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A guide for using text messages to communicate with employees

Jamie Bell

No matter the size of your organization or the industry you’re in, employees sift through a LOT of information every day. Whether it’s for work or their personal life, you’re competing for attention with dozens of messages across many channels. Add remote or hybrid work to the mix, plus employees without access to every channel, and the job of informing and engaging employees is harder than ever.

Employee comms are also more important than ever. So, how do you cut through the noise?

Meet employees where they are. That means understanding the channels available, how different types of employees engage with them, and building a strategy that makes it feel easy and natural for them to stay informed. That’s what makes using text messages to communicate with employees an especially powerful tool.

The ability to send a mass text to employees is a crucial part of the the four internal communications tools you need to complete a well-rounded comms tech stack. We recommend that every business use this combo to reach all of their employees where they are: 

  • An internal email tool
  • An internal SMS tool
  • An intranet
  • An instant messaging service

Sometimes, these combine nicely into one platform (Workshop offers both employee email and employee texting), but they should always work together. Here’s why using text messages to communicate with employees has some important advantages: 

Employee SMS has a very high engagement rate

There’s a reason that marketers have been using text messaging for years (basically since it became possible)… it’s because SMS is a very engaging form of communication. 

In consumer marketing, recipients are 134% more likely to respond to a text than an email. It wasn’t possible until recently to send texts to employees, but tools built for employee communications are finally available. 

The most practical way to reach 100% of your organization is by pairing email and SMS together to meet employees where they are on any given day. Email is central to the internal comms strategies of more than 90% of companies, but employees are also 50% more likely to open an individual text message. Combine these forces, and you’re reaching just about every single employee, everywhere. 

No need to add another internal app

Every week, your employees use dozens of tools to get their jobs done. On their desktop, on their phone… it’s a lot of apps! Even employee intranets apps with built-in push notifications can be too much. Text messaging integrates into your employee’s existing toolset and workflow. They already know how to use it. They don’t have to open up a tool or log in to anything. Not adding another communication channel is beneficial for employees, but you’ll also avoid having to do another training!

Employees aren’t always at a desk

For many companies, a large percent of their workforce aren’t tied to a desk. Technicians in the field, people on the floor or in a warehouse, seasonal workers… employee email isn’t always viable. It’s important to communicate with these teams directly and instantly! Two-way employee SMS is a non-intrusive way to communicate with even the hardest-to-reach employees. 

woman getting text message at work

How to make text messaging effective

As with any communication tool, it’s important to tailor your message to the channel. Copying and pasting an email doesn’t work in this much-shorter format! To be effective when using text messages to communicate with employees, try these tips:

Keep things short
Think about how you already use text messaging in your personal life. When you last texted your friend about this weekend’s plans, how did you format your message? Probably short and straight to the point. Your employees expect a similar tone when reading text messages. It’s best to emulate this brevity with business communication over text. If you need to get more in-depth information across, include a cross-posted link to another platform. 

Leverage two-way communication
Text messaging is best when it’s conversational. When choosing what’s best to send via text, consider items that would need a quick response. This could be a confirmation that your teams saw the new shift schedule, collecting feedback on a recent all-company meeting, or even a quick poll on what song should be added to the office playlist! Make sure your SMS employee communications tool can handle responses.

Don’t overuse SMS
SMS is highly engaging because it’s understood to be a personal inbox. If texting employees becomes the only form of communication, or is used too often, engagement will drop. Text messaging is more effective when used strategically (with the other key tools) and when communicating certain messages. Below, we’ll highlight some great opportunities to leverage SMS.

Opportunities to use text messaging to communicate with employees

Employee text messaging fits (and improves) nearly any communication plan! But not every message is well-suited for SMS. Workshop users often show us (and surprise us with) some really great ways to use internal SMS in the real world. Here are a few great examples:

Event invites and follow-ups
Event communications get some of the highest engagement rates within a company. That’s true in any channel – and you want to make sure that everyone in the org has a chance to respond to your invite! Include text messages for:

  • Announcements and initial RSVPs of all-company or departmental events
  • Reminders of approaching events
  • Communicating crucial event info (where to park, what to bring, etc.)

Emergency alerts and safety communications
Since your employees have their phones on them every moment of the day, SMS is a great tool for emergency alerts or employee crisis communications.

  • Text a quick message about weather delays for the morning commute
  • Alert your teams of an updated office access policy
  • Use SMS in your office security alerts process

If you’re unclear where to start with employee text messaging, consider how you communicate emergency messages. When you need to make sure all types of employees see a message quickly, SMS is your best option. 

Remote, distributed, and non-desk teams
Internal communications strategists know it’s important to consider how to maintain equity. If some of your workforce is at a desk every day and others are in the field, crafting a communication strategy to reach everyone is important. Text messaging can be the tool to bridge the gap across your different roles and departments.

For field workers, text messaging is an effective way to deliver vital information and alerts AND to keep them involved in company culture. Consider choosing SMS instead of email when celebrating milestones. Or, move all important announcements to text to increase equity of communication flow. SMS is a lightweight way to ensure all employees get the information they need.

Additionally, text messaging is great for remote and distributed teams. Even with the advent of always-on chat solutions like Slack or Microsoft Teams, important announcements get lost. Since remote teams rely on tools to communicate, it’s important to standardize communication norms. 

One example: use text messaging to communicate “need-to-know” information and consider your chat tool “nice-to-know.” These simple rules will improve how your teams communicate.

New hire communication
Interviewing candidates and onboarding new employees is always exciting, but it can also be stressful and challenging. Text messaging is a reliable and easy way to communicate with your new hire or candidate. Consider using text messaging to communicate with employees (especially frontline workers) throughout the entire recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process:

  • Use text to confirm you received a candidate’s application
  • Confirm a scheduled interview with a candidate
  • Ask for feedback on the interview process
  • Send text alerts to interviewers to provide feedback on candidates
  • Send new hires reminders to complete onboarding paperwork
  • Keep your new hire engaged by sending them a quick, exciting text as their start date gets closer (even better: have your CEO or their direct hiring manager text them!)

Whatever the scenario, you can streamline your hiring process with employee text messaging.

Internal surveys and feedback
Receiving honest feedback from your employees is the best way to learn and improve. Text messaging is a great way to get feedback from even your hardest-to-reach teams. Try leveraging text as a more frequent way to survey your teams. Remember, though, text messages won’t be anonymous, so don’t try to use SMS for more personal feedback type surveys!

  • Send out a survey about the recent off-site workshop
  • Use SMS throughout an all hands as a way for your employees to ask questions
  • Ask for t-shirt sizes in preparation for your next swag run
  • Use texting as a lightweight solution for your annual engagement survey (here are 275+ employee survey questions to try out!)
  • Automate a weekly “How did your week go?” survey to keep a pulse on engagement

Shift scheduling
In many operational businesses, making sure you’re fully staffed is half the battle. Leverage text messaging to communicate updates to shift schedules or to find staff to cover gaps. Here are a few ways you can keep your area staffed with texting:

  • Send a weekly link to the shift schedule to keep it top-of-mind for your teams
  • Alert employees of available shift openings
  • Use two-way text communication to ask for coverage of a shift gap

HR and operational process
It can be hard enough to keep your policies and employee data up-to-date. Try removing some stress from your day by using text messages to communicate with employees about important operational requirements.

  • Use texting to remind employees to submit monthly expense reports
  • Encourage employees to complete important paperwork (e.g. insurance forms)
  • Leverage text messaging to send expense approval alerts
  • Use two-way texting to confirm employees received and read important policies

Employee morale and company culture
Text messaging is great for operations and “getting work done” type tasks. But don’t take it too seriously. Whatever your company’s “thing” is, consider how it can be highlighted via text messaging. With its conversational approach, SMS is an authentic way to lean into your company’s culture.

  • Every Monday, send a text from the CEO to kick off the week
  • Use SMS to shout out major company milestones like hitting the monthly sales target
  • Do a weekly poll to decide what next week’s catered lunch should be

 

How to get started with text messaging

So, you’ve decided to start using text messages to communicate with your employees. But how do you make it possible? And are you allowed to text all employees

There are a few options that make it easy to add SMS to your set of internal communications tools. But it can be daunting choosing the right one. When searching for a solution, start by asking yourself how you’ll be leveraging SMS. Many products are most effective for specific requirements.

These are some of the most commonly used platforms for using text messages to communicate with employees:

SimpleTexting
One of the most popular tools for external or customer text messages, SimpleTexting is great for that purpose. It can be made to work for employee texts, but you’re going to be fitting a square peg in a round hole.

AlertMedia
This platform is made specifically for emergency alerts and crisis comms with your employees. If those are the only reasons you’d text messaging (ever), AlertMedia may be a viable option.

Textedly
Textedly offers solution for both external marketing text messages and employee text messages. You can message two-way with employees, but a lack of integrations will mean you’re manually managing your lists.

Workshop

Workshop’s employee text messaging system has it all, in a platform built specifically for internal communications! Here’s a bit more info about it: 

Unlike the alternatives, Workshop syncs directly with your best source of employee information, meaning your employee contact lists are correct and usable with NO extra uploading. You get analytics on all your text conversations just like with our email platform. You can instantly reply and have conversations in your messages, you can send images or multimedia through mass text messages, and you can easily add team members from any department and give them the ability to send messages!

When used together, Workshop’s email and SMS platform can help you stay connected with your entire team!

 

Choosing text messaging as a communication strategy

With the evolving workplace and ever-increasing amount of information, reaching your employees is more important than ever. Text messaging can be a vital tool to effectively communicate and drive engagement.

When implementing internal SMS, think about all parts of your business and all departments. Consider using text messaging to communicate with employees about emergencies, streamline internal processes, and lean into your company’s culture. Or, leverage texting to get candid feedback or communicate with in-field employees.

When choosing the best way to implement SMS at your company, ask yourself how you plan to use texting. There are many products in the market, but some may be too complex for the job or not focused on internal comms.

SMS is a highly-effective form of communication, but is best when used appropriately.  Keep your messages short, encourage conversation, and respect your employees’ inbox!

Take the next step with employee SMS

Learn more about Workshop’s SMS and email platform, and see for yourself how you can create a complete internal communications strategy at your company: schedule a demo here!

workshop employee texting service

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