by Tom Starner | November 10, 2015

hrdiveThey say there are only two sure things: death and taxes. You might want to add smartphones to the list.

For employers, the odds are considerably higher that employees have grown up with a smartphone in hand.  In the U.S., a study by Pew Research found that nearly two-thirds of American adults carry smartphones; just four years ago it was only 35%.

With that as context, employers need to quickly adapt and create an appropriate solution to communicate with their employees, as “old school” communication tools (example: email) no longer get the job done.

According to Joseph Moscola, chief human resources officer at North Shore-LIJ, New York State’s largest private employer and the nation’s 14th-largest health system, that’s one reason why North Shore-LIJ is pioneering the use of mobile technology to communicate with its 55,000 employees.

Moscola says the company is now giving workers access to their own app, called myNorthwell, as part of a multi-pronged employee communications/engagement strategy. The technology behind myNorthwell is based on theEMPLOYEEapp platform.

“We continuously look for innovative ways to enhance not only our patients’ experience, but also our employees,” Moscola says, adding that the healthcare industry is experiencing extraordinary change and the need for effective, consistent, frequent and affordable communication tools has never been greater. “This mobile app is a critical component to ensure that our employees have all the information they need while on- and off-shift.”

Ally Bunin, assistant vice president of organizational communications at North Shore-LIJ, says the company’s mobile strategy is a critical element to its broader communications approach to connect with employees “anytime, anywhere.”

“Our workforce is extremely diverse,” she says. “Nearly 80% of our new hires are millennials who expect easy and instantaneous access to information through their mobile devices.  The app is designed to appeal to this group, as well as the thousands of frontline professionals who depend on their mobile devices and care for millions of people every year.”

MyNorthwell is a one-stop mobile hub that addresses many of the communications challenges common to enterprise organizations, including:

  • Increasing engagement and connection within the organization, especially since the vast majority of employees are caregivers who are not sitting behind a desk with computer access;
  • Understanding the company’s new brand and ensuring that employees understand the health system’s mission to provide the highest quality care to patients and customers;
  • Providing easy and instantaneous access to important company information on-the-go;
  • Providing access to the organization’s new Wellness platform as well as connectivity to workplace portals; and
  • Exclusive perks and employee discounts that drive the employee experience.

To ensure a seamless user experience, Moscola says, the myNorthwell mobile app draws on the look and feel of most frequently used apps. For example, news items immediately populate on the top of a News Feed, similar to Facebook.  Photographs, videos and images appear throughout the app. The health system’s employees can easily find and access important information, as an “Explore” function provides an organized, mobile intranet-styled repository for HR information, corporate communications and company portals as well as workplace tools.

Jeff Corbin, CEO and founder of theEMPLOYEEapp, said the concept came about in 2013 when a Fortune 100 company that was already using the company’s investor relations communications app asked if it would be possible to have a separate app for employee communications.

“Similar to many companies, a major challenge for the client was communicating simultaneously and instantaneously with their more than 50,000 employees, the vast majority of whom were not sitting behind desks, but rather were driving trucks and working in warehouses,” Corbin explains.

So at the customer’s request, the company subsequently launched theEMPLOYEEapp product which offers: the ability to target content to specific groups of employees; a broadcast alert function for instantaneous communication via push notifications; and the ability to have multiple app profiles for different brands and multi-administrators.

“Companies using theEMPLOYEEapp view it as a mobile intranet,” Corbin says. “They are able to make important and relevant content available to their employees through their mobile device in an easy and accessible way.”

While the product is a communications solution, Corbin says many customers are including HR information as just one category of content they are including in their employee app, Corbin says. For HR, many clients are linking to various benefit and workplace portals through their app. That way, it becomes a hub for all corporate information so employees don’t have to have numerous work-related apps on their devices.

At North Shore-LIJ, Moscola says the 24/7 nature of the healthcare business – along with the many emergency-based services it offers to the community – requires the company to use all channels available to communicate with its workforce, who are primarily front-line employees.

“These are business-critical reasons why a mobile app is necessary, as it allows us to push real-time messages to our staff on any mobile device, and it also enables connectivity during an emergency when computers and other systems may be down,” he says.

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