Apps for employees are on the rise. But amid the clamour to keep up with modern, mobile trends, they should be lightweight, intuitive and keep things simple.
In a modern swirl of digital information and demands on our work time, a nimble, focused, easy-to-use app offers convenience, creativity and community.
Rampant digital innovation, from artificial intelligence and cloud-based software to robotics and the ‘internet of things’ is rubbing off in the work environment too.
Employees at all levels routinely use apps to help leadership, for learning, for awards nights and conferences… the list goes on.
Some research says apps now account for as much as 80 per cent of all mobile phone activity. App development serves the mobile-first mindset of employees at even the largest of companies just as energetically as consumers in the commercial space.
Project management, HR, email, social financial trading platforms and even alcohol consumption are just a slice of the workplace activities conducted using mobile apps.
While the sky may seem the limit for a company’s or developer’s imagination, a valuable app must also be grounded; there for a purpose. Whatever it’s for, a good app should not try to do too much; better a set of sonic screwdrivers than a cheap multi-head tool.
Intuitive, engaging, secure apps boost individual or team learning, trigger real-time interaction, illuminate business progress or connect a community quickly for a task or event.
And they can simply drive efficiency.
Mike Davies is Finance and Systems Manager at Herbert Parkinson, part of the John Lewis Partnership. He said: “We use a host of cloud-based apps for financial activity, from mail, spreadsheets, documents and more. Instant updating and sharing means we are all more productive.”
Convenience is king; the best apps allow users to come and go seamlessly, whether it’s paying bills or checking email on the move, where company security or Wi-Fi signal may not have allowed before.
At RBS, employees are embracing work-based apps for a range of tasks that once were bound to desktop PCs.
Claire Stirton, RBS Employee and Leadership Comms, said: “We use the Blackberry Work app. Anyone with a work phone can use it, so there are probably close to 100,000 users currently; I use mine anywhere and everywhere.
“It’s great as we can store docs, access our intranet and send and receive emails.”
Modern mobile phones are also powerful projectors of rich, multimedia content. Apps that feed the need for great audio, video or powerful visuals will win over their audiences.
Data, previously bound to cells in spreadsheets, can sing or dance for a much wider audience on an app.
Long gone are the days of dialling a long phone number and logging in to a site that may or may not work on their office browser to listen in to a useful podcast.
Apps better suit an employee’s limited time in a hectic schedule and offer the easiest dip in and out option.
Customisation is part of the appeal too; new, light touch features can be added without the app becoming a burden.
Employees at Heineken, for example, not only find colleagues in a directory but can make bespoke drinks orders, see the company share price and any media headlines at the touch of a mobile screen.
And offline availability means app users lose nothing from being on a Tube underground or on holiday in a remote spot.
Secure and singular
Smart, successful apps must also factor in security. Employees in even the most security-conscious of sectors routinely use apps at work, from employee Q&As at leadership conferences to online learning.
Negative headlines around the porous security of banking apps have given way to news on pioneering chatbots, smart robots or mobile-based challenger banks.
Company strategies champion agile innovation and partnerships with nimble hi-tech developers who turn concepts into apps for employees or consumers within months.
Where an office computer may be used (or abused) by many people, a mobile app provides a secure, singular access point for information, news, social updates and much more.
The march of apps in the workplace is in full stride. How far they impact the business bottom line is yet to become clear.
But a well thought out, well-supported app is a welcome addition to the workplace experience. More, it is as much a natural feature of our working rhythm as a click of the kettle or mouse