Communication in the workplace has always been of utmost importance — especially in an industry in which face time with employees is rare. With workers stationed at numerous job sites throughout the day, sometimes in different cities and even multiple states, building service contractors can use mainstream technology to connect with employees, whether they’re sitting in front of a computer or out in the field.

Cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) such as Blackberrys enable users to send and receive text messages. Some BSCs have found this type of communication extremely helpful. Lisa Banks, president of My Cleaning Service in Baltimore, provides company cell phones for her managers, building supervisors and porters. Texting has proven invaluable as a form of communication to those employees, she says.

“That’s the number one problem in any business, I think, is trying to communicate and get messages out,” Banks says.

The phones are set up to only receive messages, eliminating the additional distraction the ability to send outgoing messages would pose for employees. From a mass message distributed to every phone-holder to personal updates relaying important messages from headquarters, texting is quick, concise and efficient.

In some circumstances, texting is one of the only ways to communicate, especially when working in metal-reinforced or older buildings, where cell signals can drop. For example, Banks’ workers had to respond to an emergency situation in a customer’s building during off hours. The customer couldn’t pick up a signal for calls in his building, so the only method of communication available to let him know the workers were arriving was text.

“We had to have some way of getting the communication to go all the way through. That was one of the most helpful systems,” Banks says.

Communicating via text messaging through, in the old days, pagers, and now phones and PDAs, has ironically been the most reliable method of getting through to employees over the years, she adds.

Programs and Web sites are available online to allow business texts to be sent out from a computer, so BSCs can relay messages easily from the office.

Instant Messaging
Mobile technology such as text messaging has a place in some but not all business communication settings, says Shel Holtz, accredited business communicator and consultant and owner, Holtz Business + Technology, Concord, Calif. While there have been significant recent changes to the way people communicate using technology, most organizations have not embraced them, he says. Almost all companies have some form of e-mail system, and many also use internal instant messaging (IM).

While some companies couldn’t get by without internal messaging such as IM, smaller companies may not see a use for that type of communication. But any company interested in streamlining communications should consider it, Holtz says.

“The primary advantage is it is a tool that employees can use that allows them to engage in communication with behaviors that weren’t available to them before,” he says. An instant message from one employee to another, which pops up on a computer screen with urgency, can be answered in seconds, whereas the same information would likely take much longer to get via phone or e-mail.

IM might have a bad rap, as many associate it with kids wasting time away on the computer, Holtz says. He says companies need to think more strategically about communication channels they use. Evaluate what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and identify the tools that will help you do that, he says. If productivity’s an issue, look at the options available and perform a cost-benefit analysis.

Also, when a new tool comes along, investigate how it could help make your business more efficient and successful, Holtz says.

“It really isn’t an issue of technology — it’s an issue of communication, and this is a tool that could help you improve your communications or improve the outcomes from your communications,” Holtz says. “Whether you’re going to embrace these technologies or not should be driven entirely by whether they will work for you.”