I’m sure I’m not alone when I say the last 18 months have seen more significant change than any other period in my life. For myself, and so many others, the “new normal” terminology that was increasingly thrown about at the start of the pandemic has come to ring true, with many of the changes we’ve all faced now indeed feeling surprisingly normal.
The pandemic has affected the way we do everything. From food shopping to catching up with friends, the natural order of our day-to-day lives has changed (at least for a while anyway) and the same can be said for the way we use our employee app. As our meetings turned virtual and our homes became our offices, the role of our app changed too.
For one, the need to know where everyone is working from is no longer as prominent as we are mostly defaulting to home, for now. However, the desire to know how everyone is coping & feeling is stronger than ever; this is something our app is a great fit for.
We started work on levelling up our rewards and recognition system here at Brandwidth pre-pandemic, and using the app as a platform to share positivity and exciting news while we are physically distanced is the perfect way to celebrate one another. We are also conscious that this new way of working can be quite isolating, and the mental health of the team is a high priority, so it’s important to us that the app acts as a tool to help keep the connection between us all.
With this in mind, we made an exerted effort to complete the initiative as efficiently as possible, and now the Brandwidth employee app has become home to our new fully automated “Boost” peer-to-peer rewards and recognition system.
The basic premise is that each month, everyone in the company is allocated a quota of points that they can reward to their peers for whatever they deem warrants it, the only caveat being that they accompany their point-giving with a brief comment explaining why they are rewarding said person.
Through an entirely transparent & democratic process, at the end of the month the person with the most points gets a cash prize to say thanks for all of their hard work; a ‘boost’ to their salary, so to speak. Every message of recognition appears in the app’s feed for the rest of the organisation to see, with an option for them to ‘like’ comments and potentially reward further points.
For me personally, it’s been fantastic to see all of the great work that my colleagues deliver highlighted in one place. Despite being separated from my peers and the office, I’m finding I now actually have a far better idea of what other exciting projects are going on within the company; projects that I might not otherwise have been involved in. It’s even enjoyable to just see the team appreciating each other by regularly giving one another morale boosts.
Of course, this is just scratching the surface of the logic that we configured to ensure the system runs smoothly by itself – and I’ll save you from the maths that went into it! – but there is one other key feature worth mentioning.
With many publicly nominated schemes like this it can get frustrating when the rewards feel unbalanced, and it’s not uncommon for someone to regularly get nominated, but never quite take first place. Part of our solution to this is that any points that are gifted can also be spent in our carefully curated, ever-changing rewards shop.
The shop contains a wide assortment of unique gifts that we’ve discovered, with a big focus on sustainability and general do-gooding; think fair trade chocolate, trees to offset carbon and products to help you go plastic free – oh, and the odd craft gin, of course.
As much as the rewards and recognition features of the app have become a prominent feature of updates recently, there have of course been plenty of other enhancements brought about due to home working. New contact shortcuts, for instance, have added a quick way to communicate with teammates.
Personalisation has always been another key part of the app, with our 3D world being a fun way to visualise some of our most important information. However, being away from the office means our ability to display that bit of our digital personality has been impacted. As an alternative way to feel more connected with those who are far apart, we now have a custom home office feature where you can recreate your personal space to share with others.
As well as being a bit of a fun pastime (who doesn’t love creating their own sim-like home?) it’s also a great way to get to know each other a little better. It was through this feature that I learnt of one colleague’s appreciation of Aubrey Hepburn (given away by the giant stencil artwork next to her), and another’s love for feature walls in most rooms! I’m sure I speak for the whole team when I say it’s been wonderful to find out a little something different about those I’ve worked with for so long.
Accessibility is also a key consideration of everything we do, and as such we’ve continued spending significant time ensuring that the app is easy for everyone to use. This includes everything from improving text legibility and contrast, to an entire new light mode that makes all content stand out in a very different and bright design. New info card designs for content make it easier to remember your position in the app’s navigation, and haptic feedback helps confirm successful button presses. We’ve also enhanced our desktop version of the app for those who do not wish to use a mobile device.
The journey of the Brandwidth Employee app is far from over – onboarding new employees has been one area that has seen a huge change over the last year – and while it’s challenging in the current climate I feel this is something that would benefit from a more personal approach. So, this is the next area I plan on tackling in our engagement app, and I can’t wait to keep pushing boundaries to see how else technology can improve our new way of working.