How to Increase Employee Engagement with Mobile Apps

July 8, 2015 Nicole Klemp

increase employee engagement

We’ve been focusing a lot of attention lately on the Worker Experience and how mobile applications can influence it — and for good reason. By employing technology based on the needs of your workforce, you get happier, more productive employees. So, to learn more about how technology is changing the Worker Experience, we decided to ask some Appirio leaders to share their expertise on mobile apps and their effect on influencing employee engagement.

Meet the experts:

HwestHarry West is Appirio’s VP of Services Product Management and leads the company’s Product Management function. He has spent much of his career helping organizations transform how they manage their people and technology resources.



Greg Barlin is Appirio’s Regional Director of CrowdFirst West. He has over 15 years of experience managing and delivering large-scale technology implementations to Fortune 500 companies.


How can mobile solutions help employee engagement?

Harry West: We know that most mobile internet usage today goes through apps rather than web browsers. When it’s critical to really engage a user who may otherwise be on the go or distracted — or loaded with tasks — it’s best to create an experience that easily lets them handle the most important use cases they require, so they’re in and out of the solution with a very satisfying experience that feels like a better way of doing things. The best apps make employees feel more productive. A lot of corporate web sites do quite the opposite. Today, clients are getting great results from vendor mobile apps like Workday for iOS and Salesforce1. They are increasingly creating custom solutions for mobile as well, in order to create a more bespoke worker experience for their employees.

Greg Barlin: Mobile phones and tablets are an essential part of our lives, and there’s a great chance that most employees have at least one of those within arm’s reach during 99% of their day. At the same time, because of these powerful, connected devices, we’re less chained to our desks than ever. Employees expect their business functions to be accessible from these devices. Furthermore, they expect a user experience on par with the rest of the apps on their phone. It not only needs to be accessible, but it also has to look and work great on a smaller touchscreen and over a 4G connection. Google famously provides free food on campus —  ostensibly so that people are more motivated to stay close and keep working — and the same theory should apply to companies asking themselves what they should mobilize. The more that an employee can do from their phone, the more likely it will be that they’ll be productive during all hours of the day.

How should HR departments think about their mobile strategy?

Harry West: They should do a few things in this order:

  1. Assume mobile is going to be the primary way people consume HR services. It doesn’t matter how far off it feels — it will happen, so it needs to be your design default.
  2. Leverage your vendor solutions for mobile devices. We love the new mobile-first solutions we get from our partners, and I always feel like it’s a miss if clients aren’t fully leveraging them during their rollouts of these systems. There’s not much a user can’t do more productively when they have corporate Gmail, Salesforce1 and Workday apps on their phones. HR departments should be thinking about how to most effectively drive change so that workers make the best use of these apps for engaging with major enterprise systems.
  3. Remember that workers out in the field have a very diverse set of worker environments and not all apps work for everyone. Sometimes, it makes sense to create worker experiences on mobile that handle specific tasks or connectivity to bespoke systems, sensors and devices from their work environments. Apps like that need to have the same level of adoption (addiction!) as the ones your workers are used to as consumers —  think Facebook, Twitter, or the Starbucks app and how they offer immediate usefulness to you based on where you are and what you’re doing in a given location. The bar is set very high for the worker experience today because everyone has access to these kinds of apps.
  4. Don’t take a traditional IT/HRIT project approach to building mobile apps for the worker experience. Instead of leading with a list of requirements and a deadline, start with a set of key user personas. If you don’t have experience building solutions with Design Thinking, definitely get some help!

What kind of mobile experiences will workers expect over the next five years?

Greg Barlin: Workers should expect an increasingly connected world. I recognize that doesn’t sound like groundbreaking insight, but here’s what I mean: There is the obvious mobilization of common tasks, for which the wave is beginning to crest and companies are recognizing that this is mission critical for them to stay current. There’s also the Internet of Things (IoT) that is beginning to drastically change how many job functions (field service, monitoring, device integration) are being handled.

Look for a continued move away from large, expensive office complexes to more remote work / work from home positions, given most job functions will be able to be handled remotely. People have been talking about “Mobile First” for years, but in the next 5 years expect them to actually mean it. If a piece of software doesn’t run well on a phone or tablet, expect that to be a deal breaker in most cases. We could also see a seismic shift in technology in the enterprise. Microsoft has a massive install base, but both Apple and Google are making strong plays for the enterprise. When the true move to Mobile First happens, who is best positioned to be the go-to partner for large corporations?


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