by Jeff Corbin | November 20, 2015

Using a mobile app to engage the disengaged employees.

I recently read Ally Bunin’s blog entitled, “We Launched an Employee Mobile App and . . .”  Ally is the AVP of Organizational Communications at North Shore-LIJ Health System (soon to be called Northwell Health) with more than 55,000 employees.  She is also Chair-Elect of the PRSA Employee Communications section.  In her blog, Ally correctly points out that within any organization, large or small, there are going to be those employees who are highly engaged and willing to embrace change and new ideas without incentives.  There will also be those who are content with the status quo and more difficult to engage.  She goes on to discuss her thoughts and ideas for engaging disengaged employees.

Having worked with and assisted dozens of companies in executing their mobile employee communications strategy, we have seen a number of similarities and trends in deployment and usage of theEMPLOYEEapp.  Here are a few observations and thoughts that should prove helpful to companies looking to take advantage of mobile technology for purposes of employee communications:

  1. As Ally points out, in executing upon a mobile employee communications strategy (which is starting to be demanded particularly by “Millennials” who are attached to their mobile device), content strategy is paramount. What information do your employees need to easily access especially when not in front of a desktop computer?  What workplace tools and resources will make them more efficient and productive in their work if they could be easily accessed through an iPhone or Android device?  In a recent deployment of theEMPLOYEEapp to 75,000 employees at a Fortune 100 company, the initial content strategy was to push company news to employees on a weekly basis.  After a few months, adoption was approximately 10%.  However, when the company made HR information and its benefit portals available through the app so employees could easily retrieve their pay information, the number of downloads and utilization of the new solution increased significantly. This was valuable information that employees wanted access to in the palm of their hand.
  2. Localization of content and brand is also of great importance. Employees, especially those who are part of a larger organization, primarily care about what is important and relevant to them.  In many instances, a company is organized by property, region, subsidiary or country, each with its own unique brand.  Undoubtedly each will have its own culture which sometimes may involve different languages.  Given the fact that an employee’s mobile device can be very personal to the individual, so too should a company’s mobile employee solution provide a “comfortable” and individualized user experience.  This can be accomplished by making sure the app contains the branding that an employee is familiar with.  It can also be accomplished by providing content that is particular to the place where the employee works rather than just representative of the corporate organization.
  3. The use of mobile apps in business, and in particular, for employee communications, is new. There is a paradigm shift currently underway in which organizations are struggling to adopt new technologies and solutions (like mobile apps) as a result of being hamstrung by older and costly legacy solutions like corporate intranets that just don’t work well in a mobile environment.  While adoption by employees is a measurable metric of a new solution’s success, it shouldn’t become the primary focus.  Rather, the focus should be on providing employees with easy access to information via mobile.

At the recent Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference, Kitty Conrad-Ganier, vice president of government relations, communications and corporate responsibility at Caesars Entertainment, discussed Caesar’s mobile employee communications strategy.  Of importance was her comment that in developing a mobile strategy, the ultimate objective should be to equip employees with content, information and tools that allow them to “Win their Day.”

We are at a very early stage in this technological transformation and employers should keep an open mind as the paradigm continues to unfold.  It can and should be expected that there will be those employees who will continue to rely on the same-old, same-old and not embrace what is new. However, if we can provide them with instantaneous and easy access to relevant and valuable information to help them “win their day,” this will undoubtedly help to engage those disengaged employees.

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