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Effective communication tips: managing remote teams

Tim VaughanTim Vaughan·
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Engaging workers is a challenge for most companies and it’s even more difficult when it comes to workers who are not desk-based or operating outside of the company’s HQ.

Research confirms that employees based at head office do tend to be less engaged. Nick Tachell, Director of Organization Surveys at Willis Towers Watson says:

“We find engagement in HQs higher than outside, as they tend to have more positive opinions on some of the typical engagement drivers such as leadership/connection with leaders and communication/clarity of direction.”

For advice on how to increase engagement outside of HQ and develop a communication plan to reach all employees, you might want to read our guide: Reach Remote Workers – Communicate Effectively With A Diverse Workforce.

It’s arguably even more of a challenge to engage non-desk workers who routinely don’t have access to email, the company intranet or other traditional channels linking them to company communications.

It’s not surprising, then, that apps are becoming increasingly popular to reach and engage employees who fall into this category. In our hugely popular series of webinars, my colleague Emma Hanley interviewed Martin Böhringer, the CEO and co-founder of Staffbase on the topic: The Effective Use of Apps to Reach Non-desk Workers

Here are some of Martin’s Top Tips and advice.

Why have a company app?

Over 70% of employees do not work at a desk. But with a company app, reaching them is as easy as them reaching into their pocket for their smartphone! Having your logo on their personal device, sitting there alongside Facebook and WhatsApp etc. builds a strong employer brand for your employees.

Communications go directly to the employee and are instant. Staffbase clients reported 75% of app push-notifications were opened within an hour of being sent and had three times the readership of the same content on the company intranet.

What should be in the app, what should it do?

Most companies start with a very lean app, concentrating initially on relevant company news and notifications, but then gradually widening the scope of the content to include HR-type applications.

But there has to be something of value in it for employees, otherwise they won’t use it. They need something which is useful to them in their day-to-day work (local news, employee directory, chat groups, events etc. One company that sponsors a major soccer club gives tickets away on the company app – guaranteeing engagement!

Some companies use their app to recruit and onboard employees – a German healthcare organization assigns a mentor to new recruits before they formally join the company, helping them to get to know their new employer and colleagues, right through to finding them accommodation – all through the app.

It can, of course, have many other uses such as services – payslips, expenses, leave requests, booking meeting rooms, etc – company news and events, rewards and, recognition and feedback.

Make or buy?

Do you buy a ready-made solution that can be customize or develop your own app? While some companies develop their own, it’s much more costly to build and maintain and takes a far longer to get up and running.

His advice is firmly in the ‘buy it’ camp. “It’s what you do with your other internal comms tools such as intranet or email, which is based on a standard platform. So this should be the case for your app as well,” he says.

Launch a pilot

This is highly recommended, because an app has such high visibility when you launch it. One of the advantages of a ready-to-go platform is learn, explain and convince based on a working app.

Use your own test app with a vendor (but note that it will have the vendor’s logo on the smartphone, not your company’s. Create your own test app for an extended trial period – low cost and easy to do out of your existing budget – one client did this to leverage support for creating their own company app by showing it to the CEO to see how effective it was!

Learn how Poppulo can help you achieve your internal communication goals in 2017.Request a demo

Security

How to strike the balance between easy access for employees and the need for security of sensitive data? If there’s highly personal data in the app it’s appropriate for access to be freely available for corporate news, events etc, but to have access to the more sensitive data password protected.

What to do with your existing intranet and your desk workers?

It depends on what your intranet is for, but if it’s used for collaboration and sharing documents, etc, then you clearly will continue to need an intranet because that’s beyond the scope of an employee app.

What are the three things you should ask for when evaluating potential app providers?

1. That they are capable of scalability in terms of additional features to customize your needs.
2. Pricing
3. Customer success. Are they just a technical vendor or can they provide the services for the business processes you have in mind?

I hope you find these tips useful. I highly recommend you read this whitepaper on communicating effectively in the workplace and reaching beyond HQ.


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