Embrace mobile for real-time employee engagement

It’s an exciting time to be building products for people operations. Increasingly, smart organisations are adopting the same technologies that have helped sales, marketing, and product development function more effectively.

According to Bersin by Deloitte’s 2015 research, today’s HR leaders expect mobile technology to increase productivity, improve user responses, strengthen decision-making, and increase employee engagement.

The HR team, just like their sales, marketing, and product development counterparts, is increasingly 'untethered', relying on information on mobile devices rather than desktops to support decision-making. In an ideal world, the HR team, executives, and managers would have insights at their fingertips, allowing them to make more strategic people decisions in real time. But what does that look like for HR? How do you provide people operations with the data they need on their mobile devices?

To answer these questions and ultimately create the ideal mobile app for employee engagement, it’s important to consider what makes some apps for business great, and others not so great.

Making mobile apps functional and usable for anytime, anywhere decision-making

Today’s business is increasingly mobile-first. In fact, more than a half of large organisations indicated that employees in every role are eager to start using their smartphones more at work, according to Bersin’s research. As important communications increasingly move through mobile on a daily basis, your employees, managers, and the HR team expect the data required to make decisions to be available on mobile as well. This timely access can be the difference between finding success and losing to a faster-acting competitor.

But until very recently, the vast majority of mobile apps for the enterprise (business-specific apps) has been more reactive than visionary. Most vendors are reacting to changing usage patterns by creating mobile apps in a hurry. The first generation of mobile enterprise apps was pulled more or less 'as is' from their web counterparts. While these apps allow users to check the mobile app 'box' on an RFP or requirement list, they often have greatly reduced functionality or are nearly unusable on a small-format screen. This does little to satisfy the need for accessible, easily consumed data that can help people operations make decisions quickly, even on the go.

Truly visionary enterprise companies are building beautiful products that fit seamlessly with the reality of their users’ lives, driven by the consumerisation of IT (the tendency for employees in every department to demand and expect the same technologies at work that they have as consumers).

These successful companies spend more time identifying key mobile use cases ('What actions do the users want to perform on their smartphones?'), and create mobile products that look and behave like the personal apps whose icons live right next door on their phones. These mobile apps are seeing higher adoption and engagement, as users find that the mobile app complements their natural mobile workflow. When it comes to the effectiveness of enterprise apps, adoption is king, and delightful design and usability are what drives adoption.

The dynamic mobile app duo: real time and context

Aside from design and functionality, the best mobile apps — consumer or enterprise — make strong use of real-time data and user context. On the consumer side, apps constantly provide new information relevant to users’ lives. Social network notifications surface new posts from friends, transportation apps let you know just when to head outside to catch your ride, and weather apps are dedicated to notifying you when you will need an umbrella. Consumer-focused companies have recognized that it isn’t just about the content. It’s how you expose it to your users and provide it just when they need it.

Organisations that commit to a mobile strategy that mirrors the apps on their users’ phones will position themselves well for the future. And when employees, managers, and the HR team have access to information quickly, anchored in context, and with a user-friendly design, organisations will be much more agile and will quickly get ahead of the competition.

Find the right mobile app to move the employee engagement needle

People operations is the one of the last places to have workplace technology like real-time monitoring and predictive analytics. Employee engagement solutions have traditionally consisted of static information and cumbersome, consultant-driven analytics. But a shift is taking place: HR is moving towards a real-time approach, relying on more frequent feedback to quickly identify engagement problems and track the impact of action plans.

Mobile is integral to this endeavour, prompting organisations to create a mobile strategy that includes the right mobile app to achieve their goals. While the market boasts a number of options, not all are created equal. The ideal mobile app for people operations can process employee data in real time, and present that information in a way that is easily digested to meet the needs of the increasingly mobile workforce. It must be constantly enhanced to distill data into an intuitive package for the HR team, executives, and managers.

As organisations search for a mobile app to support their employees, managers and HR teams, remember the mobile app trinity: real time, context, and design. You'll reap the benefits of increased productivity, improved user responses, strengthened decision-making, and increased employee engagement.

Shane Combest, Director of Product Management, Glint

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Africa Studio