For the first time ever, there are 5 generations in the workforce today and there is no denying each generation has a preferred style they want to consume and gain access to information. It’s also no secret that Millenials and Gen Z expect on-demand access to information at work like they have as a consumer in their personal lives.

Americans are online an average of seven hours per day – using mobile devices to communicate, check email, order take-out and more, according to 2019 Global Digital reports. Thanks to ever-changing technology, we've come to expect direct access to our personal data and important information in all areas of our daily lives. So how do we bring the things that we love so much about modern mobile communication, like texting for instance, into our workplaces and HR processes to help engage and excite employees?

Chances are right now you’re conducting performance and process retrospectives on the great strides your organization made in 2019, which always lead to what can be improved in 2020. If your organization hasn’t started making a shift in this direction, make 2020 your time to start bridging these gaps and start making some impactful and I would argue fun changes.

Let’s take a look at the issue so we can understand the disconnect between consumer and business technology and find the places in our HR communication strategies where we can make a difference.

Mobile communication gen z woman on phone texting concept

The mobile communication breakdown

See, the issue is that when the weekend ends, Monday morning rolls around, and a lot of us go back to work, we immediately feel like technological advancements have rolled back to a time where snap bracelets and Nintendo were just getting their big debut. This unfortunate reality has a detrimental effect on attracting top talent, employee engagement, and ultimately optimizing performance in organizations.

And the impacts aren’t exclusive to employees – they affect the business too. A recent Ernst & Young study found that, on average, a single HR task without a self-service option costs a company $4.39. This may sound insignificant since it's about the same price as a latte, but when compounded by hundreds of employees and thousands of changes across an HR system, that number quickly adds up in a big way.

The point is both money and high-quality people are on the line here. So what do we do to fix it?

Texting is the new normal

You might be reading this and find yourself nodding and thinking, "Yes! What you’ve just described is exactly what my organization needs to fix, but where do I even start?"

If I had to say it in one word, I’d go with texting.  In prior decades there was a humiliation factor associated with text messaging at work, but now that has faded. The reason why is simple – even the most conscientious of workers aren’t able keep up with the high volumes of email, phone calls, and meetings required of them, especially at larger organizations. The emergence of text messaging tools has made this form of communication more personalized, measurable, and effective than ever before while also giving organizations more reach when it comes to employee communication by meeting them where they are already.

Exactly how popular is text messaging, you ask? According to a  Pew Research Center report, text messaging is used more frequently and by a larger group of people than any other app on the smartphone, with 97% of Americans using it daily. Millennials and Gen Z are even more dependent on texting as a primary communication tool, and they now make up the majority of the workforce.

Fish where the fish are

Think about that –  97% of us use texting constantly in our daily lives, so you don’t have to question whether or not user adoption is an issue. Why not capitalize on this statistic, empower your organization to use this communication vehicle to your advantage, and take some of the administrative load off of your people at the same time? That’s what a lot of HR organizations have started doing and I’ve outlined some examples of low hanging fruit that you can start working on before you get to that next 2020 retrospective meeting.

1. Recruiting

Let's start at the beginning of an employee’s journey. We’ve all been there as an applicant or candidate…wanting to know immediately what our professional fate may be as we wait for HR to get back to us after each step in the process. Did our resumes resonate with the hiring manager? Will the salary meet our expectations? Did we make it to the next round of interviews?

Being able to text with multiple people at once allows recruiters to juggle 10, 20, or even 30 candidates at a time. And with candidates receiving news more quickly, they can get through the pipeline at a much faster rate. There are many ways recruiters can incorporate texting into their process from cold outreach to following up to reconnecting with previous candidates and giving reminders to current ones.

Finally, let’s not forget what I mentioned before: the generations that grew up with technology literally at their fingertips who will continue to enter the workplace in greater numbers. According to a study by the Workforce Institute at Kronos, investing in communication options like texting can help address a list of red flags for Gen Z prospects. Some of these include the following:

  • A delayed response from a recruiter is a major turn-off for 44% of respondents, especially in Mexico (55%) and India (52%).
  • 41% say negative employee reviews online also make a bad impression.
  • Application portals that are not mobile-friendly sway the opinions of 29% of Gen Z respondents.
  • Workplaces that have a “dated” feel also inspire negative feelings.

In summary, thanks to the widespread ownership of smartphones in this demographic and their high expectation that you have your digital act together, it’s critical that your recruiting strategy includes modern communication approaches.

2. Onboarding

A new employee's first day on the job can really set the tone for their professional journey with your organization. It can also confirm that the decision they made to come work for your organization was a good one or do the exact opposite if you’re not careful. Nothing beats that first face-to-face contact when the employee meets their peers and team, but that said I think we all remember our first day as being like drinking from a fire hose. So many things need to happen just to enable an employee to actually work, whether it be setting up a laptop, signing up for various accounts, or going through benefits enrollment. The list can appear endless and daunting for new employees, especially when deadlines are involved.

One way that you can help your own employees get off to the right start is to openly communicate with them via text during pre-boarding. Sending reminders of required paperwork, training dates and times, and links to Google Maps directions to confirm their starting locations will all go a long way toward putting them at ease on their first day and starting things off on a positive note.

3. Open enrollment and benefits administration

Communication around open enrollment periods and benefits administration can be frustrating, stressful, and confusing for both HR and employees if they’re not on the same page. Minimizing these feelings requires constant communication. And what better way is there to get fast responses to questions and send important notifications than text messages?

Texting is not only a great way to send reminders of important dates and link back to necessary forms, it’s also ideal for providing useful information surrounding benefits package options. In fact, this approach is becoming prevalent enough that SHRM wrote a whole article just on the new ways in which employers are evolving their open enrollment communication plans to keep up with the times.

4. Training

Let’s be honest, sometimes required training gets put on the back burner when employees have other impending deadlines on their plate. This lack of urgency can be a major sticking point for HR teams, especially since these trainings are often tied to compliance goals. By being able to connect directly to employees through texting, HR can easily send a quick, friendly reminder to any employee falling behind on training deadlines, which can help drive attendance numbers up. Engaging employees on their mobile devices also ensures that even if they’re away from their desk they get notified and know about key training events.

5. Scheduling

This is a passionate topic for managers to say the least. Whether an employee calls in sick or their workload unexpectedly increases, unexpected shift openings force managers to resort to time-consuming manual processes to secure the right workers. According to a study conducted by Workjam, 68% of employers say the most difficult part of scheduling is assigning shifts that accommodate both their staff’s availability and business needs.  Managers spend up to 25% of their time filling open shifts, a task that requires them to juggle a variety of criteria, including seniority, skills and certifications, preferences, and overtime thresholds. Having to manually handle all these considerations can result in unfair and inconsistent shift assignments.

Companies like AndGo and Twilio are automating these tedious processes so that managers can focus on more strategic initiatives and make more of an impact on the business. According to its website, Twilio has democratized communications channels like voice, text, chat, video, and email by enabling innovators across every industry to reinvent how companies engage with their employees, essentially building 1:1 relationships at scale. Not only can you communicate directly with your team, but imagine if the system could send automatic text messages when an employee can no longer fill their shift? This is now becoming a reality as managers can send shift requests directly to an employee’s mobile phone and they can respond if they’re interested in working the specified shift.

The key here is pairing that automated communication with HCM software that can automatically select the right employee, check any time rules in the background, and assign the shift. This helps managers maintain appropriate staffing levels while freeing them from the time-consuming manual process of calling individual employees.

Conclusion: The writing's on the wall when it comes to texting/mobile communication

When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, it’s imperative that you take a good look at your HR processes to make sure you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to using technology to communicate effectively and make processes as efficient as possible. Focusing on building a consumer-grade, mobile-ready experience will keep your employees engaged and proud to work at a company like yours. Feeling productive is one of the biggest contributors to job satisfaction — and that’s most definitely an HR issue.

To learn more about how having an HCM platform that’s built based on responsive design principles ensures that organizations can meet the expectations of the modern workforce, I invite you to read The Rise of the Responsive Employee Experience and see how anytime, anywhere access to HCM insights changes the game for HR teams, their organizations, and their employees.

Read about the rise of the responsive employee experience

Published: Tuesday, December 31, 2019