You want your employees working as a team, sharing ideas, encouragement, information, documents, and input on each others' projects. But in today's business environment, they likely work at different times of day, at different locations, in different cities or maybe even countries. Some have desks at your company's office. Others work from home or from the road. How do you keep them communicating with each other, and with you?
Don't count on email to solve this problem for you. For one thing, millennials have a definite preference for non-email channels such as social media and text messaging. And employees of all ages have learned they can increase productivity by limiting their email reading to once or at most twice a day. For your team to cohere, or even work together effectively, team members need to communicate much more often than that.
You need apps to get your team communicating. And in today's world, those apps had better be as easy and fun to use as social media, and work across all the different devices and platforms team members are likely to use, wherever they may be.
Fortunately, there are a lot of good options to choose from. Here's a look at some of the best, suggested by Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of APPrise Mobile, maker of theEMPLOYEEapp:
Slack is great for ongoing collaboration and conversations among team members. You can organize your communication among sub-groups within your team, send private messages and share documents. Smaller teams can use Slack for free for "unlimited evaluation," but some of the best features, such as searchable archives of all messages or the ability to send emails into Slack come with the paid plans which start at $6.67 per user per month when billed annually.
Co-founded by ex-PayPal exec David Sacks, Yammer was acquired by Microsoft in 2012. Since then, it's been a free feature of Office 365. So the good news is that if you're already using Office 365 you have access to Yammer--all you need to do is turn it on and start using it. The bad news is that if you aren't using Office 365, you'll need to start if you want to use Yammer.
Designed to work with Office and allow for collaboration and conversation within documents being edited, Yammer is a great idea if your office already runs on Microsoft products. If not, you should likely choose something else.
This service allows you to create your own company app that team members can download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. That allows you to push documents and notifications to employees' mobile devices, keep team calendars, and even stream live events so team members can participate wherever they are. Very handy for a remote workforce, especially if it includes part-timers or contractors who don't have user status on your internal network. theEMPLOYEEapp starts at $5.95-$7.95 per user per month for companies for up to 100 employees. Other plans are available for larger companies or those who want more features.
Called "A WhatsApp for the workplace" by TechCrunch, Cotap was created by former Yammer executives and integrates text, voice, and video communications as well as file sharing. It also offers an impressive array of communications, including Dropbox and Box, Google Drive, Yammer, Microsoft OneDrive, Salesforce, and more. But Cotap's biggest selling point is its heightened security, good enough for even HIPAA-protected data. Cotap team plans start at $5 per user per month.
5. Niko Niko
Niko Niko is somewhat specialized. First of all, it'll work best if all your team members use iPhones and/or iPads, since iOS is the only mobile platform it works with. Second, it's not a traditional communication tool, and it doesn't enable collaboration. What it does is more subtle but arguably more powerful: It allows team members to share information about their moods throughout the day in an appealing way--by swiping a smiley (or frowny) face to indicate their happiness level at that moment. They can add information about what they're doing and what they're happy--or unhappy--about.
Employers and/or team leaders get detailed and visual information about the moods team members are reporting, as well as the causes for those moods. That means you can find out quickly what is and isn't working for employees, and take action to build on strengths or fix problems before they cause people to leave. For a leader, that may make this the most useful app of all.