What’s an employee app?

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arrow-right All posts Published on 24.09.2019

An increasing number of companies are introducing an employee app – are you wondering why? Wondering what an employee app is exactly? Wondering what it can do? And whether a company really needs one? In this COYO 1mal1 about employee apps, we’ll tell you what these mobile communication tools can do, how companies can benefit from them, and explain the related terms and concepts. Our goal is to help you decide whether an employee app could be of interest to you and your company. And maybe you’ll even get an idea of which version of such an app would be best for your needs(We’d be happy to offer a completely objective suggestion...)

Why employee apps are so popular

The thing all employee apps have in common is that they are mobile software solutions designed for communication within a company. Mobile means that most employee apps are used via smartphone, although depending on the app, it may also be possible to use it on a tablet or desktop computer. However, since the main idea behind an app is mobile use, other intranet solutions are usually more suitable for use only on desktops.

The fact that an employee app is mobile and easy to use via smartphone is precisely what leads to its widespread use within a company. In fact, this is the only way to reliably connect with blue collar workers in production, at a warehouse, or at a sales outlet. After all, these employees usually don’t have a desk at the company’s headquarters and therefore have little or no access to an existing intranet, i.e. an internal computer network and the information it contains. In addition, employees who regularly travel for business, like sales reps and technical field staff, don’t have access to the company’s normal intranet during their business trips.

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A company can easily and conveniently keep these employees up to date via an employee app. This can send them a push notification (depending on the app) to quickly and reliably invite them to the summer party, provide them with all the information they need about the new board member, or show them this week’s cafeteria menu. As such, an employee app eliminates the need for an outdated bulletin board, which wouldn’t reach every employee reliably anyway. In addition, this tremendously speeds up communication compared to requiring employees to log in to office computers. Furthermore, employees can often access forms for sick leave, vacation requests, and expense reports, which saves them a lot of time. #TimeIsMoney


Multitalented mobile assistant – what an employee app can do

An employee app is used for communication. But if you dig deeper, this communication can take on very different forms and serve different purposes. For example, one feature can simply be to provide information to every employee as quickly and reliably as possible. In this case, things like work schedules, invitations, standardized policies and procedures, company news, and similar information is simply broadcast out to them via the app. This is referred to as top down communication, i.e. from the management level (or from an editorial office that reports to them) to the workforce. This model is a bit similar to the old employee magazine, but is of course much more direct and can therefore be used to send out more up-to-date information like cafeteria menus.

Another reason to use an employee app may be to replace services such as WhatsApp and Dropbox. This is because employees who don’t have any other means of communication available aren’t going to think long and hard about privacy policies before discussing a customer project using WhatsApp (more information about the costly consequences of this can be found here.) The solution to this issue is an employee app with a chat feature, preferably with the ability to create groups and send files. With this app on their smartphone, employees can quickly get in touch with each other to securely discuss important work-related topics.

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A mobile social intranet takes this one step further (learn more about the social intranet here.) This works a bit more like an internal social network and encourages general discussions and company-wide interaction. This means that any employee can create content. But that's not all. Every user can also like, comment on, and/or share other employees’ posts – yes, even from their bosses! This adds bottom-up communication, i.e. from employees to management, to the top-down communication from management to employees. This harbors tremendous opportunities for the efficiency and optimization of the company and also for employee loyalty, because every employee can easily contribute ideas, comment on projects, and therefore feel like they are seen, heard, and belong to the group.

The technology behind the employee app (in layman’s terms)

Not only do employee apps differ in their features and purpose, the underlying technology can also be fundamentally different. The first thing we think of when we hear the word app is what’s known as a native app. This application was developed specifically for smartphones and must be downloaded from an app store and installed on your phone. Use of the app can be limited to your company’s employees but requiring users to log in with their company e-mail address, for example.

Another possibility is a web app. This is simply a website optimized for different screen sizes, i.e. a “responsive website.” This, in turn, is usually the company’s social intranet, which employees can also access using their mobile devices. Since this option can’t be used offline and it is not a native app, this solution is sometimes referred to as a mobile intranet instead of an employee app. Similar to a native app, with this option users can save an icon on their smartphone home screen that automatically opens the browser and the website when they click on it, however. As a result, it looks like a normal app on their smartphone. A significant advantage of a web app is that content does not have to be created or uploaded to two different systems.

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To combine the best of both worlds, there are also hybrid apps. These work on the basis of a native app, but load much of their content in a browser in the form of responsive websites. This means that at least part of them can be used offline, yet they don’t require a lot of content to be saved twice.

No matter which option a company wants to use, in most cases it makes sense not to have a dedicated solution programmed specifically for the company, but instead to use existing solutions. The apps can often be adapted to the needs of the company. In addition to the technology, it’s also often possible to brand the app in the company’s corporate design including the use of its logo. Pretty cool, huh? This kind of real company app not only looks great, but also has a positive effect on employees’ identification with the company and increases loyalty.


Even more benefits of an employee app

We’ve already discussed many of the benefits of employee apps. Being able to reach the entire workforce is a major benefit, because at large companies, many employees are “deskless” and others are often out of the office for least several days in a row on business trips. These employees can still be reached via their smartphone and be kept up to date quickly and effectively – and all while fully complying with applicable privacy laws!

Employee loyalty and motivation are two other important topics. The ability to interact, the feeling of belonging, and, last but not least, the presence of the company and its corporate identityon what is usually the employee’s personal mobile phone (think “bring your own device” or BYOD) dramatically increases their identification with the company and motivation to support it and remain loyal to it.

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It is precisely this increased motivation and more efficient, faster communication that also enhances the productivity of individual employees and the company as a whole. And this is another reason why an employee app ultimately saves the company time and money (are you interested in all the benefits of a mobile intranet? Then have a look here).


The employee app as the perfect introduction to digitization

If a company is just getting started with digitization, an employee app is a good way to begin. The time and effort required and the costs are relatively low and the workforce can jointly explore which features and interfaces will be needed over the long term in order to work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

It is also valuable to know which elements enhance the sense of community the most, especially for internal communication – and just how much “modern corporate culture” is appropriate for the company at what time. After all, “social” forms of communication minimize the distance between different hierarchical levels and bring the entire company closer together. Such changes can, of course, take getting used to in the beginning and are best approached as a step-by-step process.


Who an employee app isn’t enough for

An employee app is a useful, easy-to-use introduction to digitization and modernization. It isn’t enough to ensure that a company’s employees can work as effectively as possible over the long term, however. This is because a normal native app doesn’t offer enough features to efficiently manage and distribute all of the necessary information, tools, and processes.

In order to be able to work as productively as possible over the long term, a company needs a form of intranet. If having a modern corporate culture is important, the company should offer a social intranet within a digital workplace. An employee app should then be a compact version of this digital workplace and, above all, the associated social intranet that best meets the requirements. The aim here, of course, is to integrate as little unnecessary data as possible and instead only offer content that is relevant to blue-collar workers or employees out of the office. This means that all of the company’s employees will have access to all of the information and features they need from anywhere. These are always up to date at all locations and each process is transparent for all of the relevant employees and can be influenced by interaction, if necessary.

In addition, blue-collar and white-collar workers grow closer when they both use the same social intranet. This prevents separate platforms from being created with different focal points for desktop workers and employees who only access the platform via their smartphones. Instead, a common foundation is established, which in turn makes digitization, corporate culture, and day-to-day work a lot of fun!

 

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Author

• Melanie Mader •

Our online editor Melanie writes about everything that matters in the COYO blog. Thematically flexible, she tells you about the latest developments and always reveals useful tips and tricks.

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