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article imageQ&A: Closing the divide between desk-bound & deskless workers Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 10, 2018 in Business
There are endless new communication technologies and collaboration tools out there that cater to helping desk-bound workers perform and stay better-informed - but very little catering to deskless workers. A new platform - theEMPLOYEEapp - can assist.
An estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide in industries like healthcare, retail, manufacturing and others do not sit in an office, have a work computer, have access to corporate networks, yet such workers are often disadvantaged when it comes to corporate communications. While there are a host of new communication technologies and collaboration tools out there that cater to helping desk-bound workers perform and stay better-informed - but very little catering to deskless workers.
According to APPrise Mobile this divide is having a negative impact on employee engagement, morale and more. APPrise Mobile makes theEMPLOYEEapp to assist with communicating with deskless workers. Companies like Toyota, Northwell Health, Chipotle, Ceasars Entertainment, Dunkin Brands and Springfield Clinic have built mobile employee apps using theEMPLOYEEapp to reach out to and engage with their deskless workforces.
To discover more, Digital Journal spoke with Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of APPrise Mobile.
Digital Journal: How has the world of work changed over the past five years?
Corbin: I know that this may sound kind of trite, but the world of work is truly a digital one now. It’s not just about the technology being used, but really about companies rethinking every aspect of the workplace in light of technologies being used in our day-to-day lives. From the way offices are structured and designed, to addressing the changed nature and demands of workers (i.e. Millennials and Gen Z), as well as how people interact with one another. The way things were done 10 years ago just don’t cut it today, especially with the folks who now comprise the vast majority of the workforce.
DJ: To what extent have these changes been fueled by digital technologies?
Technology has totally caused this change. Most workers today don’t remember a time without access to a mobile device. These devices are responsible for so much of what has changed over the past five years; mobile has changed the way people communicate with each other through things like Twitter and text messaging – both in their personal lives as well as at work – and it has transformed the way information is shared in addition to the way it is consumed. As a result, the workplace has had to adapt accordingly to meet those changing preferences and behaviors. Unfortunately from our experience at APPrise Mobile, this change has been slow to occur.
DJ: Is work becoming more remote?
Corbin:Yes, but only because companies now have the ability to communicate with employees all the time – through their mobile devices – and therefore organizations have the ability to be more flexible when it comes to where employees actually work. In addition, the demographic of the workplace has changed, and Millennials and Gen Z require greater flexibility to work where they want, knowing that they are always connected.
DJ: Is this leading to a divide between desk-based and ‘deskless’ workers?
Corbin:It’s important not to confuse remote workers with “deskless” workers. Remote workers are those who use computers or have access to computers for their work, but have chosen or allowed to work outside of an office setting. Deskless workers, on the other hand, do not use computers as part of their day-to-day jobs. They also frequently don’t have a corporate email, or access to company intranets. Interestingly, there are 2.4 billion+ deskless workers globally who work in retail, as truck drivers, nurses and assembly line workers, among other industries.
In the digital transformation that has taken place over the past years, it is this group that has tended to be neglected. This is particularly true when it comes to the way in which companies communicate and engage these employees. In a recent survey we conducted of “deskless” workers, only 56% of those responding felt connected and engaged by their employers – meaning there is substantial and necessary room for improvement. So, this isn’t leading to a divide. The divide already exists.
DJ: What types of technologies can help to bridge this divide?
Corbin:To the extent deskless workers don’t rely on computers, at a minimum, companies should consider how mobile can improve the situation. The reality is that the majority of deskless workers have a mobile device or some form of web-enabled device. Companies should consider how to take advantage of this opportunity to improve and enhance deskless work experiences. This means incorporating workplace tools that currently workers need to go elsewhere to complete (e.g. time keeping platforms, scheduling tools accessed through desktop computers, or kiosks where employees work). They should also consider how to use the mobile device for purposes of better communications, engagement and access to information that is important, relevant, and targeted to each of their employees.
DJ: What does the theEMPLOYEEapp do?
Corbin: theEMPLOYEEapp is an internal communications and employee engagement mobile platform that companies (large, medium, and small) can use to easily create their own, white-labeled mobile app, without having to build one themselves. It’s a way for companies to be able to organize content and important information so employees have easy access to it through the small screens of Apple, Android and other web-enabled devices, as well as to push information and engage with their workforces. They can aggregate and distribute relevant and engaging content, documents, workplace tools, and instantaneous push notifications regarding important news or company updates.
Since theEMPLOYEEapp securely integrates with a company’s employee database, content can be targeted to employees based on job function, region or any other classification or grouping, which makes for a personal and relevant app experience for each employee. Industries where we are seeing significant traction include healthcare/hospitals, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, trucking logistics – or those whose workforces are comprised primarily of deskless workers.
DJ: How was theEMPLOYEEapp developed?
Corbin:So how did a communications guy start a tech company? I actually was kind of lucky, I guess. I had a great IT guy who worked for me at the PR firm and who came to me in 2011 with the idea of creating a branded app that would allow our consulting clients to be able to aggregate and organize content in a way that was easily consumable to employees and other audiences. When he came to me with a prototype of the app, I knew there was something interesting and special about it and, assuming Apple and Google weren’t going to give up on mobile and their app stores, that an opportunity existed.
My partners and I in the PR firm decided to invest a little money to commercialize the prototype. We mapped out the initial version and design of our solution based on what we knew was an actual problem that our clients had and that mobile, as a new communications means, could solve. The underlying premise of this was the ability to organize content and be able to push it immediately to an organization’s internal and external audiences. We then we hired an outsourced app development firm to help us further develop and commercialize the prototype. We went to a communications industry trade event, took out a 10x10 booth and started to demonstrate the app on a couple of iPads. Following the event, companies started calling us, asking how they could buy one.
This is how we started out in business and since then we have a team of almost 10 engineers and our technology is now in Version 9. The features and functionality have evolved significantly over the years based on the feedback from our customers and prospective customers. I am proud to say that we don’t develop in a vacuum (as many technology companies do), but rather develop to address real needs and challenges. When we hear the same request over and over again, we reprioritize our development pipeline.
DJ: How have you addressed cybersecurity concerns?
Corbin:We are SOC2 compliant and conduct annual SOC2 audits to ensure the most secure systems and processes. We also do annual vulnerability testing with leading firm, Veracode.
DJ: How much does the theEMPLOYEEapp cost?
Corbin:Our pricing is based on the number of employees that a company has in its employee database. There are various tiers which gives companies the ability to start out in a particular way and then to grow over time. As their database increases, the price does as well.
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