Using Text Messages to Communicate With Employees
Last updated on February 13, 2023 at 05:32 pm
Connecting and communicating with employees in a consistent and complete manner should be easy. Workplaces are equipped with digital signage, message boards, email, phones, mobile apps, employee intranets., etc. It might seem like all your bases are covered, but are they? Do you have enough ways to reach your deskless employees? To reach employees during a crisis? One channel that’s rising in popularity is using text messages to communicate with employees. In this blog, we’ll share why it’s so important and how you can use texting to connect with your teams.
Why SMS Texting is a Critical Comms Channel
Using text to communicate with employees is being used more often by companies. While it might seem “too basic” to be effective, studies have shown that texting is actually a very effective way to communicate.
- It takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text and 90 minutes to respond to an email.
- 29% of recipients click on a link in a SMS message they receive compared to the average email click-through rate of 2.5%.
How quickly a message is read is a learned behavior. When that notification bar lights up on your phone, our instincts are to check it immediately. Tap into that habit to break through the noise to get and keep the attention of your teams.
Can I Legally Text My Employees?
Before we dive into texting best practices, you might be wondering if it’s even legal to text your employees to share internal comms. And the reality is: yes it is legal to use text message to communicate with employees. Most providers of SMS text will have ways to allow your employees to opt-in to receive texts, and that employee consent is all you need.
How Can Text Messages Be Used to Communicate With Employees?
So, how can we harness the power of a powerful channel like SMS to drive engagement? Here are a few best practices:
- Stick to a cadence. Like with any direct comms channel (like email or using app push notifications), you want to avoid overusing this channel. If you send too many texts too often, this can turn off employees and make them want to opt-out.
- Keep your texts short. Texting is unlike other channels you may use because they really should be kept succinct. If you write multiple paragraphs, your employees likely won’t read the full message.
- Write clear action items. Odds are, if you’re texting your employees, it’s because you are hoping to update them of something urgent and/or need them to take quick action. So make these CTAs clear up front. Don’t bury them in a wall of text!
- Respect your employees’ time. Avoid texting employees when they are not scheduled to work. Especially if you use texting to communicate with frontline workers, target your messages to send to each shift when they are scheduled.
4 Ways to Use Text Messages to Communicate With Employees
Given that texting is a highly effective way to reach employees, how does that translate into an internal comms strategy? And how does texting play with your other comms channels?
Let’s talk through four key use cases for text messaging your teams.
1. Emergencies & Safety
Critical and time-bound messages are key to keeping your teams safe and generating the correct response to incidents or hazards within a workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us about the need for real-time information and the need to be ready to rapidly respond to disasters.
However, it is important to have a balance with SMS communications. If you rely on texting too often for so-called emergencies, this can result in “message blindness” where your employees tune out or ignore texts from their employer. So, it’s important to understand the severity of an incident and why internal comms are needed. Then decide what combination of channels and tactics should be used.
To get your stakeholders on the same page about crisis communications, we find it valuable to clearly define what constitutes a crisis. Here are our guidelines:
- Consider the scope of the impact. How many facilities, offices, or locations are impacted? And can you target a text message to those audiences?
- What is your crisis comms plan? Whenever something meets the threshold for an emergency at your company, have parameters already in place for a message being sent through your channels (including SMS).
- Reinforce the message. In a true emergency, it will be important to connect with frontline managers on how to cascade messaging to those in their workgroups when an SMS alert is sent.
2. New Hire Communication & Onboarding
Bringing on new staff members is always an exciting time, but it can be hectic making sure they show up at the right place, with the right paperwork and identification. You want new hires to get off on the right foot and feel like they are informed and equipped to take on their first day.
Communicating with SMS helps prevent critical information from getting lost in email. But with advanced phishing and spoofing scams, new hires are hesitant to click on email links asking for personal information. SMS helps eliminate that confusion by providing an easier way of communicating instructions as part of onboarding. For example:
- Information on where/when to show up for their first day
- Links to documents like employee handbooks for review
- Provide information on background checks
- Links to videos for new hire training
Beyond the operational aspects of SMS for onboarding, this channel introduces the new hire to your communications approach. Their first impression of how you communicate with the workforce is everything as you build trust at this critical point in their new employment with you.
3. Engage With Remote & Frontline Employees
The “great office exodus” that started in 2020 continues to have a rippling effect on communications. Where there were once in-office stand-ups and town halls, now there are more virtual broadcasts and recorded engagements. For remote teams, an SMS messaging cadence can provide critical reminders for managerial tasks like performance reviews or approving PTO. For your frontline teams, SMS provides a pathway for them to keep notified of changes to work schedules and locations—as well as any updates to safety briefs or policy changes.
While your remote office workers and frontline workers differ greatly in their messaging and communications needs, they both need access to a reliable channel like SMS. Finding the right balance of channels starts with a solid communications audit. We recommend using our Audit Guide to analyze messages, channels, and message frequency to maximize your effectiveness.
4. Reinforce Your Company Culture
Your marketing team knows the value of an effective brand impression. Each brand touch has an impact on how buyers consider your brand. This is the same with your employees. Each message has an impact on their impression of the company, the workplace, and the company culture.
Effective use of channels, including SMS, provides the ability to deliver a meaningful message or reinforce a brand promise. Using an SMS messaging or a mobile app to deploy a message and link to a CEO video thanking the teams for a great week, or announcing a key milestone in the business builds trust and engagement, which leads to a stronger workplace culture.
Ready to Support Your Frontline Workers?
We’re seeing the employee communications landscape continue to evolve as more channels and technologies emerge, all while the challenge to engage employees persists. We encourage communicators to look at their channels, message frequency, and KPIs to create a comms ecosystem for your needs.
Request a demo today to find out how we can help you connect and engage your frontline teams.
About the Author
Michael Marino is the Vice President of Marketing where he oversees the creation and execution of theEMPLOYEEapp’s marketing programs. Before joining the team, Mike held marketing leadership positions in both the B2B and DTC spaces in channels that include media, manufacturing, and professional services. Mike is passionate about demand generation, mar-tech, and being able to create campaigns that connect with Internal Comms audiences.
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