 times? People in the city complained if a letter didn't arrive in a couple of hours, while even those in the provinces expected their letters to arrive next day and an response the day after.
I mention this because two weeks ago I sent an email to someone asking for some information that would enable me to decide on a course of action – and I’ve just had a reply. This is just one example of why technology isn’t all that – the latency of decision-making has been horribly impacted by email and voicemail. It’s just so slow! In the more recent old days, the default would have been to pick up the phone, but we have a different relationship with the phone these days. It’s why I’m not surprised that businesses have followed consumers in their love of the messaging app.
I mean, what’s not to like? It’s immediate, it’s quick, it somehow cuts through the ‘I’ll leave that for later’ filter and encourages a prompt response, you don’t actually have to engage anyone in a proper conversation, you have control over the dialogue and time to think about your answer. And you can have these message streams going across multiple channels simultaneously – and arguably causing just as much distraction as email – but still people seem very comfortable with the mechanism.
Well, the users do, perhaps the bosses who are not invited into the groups less so. I know from my work with the retail sector that there are staff bases who have ‘gone off piste’ and set up WhatsApp groups to communicate – not for gossip but for genuine operational reasons. So the bosses there face a double whammy - being out of the loop for one thing, and for another having staff use an app that is widely regarded as not compliant for business use, when it comes to GDPR and data security issues.
Other organisations – wanting messaging to be a full and proper part of internal comms and safe to use – have gone down the Microsoft Teams, Workplace or Slack route. So that’s another application put in the stack, to pay for, to manage, to embed, another point solution in a sea of point solutions.
Why? Why default to a limited quick fix? Sure, messaging is core to internal comms these days, and internal comms is core to engagement programs and people strategies. But there are a fair few other things that are core too – for example, feedback, recognition, self-service and self-sourcing, elearning, professional and personal support, user-centric resources, HR essentials – so instead of breaking these out and getting in more point solutions, why not aggregate? Why not bring everything together that can inform, enable, empower and assist your colleagues and put it behind one front door? What is so wrong with the idea of the ultimate staff app, one that moves beyond HR basics to impact operations, service delivery, training, customer service, quality management, sales and basically delivers right across the C suite?
There isn’t anything wrong with it. It just goes against people’s natural tendency to take a fairly reactive, micro approach to things - looking for a specific product to fix a specific problem, that problem also being the one that is looming largest on their desk at that moment. But that thinking means they risk missing the bigger prize – why choose a single use tool when you could have something that shapes the employee experience in a multitude of ways? Why spend time and money rolling out a messaging app (and a potentially non-compliant one at that) when you could spend the same on a secure engagement platform that would do your messaging and 20 other things besides – things that collectively can really shift the needle on productivity, efficiency, morale, commitment, staff retention, client loyalty and other performance improvement factors.
Have a think about it. Not in two weeks’ time but today.