“I’ve been doing an employee engagement survey for eighteen years, and last year our scores rose three points in every single category,” said Don Wooldridge, Vice President of Culture Development and Education at TradeWinds, who conducts the surveys with nearly 800 of their more than 1,000 resort employees.

And now, others are taking note of the happy faces at TradeWinds. In an independent survey, the resort was recognized for the second year in a row by the Tampa Bay Times as one of the 100 best places to work in the Tampa Bay area, landing in the top three places to work in the “large employer” category.

After launching TW Way, Wooldridge and his team commonly referenced their new platform as simply “the app.” And the term has caught on.

Says Wooldridge, “Everyone used to ask where they could find things. Now they say, ‘Oh I know, it’s on the app.’” He makes sure that new hires are introduced to their mobile communications solution from day one. In new employee orientation classes, Don asks new hires to access certain information in “the app” after they get their code to log in. “They have to try it one or two times and then they’re good to go,” he says.

And most of Wooldridge’s colleagues are “in.” The adoption rate for the TW Way employee communications app is 98.1 percent, with 55 percent of employees using the platform weekly. 

One way that Wooldridge ensures employees stay in the app and continue to engage with it is by being extra vigilant about push notifications. He says that he only sends mobile and email notifications for two reasons: if there’s a true emergency (such as a storm) and messages are critical OR when there’s an employee contest with prizes to be won.

Wooldridge recently added a safety form to the app so that employees could easily report safety concerns or questions, and he hopes that mobile access to the form will help to improve the already-strong culture of safety at TradeWinds. He also added a managers-only channel to help spread news quickly within various departments and areas.

TradeWinds President Keith Overton is active on the platform, providing an open two-way dialog on his “Ask Keith” channel, an unfiltered and unmoderated place for transparent leadership communications where employees can ask direct questions and receive immediate answers. In the future, Wooldridge hopes to use the app to link to the TradeWinds benefits program, in addition to connecting to their learning management system. The possibilities seem endless.

Given the tremendous success of the TW Way app, Wooldridge is eager to share what he’s learned about creating mobile engagement. “My best advice for anyone launching an employee app is to have fun with it, and then your employees will have fun too. We really encourage employees to be proactive with their communications and to post positive things. They capture it, share it, and then it’s contagious.”

Don says that the company was initially worried that employees would post inappropriate comments or content on the app, given the kind of things that can be read and seen on other social media channels. But following the launch of the app they quickly realized that their concerns were unfounded, as employees filtered their content naturally. Don said it best, “There are more appropriate places for you to post the hamburger photos from Ruby Tuesday’s that you ate for dinner last night!”

The overall positivity at TradeWinds is a result of stronger connectedness between the company’s employees, explained Don. Because the company grew so quickly, communications were becoming “siloed,” with cool things happening that no one knew about. But that’s no longer the case.

“An employee app gives you a bigger and more detailed picture of the company and the people that you work with. For example, we just finished building our third house through Habitat for Humanity for one of our own employees, and it’s one of the best things that we’ve ever shared.”

Learn more here about how a little app made big changes in the culture at TradeWinds.

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