Data Speak: Which Types of ESN Content Can Improve the Employee Experience?

February 28, 2019 - 11 minute read

People are the single most important asset we have at Speakap. And the same should apply to all other organizations. But to ensure the employee experience is optimal and to minimize turnover, HR data and people analytics are critical. Without it, HR teams and C-level executives will be left guessing about their employees’ communications methods, preferences and existing behaviors.

This is why we felt it was important to share platform usage data from Q4 2018 to highlight the ways in which end users (frontline workers) are using the Speakap platform and what types of employee content are resonating best and driving the highest forms of engagement. By understanding employees’ communications styles and behaviors, organizations can adjust and optimize their HR, employee experience programs accordingly. 

To better understand the findings and trends uncovered in our Q4 2018 State of Frontline Employee Communications trend report, I sat down with our Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Patrick van der Mijl. Here’s what he had to say. 

What do you think is the most valuable finding in this trend report?

One of the most important findings is that Private Messages ranked as the as the most common type of content in the fourth quarter of 2018. This is important for a few reasons. First, it points to a pattern whereby employees want and need more direct, personalized and relevant communications with their colleagues, teams and managers. And rightfully so. Rather than mass spamming messages to all staff, it’s far more effective to send messages to the most relevant people at the right times and in the right places.    

Bar Chart 1If messages are too vague or are not filtered to target and reach the most relevant users, it can lead to clutter, confusion, less productivity and even poor results/performance. This is where having the ability to group messages according to the organizational structure/matrix of your organization is tremendously valuable. By doing so, you can ensure there is far less spamming of irrelevant messages (i.e. “Who left their keys in the staff kitchen?” or “Whose car is blocking me in the parking lot?”) to all employees. Instead, the most relevant messages are delivered to the right employees at the right times and in the right places. 

What are the key takeaways for HR (best days and times to post, etc.)?

Our Q4 2018 platform usage data reveals that News was posted most often at the start and end of the workweek. To be exact, Mondays had the highest rate of News being posted (24 percent), followed closely by Thursdays (18 percent) and Fridays (18 percent). Mondays, in particular, ranked highest when it came to the frequency of certain types of enterprise social posts, such as Private Messages (19 percent) and Updates (18 percent). 

Percentage Chart 4There are several reasons this could be occurring. For one, the HR department may be keen to kickstart the week off with as much information as possible and provide a recap on key HR initiatives and programs. Additionally, the HR department could also use Mondays as a day to post inspiring posts for all employees. Finally, regional managers and the head office could be posting News on the platform at both the start and end of the week to alert onsite frontline workers about technical difficulties that could impact their ability to deliver a positive customer experience to customers and guests.

Upon looking closer at the frequency of news consumption, we found that the late afternoon/early evening hours were the most popular time of day when employees read News items on the enterprise social platform in Q4 2018. More specifically, 43 percent of the News items posted daily were read between 12 pm and 6 pm, while 39 percent were read between 6 am and 12 pm.

This could be occurring for several reasons. For one, frontline workers may be less inclined to check the enterprise social network during the morning hours because they are focused on clocking in, getting direction from their supervisors and setting out to perform their daily tasks. Another reason could be that they are waiting until the afternoon hours when there is a lull in customers/guests coming in, or when they have a schedule break for lunch, to read News items on the enterprise social network.

What are the key takeaways for frontline workers? 

In our own recent research, we found that 53 percent of global frontline workers use messaging apps up to six times a day, while 16 percent said their HR departments weren’t aware of such usage. These findings were disturbing on several levels, but they are even more problematic when you consider the fact that Facebook has been mired in repeated data privacy concerns and data breaches, coupled with security flaws recently detected on WhatsApp. 

So if messaging apps are so popular among frontline workers, and our data indicates the Private Messaging feature on enterprise social networks can fulfil this need, I can’t see why employees would continue to use insecure, ineffective messaging apps like WhatsApp. Plus, WhatsApp can get very overwhelming with the 24/7 nature and use of the app. This is something that can be remedied on certain enterprise social networks, at least on Speakap, with the availability of a digital Do Not Disturb feature that lets employees disconnect outside of their working hours. This means they can actively shut off alerts and notifications and focus on the activities and people in their lives that matter when their work shifts have ended.  

 

Why are Private Messages so popular? Is this not worrying and an indicator that employees are not working?

I think it’s a good sign Private Messages are so popular among employees on our platform. That’s exactly how we want the employee communications platform to be used. It doesn’t mean employees are fiddling around with messages and avoiding their actual work. It’s quite the contrary. It means they’re focusing their work time and efforts more specifically and more relevantly to specific projects and teams.

Let me give you an example. The Bristol location of a multi-unit quick service restaurant chain may have experienced technical difficulties as a result of a natural disaster (severe weather). That caused an electrical outage in this specific restaurant location and, in turn, required quick, effective communications to be sent to all staff in that location to let them know temporary card payment machines would be deployed to the location to offset the problem and ensure customers are still served properly. In this instance, the head office or regional restaurant manager could use Private Messages to inform the specific affected employees from that location about the issue along with updates on the resolution.  

What are the main issues employers need to contend with based on this research?

I’d say employers should actively and continually listen to their employees – and this type of data, in particular. If they don’t listen to, observe and optimize the ways they communicate with employees based on their existing behaviors and preferences, they could lose out on a valuable opportunity to connect, motivate and retain their employees. 

I’d also say employers need to invest their time, energy and budgets into communications tools that are modelled after the types of consumer social media and messaging apps they use in their everyday lives, but are more secure, more effective and more personalized. To make this happen, employers first have to communicate to their employees why certain social media and messaging apps are flawed and ineffective when used in the workplace/in relation to internal communications. If they don’t do that first, employees will be less motivated and less likely to ditch those tools in favor of an approved employee communications platform.

Are employees getting distracted at work with so many communications methods? What can be done to control this?

The struggle to overcome device and digital/app overload is very real. Just look at data from App Annie to see what I mean. The average British smartphone owner installs more than 80 apps on their device, but uses just over 30 of them on a monthly basis. 30 apps is still a lot of apps and can lead to clutter and confusion.

If employees are using 30 apps regularly and, in all likelihood, using a combination of these apps to communicate with colleagues, teams and even managers about work-related communications, it can result in a few problems. For one, the messages being sent and received will start to feel like spam and become overwhelming. Second, it could even have a negative impact on employees’ productivity levels and job performance, which in turn, could lead to fractured relationships with their managers and less employee satisfaction. Third, it can make it difficult for companies to protect their data (and comply with important regulations, such as ISO 27001 and EU GDPR). Take, for example, what could happen if an employee has left an organization, but is still using WhatsApp or other social media and messaging apps to communicate with former employees about work. Sensitive information could be exposed or leaked.

To avoid these problems, companies need to conduct an internal audit of the communications methods, preferences and tools being used by their employees. You’ve heard the saying: what you don’t know can hurt you. Well, that’s especially true for workplace communications. Companies cannot afford to live in ignorant bliss and need to make sure they know this information first and foremost. This is the only way to know if a problem exists before determining the best solution.

Once that’s been done, companies should do their research and look for an enterprise-grade employee communications platform that will achieve a few things. For their own benefits, it should be a secure, cloud-based platform, drive more relevant discussions amongst their employees and improve the employee experience. For their employees’ benefits, it should be easy to use, have a user experience that’s similar to consumer messaging apps and social media sites they actively use and help them become more informed, productive and collaborative.

Private Messages and Comments are the two most common types of content shared on the platform. How does this compare with your expectations?

I wouldn’t say that I’m completely surprised that Private Messages and Comments are the two most common types of content shared on our enterprise social network. The reason I say that is because we’ve designed our product specifically for these purposes. Private Messages allow for more direct, personalized communications with employees, while Comments allow employees to forge a digital connection and bond with their colleagues and become part of the digital conversation. So I’m happy that our product is working the way it should be and hope we continue seeing these types of trends in the future.  

How can employers actually engage meaningfully with their employees?

Engagement is a complex and elusive goal in the world of HR and employee communications. It’s traditionally been tough to pinpoint a true definition (there are so many out there). That’s made it even more difficult to properly measure employee engagement and set specific KPIs for it. 

I’d rather talk about the employee experience if we’re talking about how this type of data could be of value to organizations. If the right features (i.e. Private Messages, Clear Timeline, Newsfeed, News, etc.) are available on an enterprise social network – and used by frontline workers – it can lead to more information sharing, stronger collaboration, improved access to/relationships with management, increased product and promotion knowledge, higher productivity levels, higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover. All of these factors are critical to creating a positive, trusting and collaborative employee experience.

 

Download the Trend Report: State of Frontline Employee Communications
Ragini Bhalla

Written by Ragini Bhalla

A veteran in B2B content and communications, Ragini lives and breathes for storytelling, traveling (up to over 50 countries and still so many more to explore) and trying out new foods.