How Mobile Tech Helped BNSF Logistics
Host: On this episode of Internal Comms TV, Sherrell Watson, the Director of Internal Communications for BNSF Logistics, shares how they were able to overcome communications challenges to be able to directly communicate with their dispersed workforce.
On screen: The Challenges
A major piece to me of internal communications is looking at the workplace as an experience. It’s really about creating the optimal experience for our employees. And internal communications plays a major role in that.
So, one of the things that I did when I first joined the organization was really listen to our employees. I didn’t come in and just want to revamp everything with internal communications. I wanted to listen to what people said. I wanted to have understanding of what worked for them, what didn’t work. I did a communications audit. I had focus group interviews. I spent hours talking to our leadership team to fully understand what is going on in the organization.
Some of the things that I heard during this time is that there was a need for improved communication and collaboration. I think like so many different companies, our teams were very siloed. And if you didn’t work in the corporate headquarters, you didn’t really feel like their voice was heard. You didn’t feel connected to the leadership team because you physically didn’t see them on a daily basis. There was a desire for more real time communication between our employees at senior leadership. Our employees wanted better mobile communication and technology.
A lot of the communication that was previously done was assuming that all of our employees worked at a desk. We have a lot of people that are in the field. And if you’re putting everything on the intranet or through email, a lot of those field employees are not getting the messages that are intended for them. So it was really important for us to listen to the employees and then take action.
On Screen: How BNSF Logistics Connects Employees
BNSFL Connect, our employee communications app, allows our employees to get company news and tools right at their fingertips. It brings greater visibility to our leaders and it allows for our teams to communicate among each other. The app allowed us to have more casual communications, so our leaders are shooting things with cell phones or shooting things with their computers and it’s very easy to get communication across to our teams in a quick manner.
Our teams are able to create full on learning courses that employees could do throughout the day. But now, with so much going on, you’re working from home, you have kids at home, we wanted to give our employees kind of these quick bites of learning so they can continue their professional personal development on the app. So that’s been a really big hit for us. We also let employees tell their stories on the app; there is a section called Employee Posts that lets employees share quick photos and captions, just cool things going on.
We also now use it as an onboarding tool. So before COVID, we had a full on onboarding program that was three days in one of our office locations. It was very interactive. And I think even after this time passes on, we still want to continue to use the app to connect with those new employees because they quickly are able to understand the company culture, and what is important to the organization without stepping foot to an office.
On screen: What’s next for BNSF Logistics?
Getting that constant feedback will continue to be important for us moving forward. We’re going to continue to try new things and know that it’s okay to fail. There’s content that we push that really wasn’t a hit and we moved away from it. One of the things that we’re going to be launching soon is a kind of a gamification aspect to the app. So, every piece of content is going to have a point system and we’re going to have a leaderboard that’s shown on the app so people can kind of see who’s top on their team with looking at content or watching videos. And that’s just going to create kind of a fun competition.
Another space that we’re going to bring into the app is being able to give our leaders access to it so they can communicate directly to their team. I mean, there’s so many important reasons why that is important from a communications aspect. I think one is from an overall safety standpoint, being able to send quick messages out. But then from an awards and recognition standpoint, leaders being able to quickly connect with their teams and give kudos and compliments.
So, we’re going to start with our senior leaders and then we’re going to really target those middle managers, because as many of you all know, I think that’s where a lot of communication gets stuck in organizations. So giving them the tools to be better communicators is definitely something that we are wanting to move forward with when it comes to BNSFL Connect.
Host: For more mobile communication best practices, watch the full recording of Sherrell’s presentation How BNSF Logistics Uses Mobile App Technology to Reach a Dispersed Workforce.