Five ways to get employees on board with an engagement app

02 February 2021

Working from home and hybrid working are here to stay, so companies must find flexible new ways to engage their people. Non desk-based staff, those working on production lines or the shop floor need special consideration. Digital employee engagement apps that can be downloaded by staff onto smartphones or tablets are a good solution for connecting a mobile workforce.

There’s been an explosion in digital employee engagement apps, with around 200 on the market at last count. Choosing the right app is obviously the first step. But unless the app is adopted by your employees, your investment in time and money will go to waste.

So how do you get your employees successfully on board with a new digital employee engagement app? We asked Richard Gera, Digital Communications Expert and former Digital Communications Director at GSK, and Tom Lowe from workplace advice platform Rungway to share their top tips.

Choose the right app

Choosing the right app for your organisation is obviously the best place to start. But the right app really depends on what you are trying to achieve so its worth spending time getting it right. Do you want an app that will reduce email traffic, encourage feedback or monitor employee wellbeing? Do your research. Most apps tend to be strong in one or two areas, for example some are great at social whilst others support deeper integrations with other business tools. So get an understanding of what your employees need first by listening to their feedback.

Then undertake some independent, external research into which apps on the market could be the right one for you. There is some great information out there such as the Clearbox Employee Apps Report to help you decide. Utlilise your network to identify companies that have successfully deployed an app. Ask them what went well and what they’d do differently. They’ll be more than willing to share their experiences and these learnings will be invaluable on your journey.

Explain What’s In It for Them

Let’s assume you are adopting the new app in response to feedback from your employees. You’ve done the focus groups and surveys; written your business case and pitched for funding to the relevant board; produced the data to show where employee engagement levels are flatlining; and have a brilliant app in mind.

So now you have to reflect this back to your people and explain the all-important What’s in It for Them. Telling folks that the app is going to make their lives easier just isn’t going to cut the mustard. You have to show how it’s going to help them and why. Reflect back their need for the app in the first place. For example, “Our colleagues have told us that they want to be able to give honest feedback and ask difficult questions that they wouldn’t necessarily talk about in public. Rungway enables you to bring up issues by posting anonymously.”

Leaders and employees want their organisation to be successful, so a shared vision for the app is essential in helping to drive adoption. For the app to land well, your employees need to understand the benefits the app will bring. So don’t promote individual features in isolation, but put them in a context that will resonate with employees. Linking the benefits to the company goals, mission and values is a great way to do this. For example, if ‘integrity’ is one of your organisational values, explain how you’ll be able to have honest and open conversations using the app.

Then ask yourself – how does this app get your organisation closer to the employee experience you’re looking to achieve?  And why is that important?  Your employees already have lots of work apps they need to use, so it’s really important you explain how this is different.  (And if you can’t, you’ve made a bad purchase).

Leadership Buy in Is Essential

As with any transformational change, leaders need to be able to articulate its value to the wider organisation. It’s no different with an employee engagement app. Leaders should provide a consistent message on why the new app will support business goals and add to a positive employee experience. Messaging from the app’s executive sponsor should be honest, authentic and personal.

Leaders need be clear with employees that it’s ok to use an app, especially if the app delivers a more social experience. Thankfully we are moving away from leaders viewing social media experiences as a waste of an employee’s time. But it’s still very important that they let their teams know that it’s ok to engage on the app during working hours such as making videos, sharing photos and reacting to posts.

An employee engagement app isn’t something that teams should use while leaders continue to communicate via long emails. Leaders need to become a part of the experience for the app to be successfully adopted. There is some great research that shows a significant increase in the number of connections that an employee makes after they have been engaged by their senior leadership.

So, get your leaders role modelling use of the app, starting with the top table. Communicators can support leaders by coaching them on using the app in the early days and doing some test runs with nervous first-time users. We’re not great fans of leaders farming out their digital communications to the internal communications team – this completely misses the point of immediate and authentic interaction provided by apps. So schedule app usage into your leaders’ communications plans as you would a town hall or business update.

To avoid inconsistent adoption, you then need leaders to follow up these message with their teams – it gives them permission to spend time on the app.  Finally, make sure leaders outside HR and Communications are role modelling on the platform too, or you’ll see usage and the quality of usage dwindle.

Communications and technical teams need to work hand in hand at every stage to land the app well. Collaboration is key to ensure that they are answering any questions the organisation might have, and balancing employee needs with any constraints such as budgets or information security.

We’re big proponents of using the Agile project management methodology to deliver change in employee experiences such as deploying an app. If you’re new to Agile this blog is a good place to start. Agile is a method of project management with origins in software development. The Agile project is characterised by short phases of work, frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans. Agile demands that cross functional teams focus on delivering against customer needs. If you are trying to go it alone or you have misaligned goals, you are going to fail or at best only deliver mediocre adoption.


Do you need help getting employees on board with an engagement app? Talk to Henry at

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