Communication Challenge

'Shadow Communications' could be risky for businesses.

Communication Challenge

UK & Europe

Research carried out by start up company Yapster, who provide private mobile messaging for large, multi-site organisations says British companies should reassess the way they communicate. The companies study has shown that 55 per cent of workers are using some type of personal electronic messaging for work purposes.

The trend towards using ‘shadow communications’ such as WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and personal email is being driven by the entry of increasing numbers of digital natives into employment. Almost two thirds (64 per cent) of 18-34 year olds admitted to using personal messaging services for work.

Convenience (34 per cent), rather than urgency (19 per cent) was the main driving factor for respondents, suggesting that many firms are not meeting the expectations of their workforces when it comes to how they should be communicating with their colleagues and contacts.

The risk to businesses if they fail to address this is made clear by the fact that more than one in ten staff surveyed (11 per cent) said they have used a personal email or messaging service to share business-sensitive information such as trading data, internal documents, or contact details (notably, men were almost twice as likely to have done this). 

With implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) less than a year away and the government considering a ban to the end-to-end encryption of messages, the financial and reputation cost of shadow communications could become even more significant.

Other key findings include:

- More than one in five (22 per cent) say they receive or send messages about work on personal platforms outside of core work hours multiple times a week

- A similar proportion (23 per cent) say they use them every day and 44 per cent use them at least once a week

- Personal email (29 per cent), WhatsApp (24 per cent) and Facebook Messenger (20 per cent) were the three most popular channels

“It’s not hard to imagine how shadow communications could cause headaches for large companies, but we also see it as a missed opportunity,” said Rob Liddiard, CEO of Yapster. “If your employees are choosing to have conversations about work on their personal networks, you have no chance of joining that conversation. So organisations that embrace new ways of communicating and provide ‘safe spaces’ for this to take place can access a wealth of data and insight that can improve performance and encourage innovation.”

Jenni Field, director of Redefining Communications and Chair of CIPR Inside, added: “Internal communicators are always trying to find new technologies to enable conversations and, with the rise of 'shadow IT' and 'shadow communications', listening to the research and finding solutions to the challenge of communicating with front-line teams is so important. Working with our internal stakeholders to find the right solutions has to be the answer, rather than doing it in the shadows.”



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