By Gysbert Kappers, CEO of Wyzetalk

In today’s digital age companies are having to adapt to an increasingly dispersed workforce and business that extends far beyond the typical 9-5 workday. Large industries are also now looking for ways to improve their connection with their productive workforces more commonly known as blue-collar workers.

Now more than ever, being away from the office, not at your desk or performing shift work, shouldn’t mean missing out and not being able to participate in and contribute towards the business from wherever you are, whenever you need to.

With competitive and economic pressures and a more mobile and mobile-enabled workforce, delivering this expectation is still a challenge for companies, as they struggle to find effective solutions to keeping staff well connected, informed and productive.

We know that effective engagement and communication boasts employee morale and if not executed well it can cause unnecessary roadblocks within the business. Analytics company Gallup has found that actively disengaged employees cost the US up to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.

We communicate as a matter of course within a business, often doing the same things year in and year out. Anything from how staff are inducted into the business, to how they’re able to process leave, get updated on the latest policies, and how they stay informed of new product developments, leaderboards to track performance, recognised and rewarded, training and health checks to customer feedback. These are all opportunities to form an integrated strategy and inform an employee’s experience with the company they work for, and will therefore greatly impact their level of engagement.

You’ll be amazed by how many companies still use noticeboards to communicate, or ‘from the desk of emails’. Seldom do we take stock of the channels we’re using, messages we’re sending, and hardly ever do we check whether they’re working. More commonly these days more companies are becoming fans of the annual employee engagement survey, which from our experience, often tick the box of being done, rather than inform the future way of being.

What is evidenced is that digital transformation shouldn’t just be informing the customer or operational experience. New technologies and ways of working can radically improve the relationship companies have with their employees, often-times the biggest cost contributors to a business.

We believe mobile technology for use as a highly productive way of engaging employees is the way to go, and for a few reasons; mobile phones are pretty ubiquitous in SA, mobile phones are personal, for the first time companies can have a direct line to their employees and the same in return, without disintermediating anyone; they’re cost effective, and can cost the employee nothing; and they’re measurable. We finally have a way to track whether messages are being read, received and companies can take immediate action and analyse feedback and online behavior in real-time. It is possible to reach almost 100% of employees in this way.

This might sound impossible when looking at organisations dealing with high volumes of employees. Take the mining sector as an example; a great example of employees holding different positions, working at different times, with varying literacy levels and speaking different languages, but where communication is essential from a safety, productivity and community messaging point of view. Sending these employees an email isn’t plausible, but using clever mobile technology to keep them informed and get their feedback, is an absolute possibility.

With the added benefit of reaching them in their ‘off’ time, it gives companies the opportunities to not only share work related info, but also community and lifestyle information that they can share with their families and communities. Let’s look at a female underground employee on a mine who is pregnant for example – apart from important health and safety tips, news on how her shaft is performing on a daily/weekly/monthly basis (which helps inform her about her upcoming bonus), this employee can receive pre-natal information to ensure a healthy pregnancy, without having to stand in a long line at the clinic. She could use the channel to connect with a doctor if she’s experiencing symptoms she’s unsure of, get reminders to take medication, nutritional recipes for her and her family and her training schedule to help integrate her back into the productive force at work after the birth.

The barriers to entry here are access to a mobile phone, a cell connection (USSD or mobi) or wifi access. But companies – like Wyzetalk – are offering companies these community platforms to create targeted communication via mobile phones at no cost to the employee. In the mining example, even those with older feature phones have access to this mobile solution. Reverse-bill USSD technology creates an inexpensive communications channel for companies and free service to the employee. Regardless of role and responsibility you can play a meaningful role in the company you work for.

Technology like this speaks to the kind of innovation that exists across the continent, where solutions are created acknowledging the diversity of the employees. Communication within organisations is crucial and if executed effectively will improve staff morale, productivity and motivation to achieve more. Inform, respond, reward, recognise, the applications are endless.

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