Looking Internal at Mobile & HR Technology’s Engagement Methods

This is Part 2 of a series on Workplace Trends in Mobile and Technology for the Human Resources Industry.  Check out Part 1 here.   Download the full essay on how mobile & technology are changing HR as featured in J. Wiley & Son’s Summer 2012 issue of Employment Relations Today Journal by downloading here.  I’ll be publishing the materials as part of an ongoing series on mobile recruiting and HR technology.  

Internal Workplace Engagement Methods

Since the adoption of computers and the Internet at work, e-mail has been the preferred method of internal communication for employers and organizations updating their employees on company announcements, acquisitions, policy, or organizational changes. For many managers, e-mail serves as a management and monitoring tool. Bosses quickly e-mail their teams for updates on project changes and reports and statistics used to analyze their span of control’s success, progress, or failure.

Although e-mail can be effective, it is also bulky and long winded. It consumes our work time, with the average e-mail user receiving 147 e-mails each day and spending an estimated 2-1/2 hours sorting, organizing, and rereading. On average, only 12 of the 147 e-mails require additional work, information, or follow-up, making the case for e-mail as an inefficient management and messaging tool.

E-mail is not designed for quick messaging, but internal messaging platforms are. Internal microblogging platforms are similar to Twitter (an external messaging tool), which limits users  to just 140 characters per message. Messages are sent in real time to a group or individual, offering up a quick response, direction, or guidance and taking the bulk out of e-mail. Unlike external microblogging sites such as Twitter, internal messaging tools keep the message internal, secure, and private. One such tool is Yammer. Yammer, similar to text messaging but using your PC, allows for documents to be shared and stored. Different teams or groups are designated with team members receiving updates via e-mail or even text message. Companies are using Yammer and other Yammer-like services for team collaboration, learning, sharing, and crowdsourcing answers, ideas, and information.

A Case Study of Grass Roots Internal Communication

Sometimes an instant messaging service is not robust enough to share, communicate, and learn in the workplace. Internal social-networking platforms allow for increased information sharing and data storage as well as connecting with coworkers, colleagues, and peers. One Fortune 500 company designed its own internal social network using $40,000 and free software, taking a grass roots approach to growing the company culture and  community. Using a data-storage platform, Microsoft SharePoint, this company started small, creating an internal social community focused on nonwork interests. After building the platform infrastructure using a volunteer team of employees, the company beta tested the community for 90 days using a small test group as a starting point. With no corporate social-networking policy to pull from, the company used this opportunity as a starting point to create one. The first variation of the network focused on user-created interest groups with the most popular group being one about pets. Employees posted photos, updated activity calendars, and wrote blogs posting them within the internal social platform. Employee feedback from the beta testing was extremely positive as employees developed deeper relationships with their fellow employees, increasing their satisfaction with the company culture and work environments. Beta-project leaders reported no incidents of employee misuse, and even at present employees self-police their network use.

The success resulting from the beta test led to the quiet launch of the internal social network for the entire organization in 2009. Since its launch, the company has added profile options that allow employees to create professional work profiles and connect better with one another. Recruiters internally have also found use for the profile pages—as a sourcing reference to help fill company positions, taking advantage of their large and active employee base. Other features added recently include work groups that allow  team members who are often  working virtually  to post questions, collaborate, and share information. Work groups are maintained and controlled by the individual manager. Although templates and best practices were designed for work groups, managers and their teams can make changes to their internal groups and pages based on their own interests and needs.

Other companies are considering internal social networks for increased collaboration as well as knowledge transfer, given the increased number of experienced workers who are looking toward retirement. Like the company described above, companies are also looking at ways to improve communication with their managers and employees as teleworking, virtual offices, and work-from-home programs are on the rise.

Mobile Messaging As Quick Email Alternative

Mobile messaging using text messages is an effective model to reach the millennial professional and job-seeker community. In aggregate, they prefer text messages to e-mail messaging and voice communication. A quick, 160-character text message from an employee who is calling in sick or inquiring about a job opening or from a job seeker who wants to receive job announcements from a preferred company  is a powerful and real-time engagement and information-sharing tool.

As mentioned previously, mobile is an effective way to engage workers regardless of their location. Government agencies are using mobile apps that allow employees access to their employee directories from their personal devices. These government agencies see BYOD (bring your own device) programs as an effective organizational cost-cutting measure. In 2010, The Federal Telework Bill was passed, allowing for these federal government agencies to take advantage of telework and BYOD programs. Instead of paying for employees to have a second smart phone, companies offer employees a monthly stipend and incentive to use their own devices. These agencies put security settings and encryption programs in place to ensure that company data is protected. Nearly a year since the program’s inception, 89 percent of federal employee’s surveyed say that using mobile devices and participating in telework programs make them more productive at work.

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 here  and the next series installment, Part 3 here of this HR Technology and Mobile series.   Download the full essay on how mobile & technology are changing HR as featured in J. Wiley & Son’s Summer 2012 issue of Employment Relations Today Journal by downloading here.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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