Is an employee app the “silver bullet” for all your internal communication challenges?

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Read this article in German.

Is your company looking for a simple solution that allows it to present itself as a modern employer with its finger on the pulse? Excellent. All you need now is a simple solution that lets it move seamlessly into the digital age. But the fact is that the market is overwhelming and that it isn’t easy to get a clear picture.

The key to your problem is your internal communication. On the one hand, it gives you an opportunity to present changes and news in a transparent way, reach your employees, and strengthen their ties to the company. Internal communication is also a good example of how the entry of Generation Y into the business world has changed the overall working culture. They develop friendships with colleagues, embrace an open feedback culture, have a thirst for knowledge and are keen to learn, and drive forward employee engagement. Thanks to them, twice-yearly employee magazines are making way for a variety of social networks, apps, and platforms. Companies should harness this development as a benefit in order to build up acceptance for internal digitalization among the workforce and to pave the way for a digital future. But with so many products on the market, how are you supposed to find the right tool for your company?

The famous employee app ...

Having conducted some research into the market and having asked your colleagues for their wants and needs, you will probably have come to the conclusion that most tools have similar ideas and features, with the only differences coming in terms of focus. A major area of focus is the issue of mobility. If you haven’t come across it already, you will now encounter the “employee app.”

An employee app is designed to reach the entire workforce: field sales, back office, digital natives, and convenience users – both privately and professionally. It is a medium that makes it possible to collate information from other systems in a collective and intuitive way.

An employee app can be added to your existing systems landscape and is a quick and easy way to get your digital culture off the ground. An outstanding advantage is that most employees are familiar with mobile apps in one way or another. What’s more, the functionality of the app is pared down to the essentials in order to ensure a high degree of usability. The design of the employee app is usually tailored to the corporate identity, thus maintaining the corporate culture and a sense of professionalism.

Sounds great, right? So why is an employee app still not the silver bullet that every company is looking for?

Create two domains

To a certain extent, white-collar employees already work in a digital environment, as they use a computer and business software on a daily basis to do their job.

Blue-collar employees make less use of digital tools in their working environment and, in most cases, have no access to a PC.
The challenge is to get these two groups of employees on the same page in terms of internal communication.

The solution? A company-wide employee app. As the app is compatible with any device, the company is no longer responsible for making information available to the entire workforce, as each employee can download the app themselves.

Problem one: this strategy requires a “bring-your-own-device policy.” Nonetheless, let’s assume that most people own a smart device and are also willing to allow a work-related app into their private lives.

Another problem lies in the different usage habits for the tool. While half of your employees will use the tool daily, the other half will only open the app every two weeks. What’s more, some will use the desktop version rather than the mobile version, as the tool can be incorporated directly into their digital workstation.

These different usage habits will result in different use cases. Desktop users require a broader range of features, not to mention collaborative tools such as MS Office, Google, springboards to other established systems, calendar integration, document storage systems, contact information, and much more.

Due to the fact that desktop users have day-to-day access to their entire digital workstation (and not just the employee app), they also tend to complete specific tasks in the designated systems. For example, they work in their project management system, source customer information from their CRM tool, and model order and shipping processes. As a consequence, all comments, ideas, and questions related to general company information are located in the original intranet. On its own, the employee app is unable to provide a sufficient range of functions to support all of the above.

The use cases for mobile users, on the other hand, are usually limited to a news feed, a chat function, and notifications, as these are the sole purposes for which they use the app. As they are only able to access the employee app, they automatically do everything within the app.

In addition, desktop users usually seek to contribute more strongly to the company, sharing ideas and experiences, setting up knowledge databases, and championing an open feedback culture. The mobile use case, on the other hand, points more toward top-down communication, intuitive operation, rapid access to information, and straightforward communication on the most important issues.

On account of these differences, two different domains emerge for employees – the everyday desktop domain and, on the other hand, the occasional-use mobile app domain. As the gulf between employees grows all the time, everyone will be asking themselves the following question: “what tool do I use for what purpose?”

If we were just talking about the employee app on its own, there wouldn’t be any great problem. But as the purpose of the employee app is to connect your existing tools and present the information from your original intranet, your company needs to have an existing intranet and other tools that you want to link to the employee app. These tools need access data and licenses that blue-collar workers generally don’t have. By the same token, the administrators have to either split the information between two tools or accept that half of your employees only have limited access to information. But one thing is clear: using two systems for the same purpose is very inefficient in the long term.

Reach all employees

Digital workplaces are changing all the time. Specifications and technologies are evolving on an ongoing basis, with the speed of these developments becoming ever faster.

In the majority of cases, different departments rely on different tools, as they frequently have different sets of requirements. Internal communication, on the other hand, is the instrument that a company uses to reach all employees and make news and information transparent. When it comes to company-wide communication, there has to be a point of contact on a central platform. This central platform (commonly referred to as an “intranet”) offers all necessary information and regular updates, boosts networking between employees, and serves as a springboard for other collaborative systems. The range of features is kept to a minimum on mobile devices, but can be expanded for desktop use while still using the same platform. Consequently, it can also be seen as a “front-door intranet” to the digital workplace of all employees.


Create a Digital Home

It should hardly come as a surprise, however, that a front-door intranet cannot be implemented overnight. So, unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that user acceptance, employee engagement, and transparent change management are key factors in terms of making your communication strategy a success. To promote acceptance and use, it is vital to create a digital home for your employees in the form of a front-door intranet. As a front door, it is open to everyone at the company, whatever position they are in, whatever job they do, or however often they log in. As such, you will be creating an environment in which all employees have the same opportunities to access information, interact with coworkers, and contribute to the company. Creating a digital home is the first step to establishing a successful digital culture. To sum up, it is always more profitable to invest in a revolutionary vision than in short-term improvements.


• Jessica Stark •

Jessica is sales manager at COYO and supports customers in the decision process for a social intranet. In the COYO blog she informs about user experiences as well as challenges and approaches for the introduction of a digital home.

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