Are employee apps an answer to internal communications? The answer to the question depends on whom you ask. If you ask social media gurus, technology-savvy brains, or your younger workforce, chances are they’ll give a resounding “yes.”

Today’s work environment is dependent on technology in some form for communication. If executives and leadership cannot communicate in person, they rely on email, phone or a letter (which, by the way, is usually sent via email).

Society has also been subtly trained into expecting news and announcements quickly. As well, methods vary for checking news. Some prefer to read from their phone or online; others turn on the news.

In the workplace, there are times it is essential announcements reach employees quickly. There might be a disaster and employees need to know they either cannot reach the building or are needed right away. Or there was a breach in the system and the technology department is in emergency mode.

What this article is referring to is company-supported apps to communicate organizational information in addition to the text messaging and emergency communications already in place. Some apps include the capability for emergency messaging.

Companies want the ability to communicate important messages to all their employees as efficiently as possible.

When deciding whether to use employee apps, how will you know if they will be effective? Are there dangers to these apps? Who will benefit? And what are the best methods to app communication?

Is it right for you?

In making the decision to create an employee app for your internal communications, first review your current communications methods. What’s working? What isn’t? Why? Be aware that there is a lot of “noise” in the social media world telling you you “have” to connect to this or that when that isn’t necessarily the case. You need to make a decision based on what’s the best way for you to communicate with your employees.

I’m a strong advocate for the personal connection. But particularly in an emergency situation, you cannot always personally communicate with your 500-plus employees in a timely fashion. Or when you need to share important information, it’s not always feasible to stand in the middle of the office to disseminate this, especially if you have six branches of your business in other areas.

Find out from your employees what’s important to them to know through a combination of asking them, talking with their managers and via employee surveys. Understand your employees’ behaviors and how they access information. Not all use an office and are able to check a computer, so when you need to reach people in the warehouse or on the job site, figure out what methods and apps will work best.

If you’re already using an employee app, how effective has it been? Do employees tend to ignore the messages or turn off the notices altogether? If so, find out why, and then adjust accordingly. For example, if they ignore the messages because they receive what they consider “too many” in a day or hour, cut back on those messages.

Dangers of apps

Be careful about an abundance of information access points, such as apps, websites, databases and other information centers connected to your organization. We’re already overloaded with information sources as it is. Too many, and you give people reasons to shut it off. Depending on how you run your business, consider limiting your portals to connect to the company website, database, etc., by using just one or two apps.

Another danger to be aware of is using apps that your own company does not create. Many businesses rely heavily on well-known social media apps to generate awareness and “likes,” or apps specifically designed for interoffice communication. But when the app creators make changes, it can affect your information.*A story published on “Business Insider” pointed out how businesses’ marketing methods were affected when Facebook changed its algorithms. Remember, the creators of these apps are keeping their own interests in mind, as any business should. Those changes could mean you have to return to the beginning and recreate or adjust what you started. And if you use social media marketing companies to typically do this for you, that means more time and money lost on your end.

Malware and other cyber attacks can also damage your carefully designed app. Nothing is safe, despite the hyped promises. A company app opens you to this danger, which means this will have to be monitored by your technology security department.

As with anything, do your research and understand the pros and cons of the software you intend to use.

Benefits to personnel

Have a plan in place when using employee apps. Once you understand how you want the app to be used, consider how often you will send information, the type of information you share, who will send it and who should receive it.

How will the app connect your employees to your organization, to managers and to co-workers? Will it allow employees to share useful information with other teams? For example, perhaps a team encountered a situation in a department that, left alone, might adversely affect others. They discovered a solution and implemented this. Could that information be useful to another department? Another branch? That might be worth sharing.

For your tool to be successful, leadership and management have to be on board. Employees learn from the ones leading them. Leadership and executives likely have their own app or source to share information with one another. They can later share the pertinent information with their teams via the employee app, if applicable. But if leadership scoffs at the idea; they ignore the system you have in place for the organization, then it’s unlikely the rest of your employees will use this tool.

Creating a native app (one that once downloaded does not require an internet connection) gives your employees more freedom to stay on top of company insights. Especially if they don’t have access to a PC, they can check information from the app installed in their phone. Company communications, such as your newsletter you just uploaded to the intranet, can now be made available to all employees who own a smartphone.

Make it simple

An app that is designed with all company resources in one accessible place is ideal. Here you can share what’s new, such as policy updates, personnel changes, job openings and other pertinent information. Information that has been uploaded to your intranet or website, or published information, should be easily accessed here. Additional company sources can also be listed on your app’s home page.

The key is to keep your organizational information in one place in an easy-to-read format to avoid overwhelming your employees.

Consider your goals

Whatever you choose for your communications tools, your goal should be to unify your employees.

Keeping them informed of what’s happening in the organization is needed to help them all stay connected. Employees like to have a place to share ideas as well, so consider this when developing your app.

If you desire your employees to build trust in your business and in what you do; if you want them to understand how they fit into the bigger picture and your end goals, add that to your overall communications plan as you map out your system.

Whatever you decide, make it easy for your employees to get to know your business.

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