How do we help corporate employees communicate during a pandemic?

There are times when the world surprises. Such a surprise was surely the COVID-19 pandemic, which  has  affected the lives of almost every person on Earth. It would seem that nothing can stop the fast-moving world, but it happened.

Production at the factories of  Volkswagen Poznań  was also stopped, and the vast majority of the company’s  nearly  11, 000 employees had to stay at home for several weeks.

Such a situation has taken place in VW Poznań only once so far – in 2009, production was suspended for several days due to the global crisis. Cars are not produces for the warehouses, but at the customer’s specific orders. Due to the drop in demand, it was then decided to suspend production.

Now, however, the break is much longer. The reason, of course, is the concern for the health of employees. Some supply chains have also been disrupted and the  demand on world markets is constantly monitored .

It is a huge challenge to stop production in such a large company. Volkswagen Poznań  company is the largest employer is Wielkopolska region and one of the largest in Poland. Nearly 11, 000 employees suddenly stopped coming to work.

It is also a communication challenge. How to stay in  touch with so many people, especially in this special  period, when access to reliable information is much needed?

Of course, it is possible to contact the employees  by e-mail , at least  those, who have work e-mail addresses. However, it is only a part of the entire company  – a definite minority

There is  Facebook, especially closed groups, but not everyone is aware that such groups exist, and besides,  it is also not a good idea to inform Facebook about all internal activities of the company.

There is an intranet, where you can communicate with employees, but only  those employees,  who have a business computer can access it. So far , direct production workers could also use the  e-portal platform, but it was only used to submit various types of applications (e.g. for leave), and the access was possible only on the company’s premises.

Volkswagen Poznań  came up with an idea of creating its own mobile application for communication. Nowadays, practically everyone has a smartphone (if not a business one, then a private one) and the company decided to take advantage of that fact. The projects was  commissioned to Software House Expansio in Poznań.

The idea for the application appeared much earlier. The application was developed together with  a selected group of  Volkswagen Poznań testers , and the last test took place at the end of  2019. The official implementation, which was to be preceded by communication campaign, was planned for March – completely accidentally, for the period when the  quarantine began  in Poland . The entire communication plan and login process had to be redesigned. Due to the dynamically changing situation, and , consequently the decision to suspend production, it was decided to quickly implement the application and encourage all employees to use it. The application was launched on April  2.

How to communicate with employees in the company?

The assumptions regarding the mobile application were as follows:

  1. The application should be easy to download from Google Play and  App Store, also to private phone.
  2. Each employee should be able to log into the application easily.
  3. The company should be able to publish information similar to how it is done on Facebook – by creating posts with videos, photos, and additional attachments.
  4. Employees should be able to comment , like posts, but also have access to other important information from the company, e.g. electronic versions of company newsletters, canteen menu, numbers to personal consultants or the  FAQ list .

On the other hand, the administration panel should provide extensive content management options,  such as responding to user comments, access to statistics and user rights management.

How do employees get access to the application?

Application user accounts are created automatically based on data from the internal SAP system of  Volkswagen Poznań company.

The process of transferring this data must therefore be secure and automatic, so that user accounts are always up-to-date. In the event that the employee leaves the company his account in the application  is also deleted .

The  rvsEVO software was used for data exchange, which primarily allows for secure, encrypted data transfer between companies. When new data of subsequent employees appear in the system,  the system automatically imports them.

After the data is imported, information is sent to the  employee’s email account with a link to download the application and instructions for logging in for the first time. The employee enters a unique one-time  PIN number , and then the application asks him to set a personal password.

Technical support

Of course, with such a large number of people, it is necessary to provide technical support. Among several thousand people,  some may have problem with finding an e-mail in their mailbox, downloading the application from  Google Play or difficulty logging in. Expansio company  launched a special helpline number, where 3 people answered calls on an ongoing basis and helped in solving problems.

How do employees react to the mobile application?

Just 5 days after the application was published in  Google Play and  App Store over 5, 000 unique people logged on to the application, leaving over 1,000 likes and hundreds of comments. Another people are informed about the possibility of downloading the application, so their number is constantly increasing.

The interest is huge and now the application is the main source of information for the employees about the current situation in the company – also through photos and videos. New posts appear  in the application even several times a day. Employees comment on, support each other, and even send recordings of how they spend the time in the quarantine, which are then published in the application.

The interest in the app was  certainly influenced by the suspension of production in the factories. Employees are looking for a reliable sources of information on the current situation in the company. However, the application will be a valuable source of contact with the employees also after their return to work.

The application has more functions  such as  calendar with company events, integration with recruitment systems or …a company’s canteen  menu. But there are already new ideas for its further development.

The application can be downloaded from  Google Play or  App Store. It is primarily available to employees after logging in, but there is also a section for quests with limited information.

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