What HR Professionals Need to Know About Text Messages
Text messaging and messaging apps are broadly considered one of the most efficient and effective methods of business communication, especially with technical teams or younger staff members. However, these same individuals may not realize the security issues that they may be introducing to their organization by discussing sensitive topics on instant messaging. Email, which used to be the business communication tool of choice, is increasingly filled with advertising messages and spam — making it less relevant and more time-consuming than texting. There may also be an (invalid) assumption that messages sent via a messaging app are more private from the organization than those that are sent by company-monitored and owned email. As a human resources professional, it’s up to you to untangle the messy web of messaging and help educate your staff members on how to appropriately use these various channels of business communication.
Information on Demand
Messaging is considered by many to be more valuable than email communication, simply because it is perceived to gain an instant answer from the recipient. This evolution in our communication styles is expanding to include everything from SMS text messages to chatbots to apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack and more. Deliverables are communicated via these more informal methods, and it is not unusual for employees to share more information in a more casual way than they would with text messaging. There is the perception that messaging is more of a short-term style of sharing information, but messages are every bit as vulnerable to being hacked as emails. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can mitigate the risks of always having information available on demand on a variety of different channels of conversation.
Learning from Employee Communication Styles
It’s worth auditing how your employees are currently communicating to determine if there are styles that are more efficient or secure that can be leveraged throughout the organization. For instance, messages that are sent on the personal device of a staff member is considered more of a security risk than the same message sent on company-owned devices. The concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is alive and well in corporate America, and it can be difficult to police how staff members are accessing company information. If you find a communication platform that seems to work well for many team members, it may be worth mandating — or at least strongly recommending — that all teams use the same tool to reduce the overall risk to the organization. Employees and customers want to communicate when and how they desire, but messaging must be quick and accessible or you will not gain widespread adoption.
Casual Workforce = Amplified Security Risk
According to a recent study by Symphony Communication Services, a secure workplace communication platform, there are significant threats on all sides of collaborative communication. Workers are incredibly trusting, with over 90% of the 1,500 individuals surveyed believing that their chat platform was safe from external prying eyes. There are additional risky behaviors at work: these same individuals were sharing work materials over a messaging app (29%), using personal emails to conduct business (25%) and knowingly connecting to networks that are unsecured (27%). The information that is being on shared on these platforms is just as shocking, with details such as negativity about their bosses, sharing personal information and even confidential company information by an average of 25% or more of the respondents. This casual approach to text messaging and chat apps extend even to the use of platforms that are not explicitly approved by IT teams.
Getting an Education in Communication
What’s perhaps the most frightening thing of all is that these communication platforms may be blooming throughout your organization without HR guidelines in place to monitor and normalize the behavior. Most organizations have now created HR guidelines for social media, email and printed communication — but do you have the same level of information available for text messaging platforms that are already being used? Chances are, your policies, procedures and training haven’t kept up with the way employees are communicating today. One way to tackle this issue is to create a survey that asks staff members and managers to list the various ways that they currently interact with others, both internally and external to the organization. Vet this list with leadership and your trusted technology partners or IT team to be sure any information that is being shared is fully secured.
Managing the various forms of communication that happen around the office is already a herculean task, but it can seem completely overwhelming when you add in all the various messaging options. When you start with understanding the communication needs of your customers and employees, you are one step closer to consolidating and protecting your important corporate information.