How to use messaging in the workplace

What are the opportunities and challenges of using messaging at work? How can you use messaging tools to foster a culture of collaboration, while also navigating security, privacy and compliance pitfalls?

I’ve contributed to a brand new report, which is hot off the press today, to explore the topic in detail. It contains insights from communications experts and examines how organisations can use messaging tools to foster a culture of collaboration, while also navigating pitfalls as more employees use unsanctioned consumer messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram for business purposes.

According to the report, messaging as a medium is exploding, but it’s currently unmanaged and not legally compliant in many workplaces across the world.

I think you’ll find the hierarchy of messaging particularly useful, I’ve highlighted it in more detail below.

Mastering Messaging in the Workplace has been published by British start-up Guild, in partnership with London Research and is aimed at helping businesses and professionals understand the opportunities and challenges of using messaging at work.

What is covered in Mastering Messaging in the Workplace?

The report:

  • Provides clear definitions for messaging in the workplace
  • Highlights use cases for messaging in the workplace
  • Introduces a new communications model to help organisations effectively frame how messaging tools can improve internal and external communications
  • Considers whether messaging can improve productivity and foster a culture of sharing and communication
  • Considers security, privacy and compliance pitfalls associated with the rise of  shadow IT and ‘dark’ workplace messaging on unsanctioned consumer messaging apps such as WhatsApp
  • Looks at the need to develop new workplace guidance as well as rules and behaviours as the professional communications channel mix adapts to include messaging
  • Looks at the rapidly evolving market for workplace messaging and highlights vendors of some of the leading business messaging tools.

The research also reveals there is confusion around messaging types in the workplace and explains the differences between business messaging apps, work-based social networks, workflow communications tools and consumer messaging apps.

It covers use cases for messaging in the workplace, the rapidly evolving market for business messaging, and some of the vendors offering different types of messaging platforms and features thoughts from:

  • London Research
  • Eva Appelbaum, Co-Founder and Director, Arc
  • Annabelle Dudman, VP Global Head Business Planning, PlayStation
  • Ashley Friedlein, Founder and CEO, Guild
  • Michelle Goodall, Head of Marketing, Guild
  • Andrew Hubbard, Group Head of Channels and Content, National Grid
  • Rachel Miller, Director, All Things IC
  • Martyn Perks, Digital Workplace Consultant
  • Larraine Solomon, Managing Director, Inspiring Conversations
  • Jeremy Swinfen Green, Digital Strategy and Governance consultant and author, Digital Governance (Routledge 2020)
  • Jo Vertigan, Managing Director, Obidos Consulting
  • Marc Wright, Founder, simplycommunicate.

Why do people use messaging?

Professional messaging, for use by businesses and individual professionals, is distinct from consumer messaging largely because of the required admin features, additional controls and legal compliance.

Main purpose: fast, easy professional communication and connections
Primary usage is on a mobile device via a native messaging app
Form of messaging: in-app messages and mobile push notifications
Used interpersonally for direct messages as well as for groups
Used internally and externally across organisations for groups and individual messaging
Extensively used for social, networking, community purposes
Control, configuration, governance and compliance via app/web admin interface managed by business units.

Professional messaging: the good, the bad and the ugly

Extracts from the report reveal opportunities that messaging apps provide, but also warn of the potential pitfalls of the medium’s use:

Annabelle Dudman, VP Global Head of Business Planning at PlayStation stated: “I think messaging is completely essential. It’s gaining ground due to the rise of flexible working and greater understanding around the importance of work-life balance. It just makes working so much more flexible if people can get in contact using messaging.”

However, highlighting the drawbacks of messaging app use, Rachel Miller, Director at All Things IC commented: “The potential risk is for companies not to be close enough to the conversations. If they are all happening in locked environments, it makes knowledge management harder as you can’t see what you know as an organisation. Compliance is an area comms and IT practitioners are mindful of, and need guidance on.”

Worrying WhatsApp use

The report reveals specifically how consumer messaging app WhatsApp’s use for business purposes has become a real underlying issue for many organisations.

Recent research commissioned by Guild revealed 41% of WhatsApp users use it for professional purposes, despite WhatsApp prohibiting non-personal use in its legal terms. For businesses, consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp pose even greater challenges as they do not comply with privacy and data legislation like GDPR nor other legal requirements around record keeping.

Jo Vertigan, Managing Director at Obidos Consulting commented: “Most businesses are uncomfortable with the chatter on WhatsApp due to the lack of control around security. Many employees like these sorts of messaging platforms for their utility and their workflow capability. However, in terms of corporate liability, there are a range of corporate governance issues which present something of a challenge. One issue arises from the lack of an effective centralised management system, which is critical for the company’s audit trail.

Best practices for the use of messaging apps

The report highlights the need for guidelines to be put in place around the use of messaging apps within the workplace – both to protect employees and the business.

It also examines the criteria for successful adoption of messaging in the workplace and proposes a new model, the ‘Hierarchy of Messaging’, for businesses to use and adapt to create their own guidelines and policies.

Guild’s Hierarchy of Messaging

Ashley Friedlein, Founder and CEO of Guild explained, “At a time when messaging is exploding, there is very little clarity or consensus around what form of messaging to use when, and why, at work. We’ve developed a model to help businesses and professionals think carefully about the role of messaging in their organisation, and come up with ways of working that embrace the power of messaging without the risk of losing control.”

You can’t beat in-person communication (ideally face-to-face), it’s right and proper it’s at the top of this hierarchy. I blogged only the other day about using technology to communicate during this time of COVID-19, ideally we would be meeting face-to-face, but that’s not possible for many organisations right now.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to run a virtual Town Hall – featuring Jo Bland, Head of Strategic Engagement and Internal Communications, NHS Digital.

Who is using what?

To read the full report, which includes expert insights and guidance on appropriate communication tools for business use, please follow this link.

Are you using messaging as part of your internal communication? If you have a story to share, please see my guidelines and get in touch.

As ever, I’m curious to know your thoughts. You’re welcome to comment below or find me on Twitter @AllThingsIC.

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Thank you for stopping by


First published on the All Things IC blog 31 March 2020.

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