By Gloria Lombardi

“We need to think about what the mobile device represents today, and how it can fit into an organisation’s communications. Until two years ago not every employee had a smartphone. Now, almost everyone has it. It is a very personal object to many of us. When we cannot find our phone, we freak out. We feel disconnected.”

Recognising the growing importance of mobile devices in our everyday life, New York-based Jeff Corbin created theEMPLOYEEapp – a solution designed specifically for internal communicators to help better communicate and increase employee engagement. Indeed, he believes that the app “has the ability to become part of the culture of an organisation.”

theEMPLOYEEapp – Employee engagement and one-way communications

theEMPLOYEEapp is a native mobile app solution that delivers content through the cloud. It makes corporate information easily and immediately available to staff via their Apple and Android devices by sending them push notifications. Companies can use the tool to send daily news as well as presentations, videos, audio podcasts, photographs, fact sheets and pdf documents to their colleagues. It also can integrate with platforms like Box and Dropbox.

Presently, it allows only for one-way communications – from the employer to the employees. “This is our main proposition. There are situations when organisations just need to ensure that employees have access to information.”

But, in the age of social business, can one-way communication still play a role to employee engagement? Corbin, who believes so, cites research of the like of Gallup. “All their studies repeatedly show that employees have a hard time when it comes to being informed. This impacts hugely on engagement.

“The majority of the workforce is not sitting behind the desk anymore. How are they getting information? Until now they had to wait to go home and see what happened during the day. But when employees go home, the last thing they want to do is sit at their desk to check corporate news.”

So, what about making information easily available to workers when they need it? “Now employers have that opportunity. They can deliver relevant and up-to-date information to staff simultaneously and directly through theEMPLOYEEapp.”

Employees receive push notifications every time the organisation sends them new content. “If there is an emergency, staff are notified instantaneously. How was that happening beforehand?”

Indeed, Corbin does not deny the importance of two-way communications and giving staff a voice. “Of course, there is something to be said about hearing what employees have to say about certain issues.”

He believes the best way to surface people feedback is the survey. “Whether it is Survey Monkey or others, companies have the ability to embed them into theEMPLOYEEapp and send them out to staff.” So, he encourages internal communicators to consider incorporating such a feature into theEMPLOYEEapp, which they can.

More importantly, in the next couple of months theEMPLOYEEapp will release new functions to enhance social collaboration at a content level. “We are listening to every company we speak with. We put their inputs in our development pipeline. We know that there is a desire for collaborating at the content level. So this is going to happen in the near future. We just keep iterating.”

A simple solution

Corbin’s background is in corporate communications. “I am not a technology guy.” He understands the internal communications challenges and wants to help empower the profession.

The way he created the app was not to make the technology an obstacle from a content delivery viewpoint. “The platform is simple to use. If internal communications realise that there is an opportunity through mobile, then they shouldn’t worry about the difficulty of deploying it because of technological requirements. I believe that solutions like mine are empowering professionals to do their work.”

However, technically speaking, internal communicators do still need to deal with IT, “which hopefully would help them embrace it.”

Can the need to deploy an enterprise app help to bridge the infamous silos between the two functions? Corbin’s answer is encouraging. “I can see that there is a slow but evolving change in the role that IT is playing for supporting IC professionals.”

Start with a strategy

But, the question is – how can a company take advantage of a solution like theEMPLOYEEapp?

According to Corbin, there are three elements that any internal communicator should consider.

The first is content strategy. “What information do you want to make available to your employees? There is too much of it out there. You have to come up with a solid thought process. It cannot be everything.”

The second component is the user strategy. “How is your employee base structured?” Indeed, every company is different. Corbin suggests thinking about the various classifications of employees inside the company.With theEMPLOYEEapp companies have the ability to segment their audiences. “They can create groups based on whatever they want like management level, regions, properties, and even chains.”

The third element to consider is the administrator strategy. “Is one person going to manage the solution for the entire enterprise? Or do you want 20 different administrators who deliver content in their 20 different countries?” theEMPLOYEEapp allows for this.

“It is very important to have considered all those three components when approaching solutions like ours.”

Google Analytics

For tracking users’ behaviour theEMPLOYEEapp makes use of Google Analytics, which works exactly in the same way as for any website.

This gives companies a good understanding of staff’s appreciation of the content. Communicators can monitor in real-time the pieces of content viewed, for how long, where the employees were when they accessed that information, what time of day, as well unique versus returning visitors.

From Caesars Entertainment to the North Pole

Some large international enterprises have found theEMPLOYEEapp beneficial. One of them is the casino hotel company Caesars Entertainment. “They are using it for sending out employee schedules, and corporate news. The app is also used as a benefits portal.”

Another interesting use case comes from a large restaurant chain based in the U.S. – Corbin cannot mention the name – who are using it for training purposes. Before deploying the solution, all the training material was available only on the intranet and accessible through desktop computers. That has changed now. “We have built an API that allows the company to take all the training content right from the intranet and make it easily available through the native app.”

TheEMPLOYEEapp also allows organisations to embrace segments of the workforce that up until now were very hard to reach. For example “a company with staff based in the North Slope, Alaska. They don’t have hard-wired set ups. The only way to let people access information is through wi-fi.”

Indeed, in such extreme situations the ability to be communicated with by your company has a huge impact. “In those contexts, even simple things like knowing that your pay check has been sent can make a difference in the life of a worker.”

Between vision and reality

theEMPLOYEEapp seems to have the potential to help a variety of businesses. “Our platform was created to customise the app for any company’s particular needs.”

But, it has to begin with a vision.

“Every company is different. Communicators should start from having a vision on how mobile should be used to inform their staff. Then theEMPLOYEEapp will allow them to accomplish what they have imagined.”