Slack, WhatsApp, Flock, Ryver, Workplace, Semaphor… Trying to compile a comprehensive list of every messaging app on the market is even less of an efficient use of time than trying to use those platforms to manage teams and projects. Especially when it comes to organising employee rosters.
Suffice to say, though, this isn’t the party line most businesses are being sold. Conduct a basic Google search along the lines of ‘messaging apps for businesses’ and you’ll be confronted with a host of recommendations and signposts directing you to this product or that. Our advice is to tread carefully, though.
On the face of it, a programme every employee can have access to, which allows collaborative communication with all colleagues and seniors, sounds like a great idea. Email chains are, after all, 2018’s equivalent of a paper memo – destined to be misplaced beneath the weight of a heaving inbox.
Taking people off the creaking mail servers and onto stand alone software resolves that issue, and fits with predictions that the entire HR process will become digitised in 2018. However, it can also create a host of other problems. We may miss an update, typos and similar small mistakes can lead to nightmarish misunderstandings, and groups can easily get hijacked amongst closer teams, conversations straying so far from the task at hand you’ll need both maps and torch apps to find your way back.
If messaging apps can be a pain for ongoing projects the situation becomes far worse when you’re looking at rostering employees within shift-based workforces. Anyone who has ever worked as a line manager and been responsible for employee rotas will know just how time consuming and susceptible to change these schedules are. So the problems messaging apps present for collaborating are tenfold with employee rosters.
While missing out on an addition or amend to a proposal or plan is bad enough, the risk of someone not noticing they have a shift change is far more worrying. As messaging apps fully open the lines of communication requests for cover and shift swaps are likely to increase when these platforms are used. Keep switching things up and it’s not going to go down well with the rest of the team. Staff want and need to know when they are working well in advance. When that doesn’t happen it can lead to exhaustion, low motivation and reduced engagement.
This is why online employee scheduling software is usually a better idea, a reactive platform that can update automatically, send alerts when changes are made and even calculate costs. Better yet, they still have collaborative functionality, allowing requests to be made from anyone in the team, just without the risk of the manager, or other colleagues, missing the amended information.
In a 2013 survey, US workers stated that ‘simplified communication’ and ‘increased collaboration’ were high priorities – both of these are delivered through the use of software specifically aimed at managing employee rosters. In contrast, messaging apps can only really claim to meet one of these demands.
Don’t take our word for it, mind. Just this year it was reported that 50 personnel in the UK NHS had been disciplined for using unauthorised messaging apps for workplace communication. It’s believed around 500,000 members of staff do this on a regular basis, potentially breaching confidentiality, leaving a weak paper trail and increasing the chances of confusion arising. This isn’t specifically about employee rosters, but the action taken by the organisation does betray how poorly suited many messaging apps are to any professional task.
Put simply, then, our advice is not to cut corners and invest in specialist software for employee rotas to guarantee you and your team won’t be left chasing tales, or picking up slack at short notice.
Words by Richard Trenchard.