How can a mobile app transform employees into a real community?

Efficient and fast information flow is essential in the workplace, driving more and more Hungarian companies to move their internal communication to a digital platform and launch their own company apps. Employees can download the app to their mobile phones, and it appears that companies with a more significant number of hard-to-reach non-desk workers - such as in the commercial sector - are seeing surprising results. How does the new system impact communities? - we surveyed some local Hungarian commercial companies.

More and more Hungarian companies are moving their internal communication from the traditional e-mail and paper-based systems into a digital platform using their company mobile app. The commercial sector is, of course, moving along with this trend. However, what is already apparent is that this solution could make a significant difference for companies with a large number of blue-collar workers. Such workers typically don’t have a company e-mail address. In addition, they don't usually have access to computers or office space, making it harder to keep them informed. But everyone - almost without exception - has a mobile phone meaning that a company mobile app can resolve this communication gap.

All the commercial companies surveyed reported that they decided to digitize their internal communication mainly due to inefficient information flow within the company. In particular, as already mentioned, blue-collar workers seemed challenging to reach, with little to no feedback received. In addition, as pointed out, old-style administration involved loads of paperwork. An agile a Hungarian company, Blue Colibri, while looking into these problems, took the challenge and developed a software solution, which is now available in 16 languages and has become the internal communication platform for dozens of Hungarian companies. Moreover, a tailored company app that employees can access not only from their computers but also from their phones can bring about many positive and tangible changes.

Praktiker, Wellis and PremiumXL have already gone for it... but what were their motivations?

The main question is, why would an established commercial company decide to switch to a brand-new platform? As Dorottya Varga, the communications officer at Wellis Magyarország Zrt. highlighted, one of the key reasons why their company switched to digital was that when the company suddenly grew big, they didn't want to lose the previous feel of a “company where everyone knows each other”. "If we have some important new information, the app makes it easier to communicate it, and we don't have to go through various corporate organizational charts to find out which channel to use to reach which employee. So it makes life easier." In addition, the system assists new members during the registration and entry process. Although some of them are initially quite reluctant, most of the newcomers welcome the digital platform.

This is an important factor, as our company’s expansion continues, and the first few weeks are crucial for all new joiners to find out how they fit in. Our corporate platform not only ensures that all critical information reaches new employees, but it also provides them with their first taste of community life. A sense of belonging to the team develops more quickly, making it easier for them to fit in. And it is a two-way process: employees who join the workforce in such a way typically remain more active and proactive within the community over the longer run.

Kata Márton, Director of HR and CSR at the company, said that new hires can also gain insight into corporate life by viewing special events, videos, and other news via the company app. They can access and process all the information at their own pace. “Building loyalty to the company starts here. The new staff members can join chats over coffee or lunch over the first few days at work and may also send targeted questions to their mentors" - she added.

PremiumXL operates in two countries with five locations. “Our workforce speaks many different languages, with whom communication has been difficult, sometimes impossible, but generally very time-consuming. It was difficult to reach the non-desk staff without an e-mail address," said Dóra Tiben, the CSO. She also added that when the company communicates with the employees by e-mail, a new comer will not necessarily get the information previously transmitted by e-mail. The learning process for new joiners is easier with the company app, and the tasks are more straightforward for them to comprehend. Dóra Tiben mentioned that they have also found that running their company platform gives the whole company a better image. "A dedicated company app that the employees can access from their phones definitely gives a more professional look to the company. Welcoming new employees online (on their first day) is a nice and meaningful gesture."

They decided to go for it, driven by practicality

The benefits and advantages of the company app are in the first line in the field of better information flow. Thinking back to the epidemic, most companies suddenly had to find completely new communication solutions. At Praktiker, a company app was already in the stages of preparation, but when the pandemic started, the app spread among the employees like wildfire. "The information flow got fast and efficient, and our employees could get direct answers to their questions" - Kata Márton commented. Of course, the level and intensity of app use vary among the staff, but what is more important is that it is ongoing. In the future, the company wants to increase the amount of activity and add new features to the app, like self-service HR and e-learning.

Wellis employees working in the production field also like the smooth information flow enabled by the new system, and their office workers are just starting to explore the possibilities of e-learning. The company app run by PremiumXL ensures a “superb information flow between the warehouse and HR/accounting - even when an employee doesn't speak the native language". Our employees can access their pay slips, certificates, etc. more quickly through the app. In addition, they can study things at their own pace via the platform, with the vital information posted under the onboarding/e-learning menu, so that they can review it at any time, anywhere.

Getting access to information is crucial, but community experience is even more so

Employees are happy that all relevant information and news are now reaching them. Still, there is also a noticeable increase in community activity. And while we often hear that information and data are essential... perhaps it is not everything. The experience itself is undoubtedly more important in a community. The company representatives said that various challenges and campaigns are continuously launched in the company app, in which employees are happy to participate - and even initiate such community activities by putting forward their ideas - be it sports, cooking, or charity.

For example, the betting game run during last year's European Football Championship was a great community experience for PremiumXL employees. One of the most successful Wellis campaigns was the Advent market when gifts were given to the employees correctly completing the company quiz. “Every Monday, there was excitement at the office when the new post came out on the app" - Dorottya Varga commented. A user group has also been set up to put adverts up for sale and purchase, and the employees are happy to purchase things from each other. The managers are also proud to share when someone is rewarded for their work. Praktiker organised a complex several months-long campaigns last summer through the app. “Employees from all over the country could join the Sports Summer event, with several types of sports activities included. The staff could participate in jogging, cycling or even playtime with children. The company gave out rewards, both individually and per site. The response was very positive and for 3 months our staff was enthusiastically sending in information about their sports activity via the app." Encouraged by the activity’s feedback and success, Praktiker will organise the Sports Summer campaign again this year.

Of course, the transition to a new system always raises critical questions. It requires care, proper preparation, and professional teamwork. Then it needs to be launched and made part of everyday life. The implementation obviously depends on the specific company. For some companies and communities, it may take a little longer to adapt to the new system than others. At Wallis, it took several months to integrate the app into their daily work and communication to meet the expectations, but it is now running very successfully. Praktiker managed to shift to the app super-fast in just 3 days, but this is, of course, not feasible for all companies. At PremiumXL, it took 2-3 weeks to make the switch. Dóra Tiben said that the staff at each site got a brief demonstration and have been actively using the app since then. "We had a 100% download rate amongst the employees in the first month after launch. This is a huge achievement and shows how much we needed a digital platform to connect people within a distance range of up to 1,200 km. "