How instant notification can optimize communication.
By Linda Marier
Workplace communications have changed. When email was first introduced, it quickly became the standard for workplace communications. As new and different communication modes have come into being, they’ve enabled a new way of doing business, with mobile workers, remote workers, and a global employee base becoming the norm. HR departments are now charged with providing vital information not just to staff at headquarters, but those working offsite, in transit, and scattered around the world.
Most HR managers share information by email, sending out messages and expecting that staff will read them and respond when requested. That works well in most cases. But when messages are time-sensitive and employees are on the road, as is increasingly the case, there’s no way to know when they will get the message and how quickly they’ll respond. Many workers, overwhelmed by the volume of email in their inbox, will give corporate communications a glance and file them, with the intention of reading them more thoroughly at a later date. If a reply is requested, a significant number will not reply until asked to do so several times, leaving HR professionals wondering if their messages were received, and holding the burden of tracking and logging responses, following up, and reminding those who don’t respond.
Notification technology offers a better way. It works with most business communication methods—mobile phones, landlines, email, short message service (SMS), and others, giving HR professionals the ability to reach people in a variety of ways and ensuring that recipients get the message as soon as possible. It also employs the mode that they are most likely to check and respond to.
Notification can’t replace email, but when there is a concise, important message to deliver and a quick response is needed, nothing can beat it for reaching everyone no matter where they are. HR administrators have successfully used notification to share information with many people at once when there’s a pandemic that might be affecting the organization and hygiene messages need to be disseminated. With notification, senders will know that their message was delivered and received. They also can easily request an immediate response and can automatically tally and track responses.
During the recent Icelandic volcanic eruptions, many companies used notification to let corporate travelers know what to do in the event of travel interruptions. They were able to receive responses that made it easy to track where staff was and quickly figure out who was most likely to be stranded and when. When the tsunami struck Indonesia in 2005, an American conglomerate lost contact with many of its Indonesian workers. Though cell towers and landlines were all down, the CEO was able to pull contact information from the corporate database and, using notification, provide it to the Red Cross. Since the database used for notification is usually the most comprehensive one within an organization, the information was crucial in helping the Red Cross find his people and expedite rescue efforts. And when the recent earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan was felt around the world, many business leaders were able to send an alert to executives no matter where they were. That allowed those executives to join a conference call with the touch of a button, helping to coordinate recovery and get teams in alignment.
Notification isn’t only useful for HR teams in times of emergency, but can be used to streamline operations in other ways. In the case of a merger of two top U.S. airlines, each with thousands of employees at various locations around the world, notification proved to be a great help in making a smooth transition. Executives knew that keeping thousands of employees abreast of ongoing developments during the merger could be both time-consuming and hectic. They feared that if they didn’t carefully manage the information stream, it could lead to employee unrest and lack of focus. They used notification to rapidly and efficiently deliver important information as the merger progressed, answering questions and concerns concisely and keeping employees focused on day-to-day operations. Regular, efficient, and reliable communication helped staff understand their roles in the merger and ultimately contributed to a smooth and successful joining of the two airlines.
In another case, the CEO of a large, multinational organization used notification to leave a thank-you message—in his own voice—for all 250,000 company employees after a particularly successful quarter. Employees were impressed and motivated by the personal call. Many HR departments use notification to announce holiday parties, training sessions, and other corporate events, automatically sending reminder notices and easily soliciting and tracking RSVPs and meal choices.
When an initiator sends an alert, everyone gets the notification at the same time, and a response can be requested of each recipient. All responses are logged in real time, and with no more effort, the initiator has instant accountability. If people lag, the system will remind them automatically. If an individual claims they never got the message, logs will verify or disprove that claim, adding yet another layer of accountability. And with the latest in geographic information system (GIS) capabilities, notifications can be targeted to alert just those employees who are in the area of interest.
Notification is more than just one-way communication; it provides a way to send important messages to groups from a few to many thousands, and allows those who receive an alert to respond in a meaningful way. HR professionals use notification to send alerts about company health plan changes, policy updates, and reminders about signing up for important benefits and programs. This way they can be sure all employees receive the message and understand they are expected to reply. HR can then run a report giving them a reliable paper trail documenting action and response.
Notification is clearly a way for HR professionals to optimize communication throughout a department or an organization. Clear, reliable, efficient communication is the best kind, and notification software can help make sure your important messages are always delivered and acted upon.
Linda Marier is director of HR for notification solutions provider MIR3, Inc.