How did we build a mobile application for communication for Volkswagen Poznań?

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

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

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

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

Suspending production in such a large company is a huge challenge. Volkswagen Poznan is the largest employer in the Great Poland Voivodeship and one of the largest in Poland. Almost 11, 000 employees suddenly stopped coming to work.

It is also a communication challenge. How to keep in touch with such a large number of people, especially in this exceptional period when access to reliable information is so much needed?

Of course, it is possible to contact  people  by e-mail, at least  those who have business 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 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 people who have a work computer can access  it. Direct production workers could also use the  e-portal so far , but it was only used to submit various types of  applications (e.g. for leave), and access was possible only on the  company’s premises.

Volkswagen Poznan came up with the idea of building its own mobile application for communication. Today, virtually everyone has a smartphone (if not a business one, then a private one) and the company decided to use it. The project implementation was commissioned to Poznan Software House  Expansio.

The idea for the application appeared much earlier. The application was developed together with a selected group of  Volkswagen Poznan company testers and the last tests took place at the end of 2019. The official implementation , which was to be proceeded by the communication campaign, was scheduled for March– completely accidentally for the time when quarantine began  in Poland. The entire communication plan and the login process had to be redesigned. Due to 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 launch took place on April 2.

 

How to communicate with employees in the company?

The assumptions regarding the application were as follows:

  1. The application should be easy to download from Google Play and the App Store, also to a private phone.
  2. Each employee should be able to log in to the application easily.
  3. The company should be able to publish information, just like it is on Facebook – by creating posts with videos, photos or additional attachments.
  4.  The employees should be able to comment or like posts, but they should also have access to other important information from the company, such as electronic version of company’s newspaper, canteen menu, numbers to personal consultants or a FAQ list.

On the other hand, the administrative panel should provide extensive content management options i.e. responding to users comments, insight into statistics and managing users rights.

How do employees get access to the application?

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

The process of transferring this data must therefore be secure and automatic, so that user accounts are always up to date. If 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 and  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 with a link to download the application and the instructions for logging in for the first time is sent to the employee’s e-mail account. 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. Out of several thousand people, some may have a problem with finding an e-mail in their mailbox, downloading the application from Google Play or having difficulty logging in. Expansio launched a special helpline number, where 3 people answered calls on an ongoing basis and helped in solving problems.

 

How employees react to the mobile application?

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

The interest is huge and the application is now the main source of informing the employees about the current situation in the company – also through photos and videos. New posts in the application appear even several times a day. Employees comment, support each other or even send videos of how they spend their quarantine time, 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 proven 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 a calendar with company events, integration with recruitment systems or… a corporate canteen menu. But there are already new ideas for its further development.

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

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