Recognising the need for transformative change, Heathrow embarked on an ambitious change management programme that started with more than 1,000 staff participating in focus groups to reshape the organisation’s purpose and values.
One of the themes that quickly emerged was the importance of regular, effective communications but this can be difficult to achieve in an organisation where its 7,000 staff do not have ready access to computers or work in remote sites. Historically, the main communications mechanism was a printed daily briefing posted at various points in staff areas.
The question then arose: ‘Could a custom mobile app be developed that could deliver daily content to all operational staff and facilitate real-time feedback?’ Such a development would also signal to employees that the management was serious about their feedback, but could also build a bridge between both groups.
The decision was taken to launch a mobile app for private internal communications that would enhance employee engagement. A draft content framework was created, embracing themes such as ‘today’s shift’, ‘daily brief’, ‘around Heathrow’ and ‘recognising people’, which revitalised an existing employee recognition programme.
Employees are also able to submit suggestions or request additional content via the app.
The AppBuilder also recognised that certain processes, such as curating the day’s staff restaurant menus and collating the daily briefings, worked well, but were let down by the distribution mechanism. To resolve the issue, the agency held a series of ‘train the trainer’ sessions for Heathrow’s communications team, who then trained an additional 40 nontechnical individuals on how to update the app on a regular basis to ensure its content remained relevant and timely.
This devolution of responsibility led to an increased sense of ownership in the project across the organisation. The app was initially rolled out to security staff in Terminal 5, without a formal management-led launch. About 80 per cent of the staff were estimated to own a smartphone.
Within three months, 75 per cent of potential users had downloaded the app – which remains voluntary – and 85 per cent were using it on a daily basis. Of these volunteers, 88 per cent rated the app as good or excellent.
Following overwhelming demand, the app has since been rolled out to other departments and terminals and, in the words of Pam Bland, head of international communications, has ‘transformed the way we are doing business’.
‘This was a very innovative and creative approach,’ said the judges. ‘It is technology with a purpose.’