The phone rings while you’re in the middle of something. Do you answer it? You receive an email notification. Do you open it right away — or ever?
How about this? You get a text message. How quickly do you look at it? If you’re like most people, within three minutes.
Text messaging (or SMS) is by far the most welcome form of communication in 2023. Just compared to email, text messaging sees open rates five times higher, response rates eight times higher, and response times 60 times higher.
There’s no mystery why marketers, governments, political campaigns, and healthcare providers all turn to texting to get their messages out quickly and to as many people as possible.
Should you do the same and use texting to communicate with your employees? And if you do, what is the best, most responsible way to go about it?
In this article, we’ll explore why mass texting employees can be one of the most effective HR communication methods.
We’ll also offer some workforce texting tips, including how to choose a platform and get started, and we’ll review some of the regulations you’ll have to navigate when texting employees. (Don’t worry, it’s less complicated than it sounds!)
Why HR Teams Should Consider Texting Employees
Communication is an ongoing challenge for HR professionals. Whether you’re announcing new benefits as open enrollment approaches, reminding employees to use their wellness benefits, or preparing new hires for onboarding, getting employees to open and digest — let alone act on — your messaging is never easy.
And it’s not getting easier. Most workers’ inboxes are inundated with emails; your benefits newsletter might be just another drop in the bucket. On top of that, workplaces are becoming more and more distributed. Some employees work at home, some work in various office locations, and somehow, you have to connect with all of them.
You must also connect across age groups. Your employees may represent up to five distinct generations — each with their own communication habits and preferences.
By texting employees, you can overcome each of these HR communications challenges.
Text Messages Break Through the Noise
Text messaging is how your employees communicate with their family and friends. Increasingly, it’s how they interact with brands and receive urgent alerts. So, when you mass text your employees, there’s a pretty strong chance most of them will at least look at your message. As noted above, most people look at new text messages almost instantaneously.
Provided you don’t go overboard with your employee texting, your messages will not languish, forgotten at the bottom of an overstuffed inbox.
Text Messages Can Reach Your Employees Anywhere
By definition, employee SMS messaging goes to your employees’ phones. And your employees carry their phones everywhere. According to a 2022 survey of 1,000 Americans:
- The average American checks their phone 344 times per day (once every four minutes).
- 74% of Americans feel uneasy without their phone.
- Nearly half of Americans (47%) consider themselves addicted to their phones.
Perhaps our society needs a conversation about our overdependence on mobile devices, but that’s a topic for another time. Suffice it to say here, wherever your employees may be — at home, in the office, or on the go — you can most likely reach them via text message.
Text Messaging Transcends Generations
The conventional thinking says that millennials and Gen Zers prefer texting (even when they’re in the same room) while the members of older generations use their phones for calls. That’s not exactly the whole story.
If you’re concerned your texts will not reach your older employees, don’t be. According to one study, one in three Americans over 65 prefers texting to phone calls. Members of every generation rank text messaging as the most important communication platform on their phones.
What to Text (and Not Text) About With Your Employees
Workforce texting gives you superpowers — the power to reach your employees anytime, anywhere, and almost guarantee their attention. But, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Bother your employees with too many text message alerts too often and at inconvenient times, and they’ll start to tune you out.
It’s important to keep your employee SMS messages to the topics that work best in the text format:
- Nothing too wordy. Text messages are meant to be read at a glance, not poured over. SMS messages technically have a 160-character limit (larger texts are automatically broken up), and we don’t recommend going much over that. If you have more to say, you can include shortened links to direct interested employees to more information online.
- Nothing too sensitive. Despite texting’s universality, it still has a reputation for being less personal or “serious” than other communication forms, especially among older professionals. If you have a sensitive matter to share with your employees (“Cutbacks announced tomorrow!”), maybe save it for an email or, better yet, a meeting.
- Urgent messaging. If there’s something you want your employees to know right away, texting is the best way to reach them.
- Quick reminders. Text messages are excellent for reminding employees of an impending deadline or bringing something you previously shared back to their awareness.
With those guidelines in mind, here are (just a) few examples of workforce texting done well:
The Open Enrollment Announcement
“Open enrollment starts on Monday. Check out your benefits guide here [with a link].”
As the enrollment deadline nears, you can follow that up with:
“Open enrollment ends Friday. Don’t miss your chance. Reply with any questions.”
The Health and Safety Alert
“Inclement weather expected. The office is closed tomorrow. Stay home and stay safe!”
You can see how this type of text message alert would be useful during an event like the COVID pandemic.
The Onboarding Message
Incoming employees have a lot on their plate. A well-timed text message can help them ease into your organization:
“Hey Sandra, thrilled you’ll be joining us Monday! Visit your onboarding portal to get a jump on your first day.”
You can also send a text to the whole team when someone new is starting:
“We have a new team member joining us today. Be sure to stop by Sandra’s desk to say hi!”
The Content Promotion
Let’s say your HR team creates a monthly newsletter, but your email open rates have been abysmal. You could try promoting it via mass text:
“Tax season is here. This month’s newsletter [with a link] is all about financial wellness. Maximize your refund!”
Choosing a Platform to Mass Text Employees
Texting employees isn’t quite the same as participating in your family or friends group chat. Unless your team is tiny, using a workforce texting platform is the most efficient way to mass text employees.
Most texting platforms allow you to add or subtract numbers easily and in bulk, compose messages from within your web browser, and send messages to hundreds of recipients with a single click.
Some texting platforms also allow you to schedule text message alerts, set up automated texting campaigns, send multimedia content (MMS), and track open rates and replies.
If you’re new to mass texting employees, we suggest looking for a workforce texting platform that includes free setup, training, and technical support.
One employee texting platform, WorkforceTXT, by Flimp, even offers managed texting campaigns. Companies that rely on the Flimp team to help build their audience, craft their messages, and initiate their campaigns typically see engagement rates of 95% or higher.
Mass Texting Regulations: A Brief Overview
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a mass text, you’re familiar with the phrase “STOP to end” (or something similar). The sender wasn’t allowing you to opt-out just to be polite — it’s required by law.
This is just one of the federal regulations governing the use of automated texting systems. The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act is generally understood to apply to SMS as well as voice calling, and it prohibits using an automated system to contact any cellular user without their permission.
- For most purposes, you can’t text anyone without their consent. The relationship between employer and employee generally falls under “implied consent,” which is permitted. For marketing texts, explicit consent (called “prior express consent”) is required.
- Messages sent for “emergency purposes” (such as a situation affecting employees’ health or safety) may be exempt from the prior-consent rule.
- You must provide a clear and straightforward method for your employees to inform you that they no longer wish to receive text messages. When they opt out, you must remove them from your texting database promptly. (Also, be sure to purge former employees’ numbers regularly.)
This is just a quick overview of the regulations you’ll navigate if you mass text employees. Read our more in-depth summary here. And as with all legal matters, we highly recommend consulting with experts before launching your first workforce texting campaign.
Getting Started With Employee Texting
In this article, we’ve explained why mass texting beats nearly any other communication channel when you want to get in touch with large groups of employees quickly. We explored some common workforce texting scenarios, discussed choosing a platform to mass text employees, and reviewed the regulatory situation around SMS.
If you’re ready to amplify your message with texting, we’re ready to help. Click here to learn more about Workforce TXT, a full-featured employee texting platform, and schedule a free consultation for your HR team.