Volkswagen in Poland focuses on the comms app for the employees

Volkswagen Poznań in Poland is the biggest employer in the region of Wielkopolska, where I live. The company employs  over 10,000 workers in four manufacturing plants. 70% of them are production workers. Such Volkswagen cars as VW Caddy, Trasporter, Crafter and MAN TGE are manufactured here.

I’ve invited Mikołaj Jóźwiak from VW to tell us more about their new mobile app for the employees. I had the opportunity to co-operate with Mikołaj from the Communications and Compliance Department at VW a few times in the past while doing my projects for VW. I was really happy he found some time to answer my questions and that he invited his colleagues from the Recruitment, Employer Branding and HR Communications Department – Marzena Leśnicka and Natalia Łabaziewicz, to join us.

I interviewed Marzena Leśnicka and Natalia Łabaziewicz from the Recruitment, Employer Branding and HR Communications Department and Mikołaj Jóźwiak from the Communications and Compliance team

Maja Biernacka: Mikołaj, let’s start from the beginning. What kind of internal tools do you use at VW?

Mikołaj Jóźwiak: Our company uses a wide range of communication tools – traditional, digital and direct ones. The first group includes:
•    a printed magazine: ‘The voice of VWP’ (Głos VWP) – a monthly magazine for our employees printed in 2,500 copies, comprising from 20 to 28 pages in A3 format,
•    a printed newspaper: ‘VWP Facts’ (Fakty VWP) – a weekly distributed directly to our production employees and sent by emails,
•    the information boards for posters and billboards.

The second category with the digital tools includes the intranet where our employees can find news and documents they need (so called Group Wiki) and also a corporate internal tool for co-operation, mailings and a network of TV screens in the canteens in the production area. Recently, the employees have received access to a communication application with current information available on their private smartphones.

The direct communication plays also an important role in our communication with the employees. At least twice a year we stop the production lines to organise meetings with the board for all our employees. During the year smaller meetings called ‘Don’t know? Ask’ are also held with the management of each plant.

Maja: It’s good to hear that there are companies that understand the importance of the internal communications with production workers and they are able to stop their production lines for a while to devote time to them. How many people are responsible for the internal communications with your 10,000 employees?

Mikołaj: Two independent but closely co-operating units are responsible for the internal comms with our employees – the Communications and Compliance team along with the Recruitment, EB and HR Comms team.

Maja: OK, let’s talk now about your new internal tool – the mobile application. How did you come up with this idea? Did the COVID-19 pandemic force you to implement it? Or was this tool available earlier?

Marzena Leśnicka: The idea for the internal mobile app appeared much earlier at the workshops with the employees from different business units. We wanted to give our employees a user-friendly tool where they can find the most important information about the current situation at VW. Especially, that almost 70% of our staff are the production employees who don’t have access to the company’s emails and access to the intranet is a little bit difficult for them.

In fact, we were almost ready in March to launch it. We prepared a comprehensive communication plan including a mix of channels to reach our target groups, but the pandemic made us reorganise  the implementation idea rapidly. Paradoxically, the pandemic helped us promote this mobile app – the employees wanted to have it and be updated with the situation. The app was an excellent tool to do it – quick, direct and always at hand.

The employees at VW can use the mobile app for the internal communications at their private devices (a screen from the FB profile of VW)

Maja: Is this internal app available for the production employees only?

Mikołaj: Our app is available for all our employees – both the administration and production ones. Its biggest advantage is constant access to information – no matter if we’re at home, on a tram or at work – you can always check what’s new.

The VW app was created just before the COVID-19 pandemic, but this unusual situation caused by the virus helped promote the internal tool among the employees

Maja: And what can we find inside? What kind of functionalities are there?

Natalia Łabaziewicz: Mostly, we can find the news about our organisation, which are divided into several categories to make it easy to navigate. Our employees can follow the upcoming events and check the FAQ. It also contains links to many useful websites (e.g. to the health care provider or a website with discounts for our cars). The employees have also access to categories that are the most important for them – the personal advisers or the employees responsible for counting their working hours. Moreover, the electronic version of our newspaper and newsletter can be found there. Although we’ve implemented the app recently, we’re already planning its development to meet the expectation of our employees to a greater extent.

In the VW mobile app the employees can find the announcements divided into a few categories, events, FAQ and links to useful websites, e.g. the one with a private health care system

Maja: What kind of corporate topics can be found in the app?

Marzena: Our app has a kind of newsfeed similar to the one we all know from Facebook. There is a  news stream and a possibility to pin the most important post. The content is divided into the categories that refer to the essential topics seen from the perspective of our employees, that is the HR announcements, regular announcements about what’s new at VW, Health and Safety topics, benefits, the internal recruitment process, the strategy, culture and development, the health care section and the educational zone.  

Maja: Can your employees respond somehow to the content?

Natalia: The employees can respond to and comment on the news. It works like in other social media tools. Since the first day of launching the app we have received over 800 comments from our employees, which is a good forecast for the future.

In the VW app the employees can like and comment the content

Maja: So how did your employees react to the new tool? Please tell us more about it. Many companies are afraid of letting their employees comment, while the others told me that even if there was such a functionality, their employees didn’t want to use it.

Marzena: We got numerous positive comments. Our employees appreciated that during this difficult time they received a kit of necessary and very updated information about the current situation and a new way of working. What’s also important, they sent us plenty of valuable ideas concerning development of the app, which proves the tool is needed.

Maja: How did you solve the problem of accessibility? Production workers often don’t have access to corporate emails and mobile phones. Do they use their private emails and smartphones?

Mikołaj: We have a similar situation – the production employees don’t have corporate emails and phones, that’s why it was so important for us to make this app available on their private smartphones and make the tool properly secured – both at the registration and login level.  

Among popular functionalities there is a corporate calendar where the VW employees can find, e.g. reminders about quizzes organised for them

Maja: Weren’t you afraid of sharing the corporate content on private devices? Unfortunately, I hear such fears often as well.

Natalia: These fears arise from improper preparation. Verification of the users is conducted every day – the system sends the data concerning all people currently employed at VW to the app. If an employee finished the co-operation with us, their ID expired and this person loses access to the app. We should remember, however, we live in the 21st century and it’s difficult to expect the announcements published in the internal app won’t be released outside the organisation – a screenshot or recording of what we see inside may happen. The boundaries between external and internal comms are blurred, but we trust our employees won’t forward the internal content outside.

Maja: Great to hear that. I’m also surprised when I hear from companies they are afraid of publishing internal announcements on the information boards because they worry this content will reach their competitors. It’s a real story I heard. But their competitors don’t look for business information on the information boards to beat them.
Let’s go back to the app. What’s next? Will this new internal app be your regular tool?

Marzena: For sure! The app was warmly welcomed by our employees. In the first few weeks it was downloaded by 7,000 out of 10,000 of our employees . We already have specific plans for further development, we see a huge potential in this internal tool.

Maja: That’s great. Good luck with development. Thank you for your time and for showing us your app.


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