Mass notification systems and procedures are a critical element of the modern workplace. They alert workers of potential hazards, broadcast messages across the globe and communicate with employees almost instantaneously.
Where mass notification systems fall short
For a mass notification system to be effective, it must be able to identify a potential threat, communicate with impacted individuals, and verify that everyone is safe. In a small office environment, this is extremely simple: someone yells “Fire!” and everyone who is currently in the building leaves. However, multinational corporations (or even companies with remote workforces) face a much more challenging notifications environment. Employees in Manila don’t need to know about a positive COVID-19 case at the factory in San Francisco, and a report that shows the number of employees who have checked in at their evacuation site is only helpful if you know how many employees were in the building to begin with.
Four failures that show it’s time to change your legacy mass notification system
Many systems that exist today promise to solve the mass notifications problem anywhere, but they often fail to protect employees and employers at the most critical moments because they fall into the following traps:
1. One-Trick Ponies
These solutions often look sleek and easy to use because they focus on a single aspect of the notification process. Some traditional mass notifications systems offer physical alarm units that include LCD screens for broadcasting messages, while others send pop-up notifications directly to employee desktops or mobile devices, yet others automate phone calling trees. While it is possible for companies to stitch together several of these solutions to ensure coverage for all types of workers, that can be a daunting task for any IT department.
2. Glampers (Glam Campers)
Some mass notification systems have it all: physical alerting, SMS communication and espresso machines, but their size and complexity result in lengthy and expensive implementations. Because these companies generally grew to be world leaders by acquisition, the different siloed components that were holdovers from different companies do not always work together out-of-the-box which creates a heavy lift for internal teams.
Many mass notifications systems try to position themselves as a general employee communications tool for everything from advertising open enrollment periods to reminders about casual Fridays. This constant stream of text messages quickly becomes “noise” that employees tune out: not what you want from an emergency notification system!
4. Ol’ Ironsides
These solutions are so heavy and clunky that it is nearly impossible to make changes. I recently heard from a company in Los Angeles that has to call Headquarters in Philadelphia in order to initiate an emergency broadcast! When talking to other companies, I learned that this is fairly common with legacy mass notifications systems. Additionally, employee and visitor information quickly becomes obsolete unless there is an automated sync process between the HR and mass notification systems.
When evaluating mass notification systems for your workplace, be aware of the potential shortcomings and trade-offs associated with your ultimate selection. Just because a company touts itself as the “world leader” does not mean it’s the best choice for your organization. Ask questions about the time-to-production, multi-channel communication capabilities, and integrated reporting to make sure that your employees are protected in times of crisis.