First Item on an Operations Director’s Agenda: An Employee Communication App
We spoke with Sanne Oosterhoff, Group Operations Director at nexeye, the optical retail platform that includes chains Hans Anders, eyes + more, and Direkt Optik (with more than 700 stores and 4,000 employees, operating in 5 European countries). Sanne has implemented an employee communication app (using Speakap) at three companies (!) throughout his career in operations.
The purpose? To connect frontline employees with the head office and to generally increase reach and accessibility to company news and information.
Here’s what he had to say about reaching employees and internal communications.
You’ve rolled out the Speakap platform at other companies, including at your current company, nexeye – can you tell us about that? Why is an employee communication app part of your strategy?
When Speakap launched around 10 years ago, I was working at V&D La Place, and one of the things I did was introduce Speakap internally. And when changing jobs and joining Ijsvogel Retail, the first thing I did once more was to introduce the intranet software because I saw a familiar challenge: a communication gap between frontline employees and HQ. The teams were functioning as separate entities and needed to connect and work closely together. And Speakap did just that. I introduced the employee communication app again when I joined Hans Anders because it was important to get the basic infrastructure right from the start. What might have been an experiment for others, was a proven concept for me. We managed to strengthen the connection between employees once more, as well as within HQ. At nexeye, we make as much use of Speakap, the employee communication app, as possible, sharing company information, but also celebrating achievements. For instance, when employees receive gifts from happy customers, we see them using the app to celebrate their success. And their success is our collective success.
How has an employee communication app helped in Operations?
We use Speakap to share changes in processes, as well as for working with large teams on projects. For example, when we’re moving a store or building a new one, having an employee communication app is essential because it brings everyone together. With the app, we’re able to share photos with everyone – from store employees to merchandising, from marketing teams to construction teams – along with our building plans via a secure social intranet software. With this process, we’re able to make everyone feel part of the discussion and give a sense of ownership. Every employee is involved, and everyone feels heard.
How does an employee communication software fit within your corporate culture?
Speakap contributes to the flexibility, agility, and strength of the organization. And in order to be successful in the retail industry this employee communication software is essential. When changes happen, we can implement them quickly through a secure intranet software and reach everyone instantly. Using such an app is great for both top-down as well as bottom-up communication within brands and regions. We also view it as an employee engagement tool that gives employees a voice and an opportunity to be part of the discussion. Speakap is a tool by and for employees, which is why each brand/country at nexeye has its own environment within the same tool. With the employee communication app's content, we aim to be closer to the people and connect in their own language, culture, and customs. That way we're able to keep the environment recognizable, safe, and relevant to them.
When introducing the employee communication app, how did you get everyone on board?
Rolling out the app internally was the easiest part. I’ve learned that everyone likes to be well-informed, which is why introducing an employee communication app is easier than most people anticipate. In some cases, head office employees had to come to terms with the fact that there would also be some feedback from the stores, but they quickly saw the added value of having the social intranet software. There were also some concerns with adding an app to our employees’ mobile phones, but they were quickly outweighed by the added benefits of reaching our employees anytime, wherever they were. And those employees who work part-time would still be able to check their internal communication mobile app and catch up at the start of their shift. Overall it was more of a pull factor than a push factor; we had to do very little to convince everyone, besides making it available and being enthusiastic about it ourselves – which quickly caught on.