Should you use WhatsApp for internal communication?

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew
Strategy Director

WhatsApp has become the default messaging app for many people. Given how user friendly it is, and the ease with which you can send photos, videos and other files as well as plain text, it’s no surprise that there are over 2 billion users worldwide. These days, when someone says they’ll text you something, they most likely mean that they’re going to send it via WhatsApp.

And we’ve all heard about the WhatsApp groups that sports teams, celebrities, and even politicians use to keep in touch with each other. Chances are, your employees already have some informal WhatsApp groups that they use for social activities and possibly work discussions too.

If your employees are already using WhatsApp in their personal lives it may seem like a good idea to use it for business communication too. Why invest in another tool they need to be trained on if they already have one they’re comfortable with?

"WhatsApp can be a really effective channel. We recommend it a lot for organisations who have frontline workers who may not have easy access to email or a laptop. You can send animated gifs, videos etc to get messaging across in an engaging way." - Chris Andrew, Strategy Director

Here’s what you need to consider if you’re thinking about using WhatsApp for employee communication.

Data protection

In 2021, WhatsApp was fined almost £200m by Ireland’s data watchdog for breaching GDPR regulations.

This is important to understand because if you use WhatsApp for internal communication your employees will inevitably be sharing company and customer data. 

The good news is that you can take full ownership of the data protection process to ensure you meet GDPR regulations. It can be a complicated process to ensure customer consent is obtained and security and confidentiality are assured. If you’re going to use WhatsApp for employee communication, you’ll need the right expertise and resources available to set up and enforce a WhatsApp policy for employees.

User and data management

WhatsApp allows you to create as many groups as you want so separate teams can have their own discussions rather than the entire company receiving everything.

This is very useful as it means individuals only receive messages that are relevant to them and helps them focus on the key aspects of their job.

However, for this to work effectively processes should be in place to ensure users are added to the right groups and removed when they change roles or leave the company.

Unfortunately, there’s no central portal for managing WhatsApp groups so this is a manual procedure that will be more complex depending on the size of your company and the number of separate groups you create. Creating a culture of trust and providing leaders with autonomy and authority will alleviate the tedious task for HR to manage this themselves.

If staff are using company WhatsApp groups on their personal phones then you can add steps to your HR process to ensure any customer information is removed when staff leave.

If you don’t have the resources for this or you’re concerned about what might happen in the case of a sudden or acrimonious departure then it may be better to look for an alternative solution that can be managed centrally. This would allow you to remove users from groups and delete sensitive data without having access to individual devices.

Too much information?

By its nature, WhatsApp is an informal tool. As so many people use it in their private lives with family and friends, conversations often drift off-topic. 

Images and jokes are shared with some users more active whilst others end up muting conversations due to what they see as spam.

If this happens with work conversations, then you run the risk of users missing important information and WhatsApp becoming something of a time sink that adds to an already busy workload. By using a different app for work, individuals can much more easily draw a line between personal and professional communications and adjust their behaviour accordingly. It also allows for a clear divide between the office and home, enabling a better work-life balance.

If not WhatsApp then what else?

There are many different communication tools that are designed for professional use and will give you much greater control and security than WhatsApp. Applications such as Microsoft TeamsSlack, and Fleep can all be managed centrally. They can be used on a computer, tablet, or phone, so organisations and individuals can decide how they want to use them according to their needs.

Choosing the best tool for you isn’t easy though. It needs to be incorporated as part of your overall communication strategy to ensure you get the best value from it.

“I always say the channels you use to engage with your people should reflect the culture you’re looking to create.” - Chris Andrew, Strategy Director

At Caburn Hope, our approach is designed to produce the ideal communication model that fits your organisation. By understanding your challenges and requirements, we can develop the perfect strategy that includes the best communication tools for you.