An HR Director's insight: your frontline communication needs an employee app

We caught up with Tara McKinney, Human Resources Director at Clarkson Construction Company, who has implemented the Speakap platform in three separate manufacturing and construction companies in the United States. The purpose? To engage employees, connect frontline employees with the head office and to generally increase reach and accessibility to company news and information.
Here’s what she had to say about employee engagement and frontline communication.

Tara McKinneySpeakap

You’ve implemented Speakap in three companies woah (!), but tell us, what was the biggest challenge you wanted to solve at the time?

Tara McKinney, HR Director

Well, I was in the manufacturing industry prior to being in construction, and that meant working with a lot of frontline employees who don’t have company emails. I think that management in many companies forget that they sit in all these meetings where a lot of information is shared, and the key points are then rarely communicated with the rest of the company. But, of course, people want to be informed, which can lead to higher employee engagement. We had bulletin boards, and tv screens with scrolling information, but that’s static and not easily accessible. I mean, let’s face it, we don’t really live in a world anymore in which people get their information from standing in front of a screen. In this day and age we get information straight to our phones; it’s in our personal lives, it’s in our professional lives… it’s basically everywhere.

Speakap

And did you see similar challenges around frontline communication in both the manufacturing and construction industries?

Tara McKinney, HR Director

Yes, absolutely. When I moved from manufacturing to construction, I saw the same problem with having a distributed workforce that don’t have company emails, and are at different geographical locations. Bottom line is, it’s very difficult for management to communicate company information to everyone at the same time. But besides that, it’s also very important to make sure that frontline employees feel they’re part of a bigger team to avoid the feeling of being siloed into one little group without any connection to the company itself. Another challenge is the generation gap. In these industries we have 3-5 generations of frontline employees in the workforce at one time, and their communication preferences are very different. We need to tailor to those joining the workforce, because we have to communicate in a way that feels native to them. And an app can do just that.

clarkson-construction-employeesSpeakap

Introducing new processes in a company is often a sensitive procedure. How did you implement Speakap and get employees to adopt the platform?

Tara McKinney, HR Director

True. The first thing we did was get the senior management team’s buy in. If they’re not really sold on the idea, then it’s very difficult to get everybody else on board. We then implemented the roll out in phases, introducing the employee app with small groups of people at a time. They got to play around with it, make test posts, explore and get comfortable with the platform. We always encouraged our leaders to either post a picture or a video, to make their posts more visual and therefore engaging for employees. To make this a success, we made it mandatory for all our management and supervising teams to use the app. The reason is that since they’re supervising people who are going to see the posts and comment, it’s important that they have visibility and situational awareness.

Speakap

How did you roll out Speakap with the rest of your frontline employees?

Tara McKinney, HR Director

We sent an invitation and they could join voluntarily. But in order to increase their employee experience on the app, we created contests. For instance, everyone who signed up within the first two weeks would be added to a draw with prizes. I did also use Speakap’s recommendation to roll out a content calendar for a little while until it picked up speed and grew organically. If HR are the only ones posting things, nobody’s going to read it. Nobody cares about what HR has to say *laughs playfully*. In my opinion, the best type of content is information about the company that’s posted by leaders in operations. It needs to be information that is not otherwise known. And to increase employee engagement, we recognize people from around the company, and celebrate birthdays, new hires and anniversaries, among other things.

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Have you seen any positive impact since implementing Speakap?

Tara McKinney, HR Director

Sure! We send an employee survey every couple of years as part of our strategic planning efforts, and saw our communication scores go up. That’s most likely because people feel that they know more about what’s going on via the app. Our scores linked to knowledge around the reporting structure and company organizational structure also went up – because who’s who is very clear on the app. I’ve had employees call me and say that it’s so great that they knew it was someone’s birthday, or ‘i’m so glad that we celebrated the 20th work anniversary of this person’. We didn’t have that before. Employees have certainly said that they really like it. And interestingly, before we rolled it out to everybody, we had frontline employees who hadn’t been invited yet asking to be invited. There’s generally a sense of pride and accomplishment as a team when photos go up in the app about company progress such as working on a bridge, building a highway, without having to be on the job site. It’s very visual and great for increasing employee engagement.

Speakap

Did Speakap have an impact on your own personal goals in the company as an HR professional?

Tara McKinney, HR Director

Certainly. Being able to reach frontline employees with company information in real-time, and in a fun and engaging way has brought a lot of ease to my work. For example: if I need to get benefit information out to employees and put that in an email, they might read it several weeks from now. But, because I can include visuals in my posts, I can make information that is otherwise not so interesting, actually interesting. During COVID, I used the app to post information about where employees could get tests along with other health information. It was really helpful because we had to comply with the health regulations in our area, and so I was able to reach employees in a timely manner. And from a cultural perspective, because we take our mobile phone home, our spouses and family members can have a better understanding of what it is we do at work, who our colleagues are, and what we’re building. We get to share that pride with our own families, which ultimately increases our employee well-being I want to create.

clarkson-employees-multi-imageSpeakap

Thanks for your insights! Is there anything else you would like to share about your Speakap experience?

Tara McKinney, HR Director

Working with Speakap was an easy implementation process, and for the most part I haven’t even needed to use support. Integrations and the payroll systems are also very helpful for HR professionals to have. And in general the system’s easy to use with inviting and canceling employee accounts in a timely manner. And finally, the API system that Speakap offers is really helpful – that’s something I find very valuable.