Read this article in German.
Do you want to improve your internal communication with the help of an employee app? Good idea! As you search for the perfect tool for your company, you will come across many providers of mobile social intranet solutions. You may also be considering whether to use the popular messaging service WhatsApp to improve your internal communication. In this article, we explain why you should resist this temptation and why the use of WhatsApp for internal communication can end up proving very expensive.
😍 💩 💜 – do they all look familiar? Day after day, we send text and voice messages, photos, videos, and these very emojis via WhatsApp and can hardly remember what life was like before this little green app came on the scene. Our everyday personal communication – from “I’m running late” messages through to birthday invitations in group chats – takes place on WhatsApp. It seems like everyone has it, uses it daily, and feels right at home. So why not use WhatsApp for the purpose of employee communication too? Whether sending everyone the new shift plan, giving people details of the summer party, or getting approval on projects from your line manager, it’s all so easy – no risks attached. If only. We have six good reasons that show why WhatsApp is not an option for your internal communication.
WhatsApp: facts and figures
Never heard of WhatsApp? Impossible. If they hadn’t heard of it before, everyone has heard of it since Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg bought communication app WhatsApp for a record sum of $19 billion in 2014. The product, which has more or less replaced text messaging, is now used by approx. 1.5 billion people worldwide – and is also very popular in Germany. According to a study carried out by TV channels ARD and ZDF in 2018, the messaging service is used by 42 million Germans on a daily basis. The app even emerged unscathed (in terms of download figures) from the 2018 data scandal.
1. An inability to synchronize
Do you want to set up a separate group chat for all 391 production staff? Then get ready for some time-consuming manual labor. As WhatsApp offers no synchronization function, all employees have to be added individually. And there are still people who don’t have a cell phone or who don’t have WhatsApp (#believeitornot). Even more work is required whenever new employees join or the current ones leave. The lack of automation for these processes constitutes a big problem, especially for larger firms, and eats up a lot of time.
2. Expensive data protection issues
On May 25, 2018, the controversial General Data Protection Regulation came into force in the EU, laying down strict rules for the sharing and use of user accounts. But this doesn’t matter to US company WhatsApp. And why not? Because the corporation is headquartered in the United States, making it indifferent to the European GDPR.
Anyone using WhatsApp consents to the transfer of all accounts from their own address book, including those of people who don’t even use WhatsApp. If it were left to the General Data Protection Regulation, the app would need the consent of every affected individual for the transfer of address book data. Instead, WhatsApp passes the buck to its users. By clicking to accept the terms and conditions, you are agreeing to take responsibility for the company’s actions. (NB: yet another good reason not to accept terms and conditions without reading them first. #guilty.)
Therefore, anyone who uses WhatsApp on their work phone is granting the US company access to the data of customers and contacts stored on the device – in breach of data protection legislation. This results in a risk of cease-and-desist action – not for WhatsApp, but for the user.
And as there is also a risk of fines, which experts believe could total up to €20 million or four percent of the company’s global annual turnover, this may all prove expensive for the employer. A hefty price tag for a communication tool, don’t you think? Many firms have already recognized that WhatsApp is a risk factor and have therefore banned its use on company cell phones.
PS: anyone who thinks that this problem can be easily bypassed is mistaken. It is simply not possible to only share individual contacts on WhatsApp – and anyone who refuses to release their address book can only receive messages without being able to write their own.
3. Weak battery, weak performance: the desktop version
Assuming cease-and-desist notices under data protection law weren’t enough, this next reason will make it clear to all that WhatsApp is unsuitable as an internal communication tool. Many employees use laptops and desktop computers alongside their smartphones. In order to use the desktop version of WhatsApp, it has to be permanently connected to your smartphone. Empty battery? Forgotten your phone? Tough.
It’s much better to have a social intranet that includes a mobile solution ... just sayin’.
4. File sharing? Not with WhatsApp.
Many firms use file-sharing solutions (e.g. SharePoint), but these are not supported by WhatsApp. As shared documents are often sent back and forth between colleagues, it is essential that your internal communication tool lets them do so. This not only makes workflows faster, but also more straightforward.
5. When the joke gets old
There will ALWAYS be that one WhatsApp user who goes too far. They not only forward “hilarious videos” with badly animated animals, but also share their (much too) personal photos from the weekend. It’s OK among friends, but can soon lead to tricky situations with coworkers. The problem: WhatsApp is firmly established as a private communication tool, where we don’t have to abide by company guidelines. And even if rules and guidelines have been laid down in advance, it is often hard to set boundaries.
6. Cries for help that go unheard
Problems with WhatsApp? You’ll just have to hope they sort themselves out. Whereas a professional mobile intranet provider is on hand with support, asking WhatsApp for help is a waste of time. Furthermore, companies often need audit-proof backup and archiving functions in order to safeguard knowledge and keep processes transparent – something that WhatsApp does not offer.
“OK, I hear you – I won’t choose WhatsApp, but what should I go for instead?”
We want to end with some praise. After all, the fact that you want to improve your internal communication is great. Perhaps you already have a social intranet and still need a mobile solution or maybe you just need effective smartphone-based networking that connects all employees. We like the way you’re thinking. But instead of WhatsApp, you should definitely take a look at the top seven tools for better internal communication. Alongside the clearly structured employee directory (including contact details), you can publish shift plans, create an event calendar, and much, much more – all from the comfort of your smartphone or, if you prefer, from your desktop. And, of course, you can also use it to chat. So even if we enjoy using WhatsApp away from work, it is completely unsuitable for business purposes.