Mobile, multimedia, and employee-friendly: The internal communications app of T-Systems Multimedia Solutions is less than a year old, but it has already attracted more than 940 users and is about to break trough the 70% participation rate.

Susann Wanitschke, who is working in the internal communications department of T-Systems, talks about the project and the company’s experiences with the app after using it for nearly one year.

Susann Wanitschke

Why did you decide to use an app for internal employee communications?

We are not only breaking the mould for our customers. Our employees and colleagues, too, should benefit from creative innovations. An employee app enriches work life in many respects: Especially for employees, who often are on business trips.

What was launching the app like?

In its pilot phase in September 2015, our Staffbase employee app launched with three channels and 400 users during our Innovation Barcamp. The goal was to provide all of our employees with timely company news. In the first six months, our offer was enhanced by meal plans, current IT news and videos of company communications. Exclusive content and gadgets like an online Advent calendar put the cherry on the cake. Within a short period of time the user numbers almost doubled.

So you have made good experiences with launching events?

Yes, absolutely. The success story of our app has continued with the integration in the annual kickoff meetings in 2016. Not only during our event, but also before and after our employee app has been the key medium of communication. Together with our lifestyle channel “ZAZU” – where our employees are in the centre of attention – and a company-wide betting game for the European football championship almost two-thirds of our employees have used our app within nine months.

What were the challenges?

Creating a successful employee app was and is not always easy. Our scheduled release was delayed because Apple’s App Store said “No”. The reason: Our icon seemed to be similar to a logo for an Apple product. Our conclusion: We are too cool for Apple! So we continued with a new icon and a short delay. But challenges are not always overcome that easily. Ensuring the trade-off between cool and highly relevant use cases and data security is one of the biggest challenges we are facing right now.

Native apps allow sending push notifications and Staffbase makes it easy to control this feature. How do you treat push notifications and what are their effects?

We have made an agreement with the works council that we can send as many push notifications as we want between 9am and 5pm. Since we don’t want to “annoy or spam” our employees, we are only sending one notification daily, mostly every second day. According to the statistics, pushed contributions are read up to three times more often than other news. The teaser for a push notification (currently it is the title of the article) plays an important role. Interesting, funny or thrilling teasers are opened more often. But the time the push notifications are sent, influences the reading rate, too. Does the employee have enough time for reading news or is he already working? Once the employee unlocks his phone e. g. for a call, the teaser is no longer shown on the start screen and falls into oblivion. So we are pushing directly before lunch or closing time.

You’ve been using the app during a broad-based innovation campaign. Can you share your experiences with that?

During our debate on innovation culture, we have used the employee app as one out of two communication channels. The app made it possible that employees could see essays and video documentations or express their opinion in comments or likes outside the office. Also, the app accompanied the events during the innovation debate. We will include the app even further in the active programming of the 2016 Innovation Barcamp.

What are your future plans?

A lot will happen in the future. We are looking forward to the new chat feature for employees as well as an integrated calendar for internal and external events. Integrating contact data of all employees and own channels for company locations will further increase the usability of the app. In order to better adapt the functionality of the app to the user requirements, we have conducted a company-wide survey. We are already implementing some suggestions like features for subscribing to channels or adding favorite news to a personal reading list.

Many thanks for the interview, Susann!

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