Internal communicators have a difficult job and face a myriad of challenges in today’s ‘always on,’ information overload environment. First, their constituents (employees) are not engaged. According to the Gallup Organization, 70% of US employees are not engaged at work and this costs businesses nearly $550 billion per year. Second, their constituents are dispersed. A recent survey by theEMPLOYEEapp found that that only half (53%) of those surveyed spend the majority of their time behind a desk. The other half reported spending their day at non-desk settings such as factories and warehouses, field service (e.g., television, telephone, internet, etc.), in transit, etc. And third, their actions as communicators have the ability to directly affect employee satisfaction.
Internal communicators have numerous tools and channels at their disposal and have an identifiable audience with whom to communicate. Understanding what these tools are as well as their pros and cons is therefore critical regardless of whether an organization has 20,000 employees or less than 100.
Not surprisingly, one channel that is emerging for internal communications is the mobile device. Nearly every employee has one. Even if their employer does not provide them one, many are using their own personal device to do work. To create an internal mobile communications strategy, companies need to first realize that the mobile device is a platform that allows for the dissemination and sharing of information. There is something very powerful about the fact that what is essentially a computer can now be found in an individual’s pocket. Second, they must understand the tools that exists that can enable a mobile communications strategy.
So what actually is a mobile “app”? At its essence, it is software developed for the mobile device. By developing a “native” app, users can enjoy a robust mobile experience that takes advantage of the operating system native to the device. A third of workers surveyed by theEMPLOYEEapp said they would like their employer to communicate with them via a mobile app. Native apps offer functionality that includes push notifications to alert users when new content is available. Content can also be downloaded for offline viewing/listening when an internet connection is not available. If extensive customization and design are required, native apps can be expensive to develop. However, turn-key solutions now exist to provide an affordable way to implement a mobile communications strategy quickly and without the need for IT or systems integration.
Another mobile solution for those choosing not to go “native” are “web” apps. However, some might argue that web apps are not really apps – rather they are mobile websites that cannot be found in the app stores or are “skinned” to exist in the app stores by using a specialized form of coding called HTML5 that allows for the website to respond to the screens of different mobile devices. As a website, a Wi-Fi or Internet connection must exist for the “app” to work. This can prove challenging for the employee who does not work at a desk. Nevertheless, for the company looking for a down and dirty mobile solution, a web app may suffice.
Mobile social collaboration networks
“Social collaboration” is one of the latest corporate America buzz words. And for good reason – there is something to be said about co-workers having the ability to communicate with and help each other no matter where they are located.
Social collaboration tools provide a way for companies to connect people, content, and business data. The enterprise social collaboration market in 2010 was a $600 million industry. Forrester estimates that it will reach $6.4 billion in 2016. Solutions presently available include Cisco WebEx Social, Jive, Microsoft SharePoint and Yammer, and Salesforce Chatter, to name a few.
When viewed on mobile devices, social collaboration platforms can present challenges as they originally were created for the desktop. While some now offer a mobile version, user experiences may vary. In fact, according to theEMPLOYEEapp survey, 59% of those who have such networks have either never tried to access them or have a difficult time doing so via the mobile device.
Mobile corporate Intranets
Corporate intranets are a tool that nearly all internal communications professionals are familiar with and they remain an important ‘desk-bound’ channel. Recognizing the importance of mobile, rather than developing new Intranets specifically for the mobile device, developers today are trying to conform existing intranets to the mobile device. However, this does not necessarily make for a user-friendly experience. According to Prescient Digital Media, satisfaction with intranets overall is poor and if employees don’t like a particular solution, they won’t use it. theEMPLOYEEapp survey confirmed this with 82% of respondents saying they either have never tried to access their Intranet via mobile or when attempting to do so, had a difficult time.
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There are many tools available for internal communications professionals. Since every business is different, each must consider its own specific needs to determine the right solution. Rather than develop or decide on a specific strategy in a vacuum, it is recommended that communications professionals find out directly from their employees what method of communications will work best for them. Whether it’s a mobile app, social collaboration network, or mobile Intranet, knowing from the outset what tool employees want will go a long way towards ensuring not only that the solution decided upon is utilized, but also that an organization’s workforce is connected and engaged.
Jeff Corbin is a communications consultant with more than 15 years’ experience. A pioneer in the use of technology in the communications industry, he is the founder of theCOMMSapp™, a family of communications app building solutions that includes theIRapp® for investor relations and theEMPLOYEEapp™ for internal communications.