When it comes to internal communication canals, digital interactive media such as blogs, videos, and especially employee apps hold great potential. York Walterscheid, Director Marketing & Sales at SPRYLAB, explains how to unlock this potential and shares his tips for designing a smart employee communication strategy with the help of your own e-publishing software.
(Interview was published in the April edition of the FACTS magazine)
DIGITAL MEDIA: They enable companies to reach their employees anywhere and at any time.
FACTS: What impact is the digital transformation having on internal corporate communication?
York Walterscheid: The digital trends and statistics clearly show that people are increasingly using smartphones when searching for information. In 2014, smartphones even replaced desktop computers as the preferred device for internet searches. Over the last few years, companies have been communicating with their employees via email newsletters, intranet networks, and print publications – media formats that are neither truly interactive nor engaging. They don’t possess a feedback function and it’s unlikely you’ll reach all of your employees with them, considering that, in most cases, only about a third of a company’s employees has fixed desktop work spaces these days. Another problem with communicating via intranet is that employees have to actively log in to use it, so companies need to make it tempting enough for employees to bother with that step. What companies want to is to communicate with employees or customers in a very targeted way. Push notifications are ideal for this type of information distribution. Providing information is a legal obligation for companies, not an empty promise they can neglect. That’s why companies need to think about how they can reach their employees, all across the age spectrum, any time and anywhere.
Luckily, nowadays almost every employee has mobile access to the internet in the form of a smartphone or tablet enabling them to receive messages anywhere in the world. This suspension of the factors of time and space makes communication much faster and more efficient. But the message being communicated also needs to have the right mix of information that is both useful and entertaining.
Employee magazines are an important component of every HR strategy. Apps are the newsletter 4.0. They’re capable of increasing productivity and strengthening identification with a company. But the same rule that applies to other media also applies here: employees want to be entertained.
FACTS: What would you say are the top challenges companies are facing today as a result of increasing digitalization?
Walterscheid: I see opportunities rather than challenges. Digital media make it possible to reach your employees anytime and anywhere. In Germany today, 66 percent of media consumption takes place on mobile devices – and 80 percent of that via apps. In many companies, particularly those with “mobile” employees, in sectors such as transport, in manufacturing or sales and distribution, large numbers of employees no longer have a fixed desktop work space, so it’s difficult to reach them via a newsletter, wikis or an intranet. That’s where apps can help, but they need to be high-quality and user friendly, and most of all: relevant! A modern design is particularly important for apps: surveys show that 55 percent of 18-to-35 year-olds judge a company’s performance by the quality of its app. And demographic developments mean that user friendliness is an absolute must when it comes to apps. After all, older employees should also be able to use the digital possibilities.
It’s very important that companies get out of their communication silos and start to think about which media are the best for conveying which kinds of information, whether that’s an app, a website, or a print publication.
FACTS: The digital transformation and the many related changes are a source of anxiety for many employees. Does this mean that companies need to provide special support to employees when it comes to communication, beyond help with the technical aspects?
Walterscheid: Communication is of central importance to companies. Access to sufficient information is needed not only to ensure that work processes run smoothly, but also to maintain employee satisfaction. When information is not made accessible or attractive for every employee, it tends to lead to dissatisfaction, insecurity, and demotivation.
An “email flood” is also one of the risks that can arise from the use of digital media. When this happens, employees stop fully registering the information in the emails, and personal contact within the company decreases. These factors can lead to some employees feeling resigned or isolating themselves from the communication channel, which can then lead to much larger problems within the organisation. This can be avoided by clearly showing employees the many advantages that internal digital communication holds for them. Most importantly, companies need to ensure that their communications media are designed to be high-quality, user-friendly, and with many opportunities for interaction.
FACTS: What does an internal corporate communication strategy look like that makes use of all the advantages of digitalization?
Walterscheid: As I mentioned earlier, companies need to leave their departmental and communications silos behind and develop a clear strategy that establishes which media they want to use to communicate which kinds of information – including finding clever ways to link different media formats. Multichannel thinking is an important concept to mention here. And the content should be engaging, relevant, and, ideally, optimized for mobile consumption.
The more frequently information is distributed, the more efficient the production processes need to be. This can mean introducing automation wherever possible or using content hubs and efficient content management systems.
Analytics also play an important role, as they enable companies to tailor their offerings even more closely to their individual users and to constantly improve their content and make it more attractive.
LOGIN-OPTIONS: Various logins for specific employee groups enable secure and targeted communication with great impact on relevance.
FACTS: What mistakes do companies make when it comes to digitalizing their employee communications?
Walterscheid: Companies need to be aware of current trends in commercial digital media when creating their internal communications. At the moment, trends include offering short summaries of longer articles that tempt users to read on, and the use of videos and mobile-optimized formats.
Oftentimes companies don’t understand that the only way to get employees to engage with an app is to ensure that it contains topics relevant to them, such as weekly menus, that it’s entertaining, and that it covers things other than work. Employee apps should focus on being human-centered and not just on distributing information. So for example, (positive) anecdotes about colleagues, photos from the latest company outing, perhaps a phone book with photos and messaging functions, these are types of content that is welcomed by employees, while messages containing company rules or organigrams will be less popular with readers.
According to recent studies, employees are interested in receiving items such as current news bulletins, service information, messages from the board, and personal particulars in an app. All other types of information can continue to be published in print form. This means that multi-channel publishing is and will remain the best way to distribute information.
FACTS: Doesn’t creating an app in addition to a website and other materials mean investing a lot of time and money, particularly to prepare graphics and content?
Walterscheid: Not necessarily. The solution here is better and more efficient multi-channel publishing based on structured, system-based content production. For example, currently one department will create a print magazine whose contents cannot be re-used online or in an app. The main question is: how can you achieve a productive separation of design and content production so that contents can be played out across all communication channels? The market does provide a variety of options, but it’s often internal corporate processes that are an obstacle when it comes to adopting a new strategy.
FACTS: The technical effort involved in producing an app is also pretty high – there are different platforms and operating systems. Is that even achievable for companies with few IT resources?
Walterscheid: The employees of today often expect to be provided with an app. And companies don’t need to be responsible for turning an idea into an app themselves. There are specialized service providers and good software available at affordable prices. It’s often possible to use publishing software even without having any programming knowledge. Purple DS from SPRYLAB has specialized in providing intuitive tools that can be used by all creatives, marketing professionals, and editors.
FACTS: What do companies need to keep in mind when choosing a service provider in this field?
Walterscheid: Countless tools and solutions exist to enable companies to publish their information. The search for a suitable solution should always be undertaken with an eye to the goal and the resources available. When choosing a tool, companies should ensure that it has an intuitive user interface, and also that it provides creative freedom and enables users to publish in all current formats. This will allow your content to be delivered across all types of devices. The tool should also enable you to integrate multiple animations and interactions to bind users to your content, and to continually improve the contents. But the tool isn’t everything. In order to expand their reach and ensure long-term loyalty among readers, whether employees or customers, companies need to stay on top of current digital trends and to delight their users with exciting and interactive contents via relevant media channels.
Additional information about what to consider when choosing a publsihing platform can be found HERE.