United Kingdom

Employees using personal apps for workplace communications without knowledge of HR

March 2019

At a glance

  • Staff using non-approved messaging apps to communicate
  • Companies have responded by banning such platforms to comply with GDPR regulations
  • But Aon warns banning such apps can create a break-down in workplace communication all together

Woman on phone

A significant number of staff in the retail, hospitality and entertainment industries are using ‘unapproved’ smartphone apps and social media platforms for work-related communications, a new study by app provider Speakap has revealed.

Over half of frontline workers in these industries admitted to using messaging apps regularly throughout the day with 16 per cent saying they did so without HR’s knowledge. 38 per cent said they used social media sites like Twitter and Facebook around six times a day to discuss work with 20 per cent admitting that HR were unaware of this.

GDPR fears

But with the GDPR regulations which came into force during May 2018, a growing number of businesses have already taken the decision to ban the use of messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Snapchat to ensure they remain GDPR-compliant.

According to HR Review, Deutsche Bank put restrictions on some messaging apps back in January 2017 while Volkswagen banned chat apps all together although it allows company-approved messaging apps on company phones.

Communication breakdown

Sarah Robson, senior communications consultant at Aon warned that companies replicating Deutsche Bank’s stance may experience a ‘break down’ in communication. “Conversation, sharing and collaboration should always be encouraged,” she said. “But when there are barriers to stopping channels of information it could lead to a communication breakdown. Companies wishing to restrict some communication channels should ensure they have alternative platforms to ensure messaging and workplace communication can continue.”

The survey also found:

  • Employees said they wanted workplace communications to tell them about new products, promotions and offers
  • 24 per cent of respondents said a company-branded social network would make them more likely to access training and development content to increase awareness around company vision.
  • 27 per cent said their ‘biggest frustration’ around workplace communications was a ‘lack of collaboration’ and sharing of relevant company and product information.
  • The majority of respondents favoured document management and organisation tools as part of their social network, over artificial intelligence functionality and voice recognition software.

Encourage communication

“Communications needs to feel organic and innate to employees to have the highest level of engagement, Robson added. So, whether it’s Whatsapp or an HR-approved service, make it part of the culture. This will get people communicating how they want to and they are more likely to listen. In fact, some demographics value using personal apps more than others – that’s because they have grown-up using them. Most generations tend to be wired to their smart phones these days, that’s how we communicate outside of work so why not in work, too?”

For more information download the 2019 Benefits and Trends Survey or to discuss any of the issues outlined in this article, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or calling us on 0344 573 0033.


Aon UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 00210725. Registered Office: The Aon Centre, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London EC3V 4AN.