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How to get Employees’ Personal Phone Numbers and Emails so you can Reach Them on Their Smartphones.

You’ve decided that you want to move forward with providing HR communications to your deskless employees via mobile. How do you get started? 

This blog builds on our initial post, “Should you Communicate with Deskless Workers via Smartphones?” where we reviewed data that determined whether it makes sense for organizations to try mobile communications with their employees. If you haven’t read it yet, you may want to check it out before reading this post. But in short, the evidence points to a pretty safe “yes.”

In this follow-up post, we will discuss how to tackle the first implementation question that every organization asks is: How will we get the phone numbers and email addresses to reach employees on mobile phones?

Getting stumped by this question is the number one reason why employers don’t start implementing a strategy. And it was precisely the dilemma we faced with one of our first customers, Fujifilm. 

Back then, Fujifilm agreed to pilot our technology at one location – a manufacturing plant in Boston. The catch: they had no way to contact their employees on mobile. No phone numbers, no emails. Yet a few months later, they had over 70% of their Boston plant employees participating. So how’d we do it? 

Since our experience in Beantown (Go Celtics!), we’ve refined our tactics with hundreds of employers, from coal mines to hospitals and manufacturers. Here are the lessons we use with every implementation. 

No organization has 100% of all employees’ mobile contact information.

First of all, it’s important to reset expectations. Your company probably doesn’t have all the employee contact information you want it to, and almost no company with a deskless workforce does. Companies that wait until they have 100% of all contact information to launch never launch. 

In reality, building your contact database has to be done over time through continuous improvement. As one of your KPIs, you start to track the “% of employees with SMS or Email on record.” 

All we’re aiming for with this number is an improvement over time. Usually, before launching communications via mobile, you’ll want to gather at least 10% of the population’s contact info and then collect more as word spreads.

It’s unlikely this number will ever be 100%. But it’s pretty incredible to see how quickly it can climb with some relatively simple tactics. 

Think text AND email.

A mistake we often see is employers thinking of mobile as synonymous with text. It’s easy to take for granted that mobile phones also have email. However, if an employee doesn’t want to provide their phone number, having another option is critical. You really have to use both, or your participation will forever be in the low 40% range. 

Whichever contact method an employee selects, we recommend storing the info in a centralized database to track that preference, whether text, email, or even both. With this in mind, we built Airbo’s technology on top of a unified SMS/email database. However, we found that text messaging alone didn’t get the engagement results we wanted.  

The centralized database is also helpful for storing characteristics for each employee that you can use to target messages (like location) or see engagement data (like job class).

Gather contact info during the onboarding process.

The simplest way to gather employee contact information is by adding it to your employee onboarding process. It’s much easier to collect this information during this stage of the employee lifecycle because they’re already receiving a lot of one-on-one attention. 

Gather this info and consent to contact in your HRIS, onboarding software, or even via Google Forms (more on that below).

Check existing systems.

Once in a while, you get lucky. It’s worthwhile to audit all current systems and see what contact information already exists. Often, there is something sitting in the Payroll or Ben Admin system that you can leverage. It’s certainly worth checking. 

Occasionally, you need additional consent to use data from other systems, but we haven’t seen this as a barrier in practice. 

Build community support.

HR Generalists and Business Partners are a discrete audience you can easily take for granted, but it’s hard to succeed without their support. So ensure they’re bought in and signed up. 

Deskless environments often correspond with populations that don’t use English as their primary language. Usually, in these communities, someone takes on the role of a “community leader” that translates information for their peers. These community leaders are essential to engage because they can quickly sign up many people. So make a discrete effort to engage them. 

Use your managers to reach your existing workforce.

The most powerful system to gather contact information is how the vast majority of HR teams communicate with deskless employees already: field managers. 

Most HR teams already have ways to reach them with requests, whether that’s through standing monthly meetings or via email. 

Ask shift and floor managers to request deskless employees provide their contact information. Top-down support from field leadership always helps. 

Below is an example form that you can also download here.

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You can print out this form and have people write down their information by hand. Or, you can put this form into a Google Form where people can input their information via a tablet or smartphone. Printing flyers with a QR code that links to this form is an excellent supplemental trick. 

If you go the paper route, ask shift and floor managers to compile and submit the contact information via a Google Sheet. 

When we work with a customer, we help manage this process, and our technology can sign people up automatically without using a separate form. Having said that, when a customer wants to build an initial database to start, we seem to always come back to this tried and true approach. 

Add Prizes.

Final tip, people love prizes. That’s why we built them into the core of the Airbo experience. So don’t be shy to give away prizes to motivate sign-ups. They really do make a big difference. For example, “$50 Amazon Gift Card to five people that sign-up by August 31st!”

Getting started is more important than getting it perfect.

We wish you the best of luck. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out at hello@airbo.com.