It’s Time to Mobilize Your Employee Safety Helpline (ESH)

OpenMarket – January 28, 2015

There is no doubt that employees are an organization’s most valuable asset. Across the globe, organizations are increasingly seeking new ways to engage with their employees to reduce attrition, elevate the company’s brand perception, and improve morale. One such employee engagement initiative that is gaining more and more traction among organizations is providing assistance to employees during emergencies or times of crises. In short, organizations are creating an Employee Safety Helpline or an ESH.


Before moving forward, let’s take a look at the definition of an ESH – a solution that helps the Business Continuity Planning/HR/Security team of the organization contact employees during natural or man-made disasters (earthquake, fire, terrorist attack, etc.) and determine the safety status of its staff. Furthermore, the ESH also enables an employee to reach the organization during times of personal emergency or to report an incident. Once the organization receives this information, it can focus on providing relief and assistance to the employee(s) in need.

Nearly all organizations with ESH agree that mobile is the best channel for this type of solution. This is because a mobile device is personal and is almost always with us at any given time.

But the points of agreement start fading when it comes to the implementation of ESH. This is because different organizations hold different perceptions about ESH. In fact, two very common initiatives that organizations launch, thinking that they are launching complete ESH, are:

  • I have a toll-free number that employees can call and get assistance
  • I have an app that employees can use to report their problems to the organization

These initiatives, no doubt, serve well to provide assistance to employees during hard times. However, they mostly cater to the second portion of the ESH: providing assistance with individual employee problems. For all practical purposes, these solutions are not equipped to handle emergencies due to the following reasons:

  • During an emergency, the wired and mobile networks usually get jammed and it becomes very difficult to place or receive a call. So there is a high chance that the employee will not be able to reach the toll-free number. Additionally, the toll-free number can only handle a limited number of simultaneous calls. Increasing this limit to handle emergencies is impractical.
  • Just like voice, data can also suffer outages during an emergency, and an app can do nothing but drain your phone battery. Additionally, how do you reach employees who do not carry a smartphone (especially the ones working in a BPO or in remote locations with low connectivity)?

Under emergency circumstances, the most effective ESH is a Voice + SMS Helpline, i.e., one that utilizes a combination of a toll-free number and mobile messaging to provide assistance to employees. A mobile app can be an optional feature, but it’s not a necessity.

With this solution, let’s see how an organization will be able to efficiently tackle situations related to emergencies as well as individual safety. During an emergency, the BCP/HR/Security team of the organization can send SMS notifications to employees informing them about the emergency, and requesting their safety status. Employees can respond with their safety status by simply sending an SMS, and the BCP/HR/ Security team will be able to see a real-time report of the safety status of all their employees. The organization can then reach out to only the employees in need. In addition, a defined call tree can be executed to inform all relevant stakeholders to take necessary actions, in case the employee has not responded within a specified time limit.

During a personal emergency, the need to speak to someone is paramount, and communication over a Voice Helpline may be the best option. However, there may be other scenarios where an SMS or an app can be used to raise silent alarms (e.g. a female associate may send an SMS to report suspicious behavior of a cab driver).

This ESH based on Voice + SMS has the following benefits:

  • During an emergency, SMS works better than voice due to its lighter load on carrier networks at the impacted site
  • Any mobile phone can do at least two things – make/receive a call, and send/receive an SMS. Hence, this ESH is independent of the model/make/version of the employee’s mobile device
  • SMS is simple to use and does not need any training from the organization

Additionally, research has revealed that more than 90% of SMS messages are opened within 3 minutes, and hence the chances are great that the employee will see and respond to notifications.

Since most of the organizations have a Voice Helpline, OpenMarket’s Mobile Engagement Platform can be used to setup and complete the ESH for the organization. The platform has a self-service Workflow Manager that allows the BCP/HR/Security team to define its own call tree and decision workflows. The platform also offers real-time status reports to display the safety status of the employees.

Another unique feature of OpenMarket’s ESH solution is that notifications can be triggered manually, by an external system, or even by an SMS (think of scenarios where the BCP employees are on the road).

OpenMarket has successfully deployed Employee Safety Helpline for many prominent organizations, among them are a global Big Four Management Consulting Company and a top 10 Global IT Consulting Company.

If you don’t have an Employee Safety Helpline now, start the year by implementing it. Now is the time to mobilize this service – and employees will automatically know that you care for them.

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