The barrage of information, concerns over engaging isolated colleagues and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those on furlough. These are some of the challenges that mental health and wellbeing leaders and champions have told us they’re grappling with.
So, it was interesting to learn about a new solution that can help employers tackle all three of these challenges. The solution is the brainchild of James Dickson, CEO & Founder, Piota Apps.
Piota is a new concept in the world of corporate employers. Most companies have their wellbeing resources available for colleagues to access on a variety of platforms, such as their intranet, or internal documents.
However, this approach can be complex for employees to navigate and for employers to manage. Dickson recognised that Piota’s expertise in engagement and communication could be used to resolve employers’ un-met needs when it comes to engaging and keeping employees informed about wellbeing support.
Dickson explains: “Especially at the moment, because of the factors created by Covid-19, there’s a role for a secure but very easy to access mobile app, which people have on their personal devices as well as any work devices. They can immediately browse it, without having to dig back to find login details”.
In particular, as communications can be personalised and anonymised, it could be an effective way to communicate about wellbeing with the most isolated and vulnerable colleagues – who are often the hardest to reach – including those on furlough.
Lessons in engagement and communication
Dickson’s inspiration for Piota came when he spotted a need for better communication between schools and parents. One that would deliver a better experience to parents and also save the school time and money. The app he devised is now used by almost 400 schools in 15 countries.
I know myself the frustration of navigating school messages on multiple channels, only to find I still couldn’t find my son’s report and had missed the swimming gala.
Piota overcomes this problem by simplifying the different channels of communication onto one app. This makes it easy for parents to find the information they need. Information can also easily be tailored to the recipient.
There are always some parents that cannot be reached by the school – no matter how hard they try to engage them. And that’s very similar for employers. The Piota app enables organisations to communicate effectively about wellbeing with all employees – even the disengaged.
Experience with schools proves the app achieves this. Dickson says: “If a school has 1000 pupils and through the app, they can demonstrate that as well as widespread use it also encourages between 2-5 of disengaged families to respond – and even better turn up at school – that counts as a huge win for them”.
The Piota app has also proven its effectiveness as an engagement and communication tool with the NHS.
Some of the 20 NHS Trusts Piota works with have asked them to set up Covid-19 apps – highlighting critical information that health workers need to access.
Dickson says: “Covid-19 means the NHS needs apps that can be set up rapidly”.
Once a company has contacted Piota, they deliver an app the next day which includes the organisation’s corporate logo and branding, plus information from their website. Piota then conducts a 30 minute call with client to show them how to use the app.
Essentially, Piota provides the platform and the content is the customer’s responsibility. The client gets a content management system which is a website with a login. They then upload a selection of material onto the app. Once it has been tested with people in the organisation, it then takes a couple of hours to adjust as needed and upload the rest of the information.
Dickson says: “Everybody downloads the app either from Apple or Android stores. It’s no hassle and whatever the employer wants to have streamed onto the app – calendars, newsfeed, social media – that can all be integrated, so they don’t have to duplicate work”.
“Plus, they get an analytics programme with it that shows the number of downloads made and number of users. Far more people download an app – it’s the most effective way of disseminating information to largely dispersed groups of people”.
Push and pull
The employer can also use the Piota app for push notifications: to send out new updates, alerts and messages about wellbeing support. Perhaps to let people know about an upcoming Zoom talk from a wellbeing expert talking about stress, anxiety or money worries.
Or it can be used to push out information about wider HR programmes – such as changes to policies or procedures – with targeted notifications that highlight these messages.
Or the app can be used to share a good news story to colleagues in different departments and sites. This helps to overcome silos. It’s also a good way to boost morale by communicating messages from senior management.
Dickson adds: “People who are furloughed can see different information on the app, so you can deal with that quite sensitively and provide them with a good experience despite the unprecedented circumstances”.
Dickson points out that the app is also a very efficient way to gain feedback from employees. He says: “It takes five minutes to create a survey. You send it to everybody and you get a very high response rate, with much more of a spread of views across the organisation, rather than just the views of those who speak the loudest”.
The big picture
Piota doesn’t provide the guidance. What it does is ease communication and increase engagement with the suite of wellbeing solutions an employer might have on offer. The app can include videos, PDF documents, links to other resources etc. It can either replace a wellbeing hub on an intranet, or complement this facility – making it easier to navigate and easier to manage.
Dicskon explains: “Let’s say, if you have a section about money worries, you have a paragraph on the app saying “If you’ve got money worries, use our expert advice – click here”. This leads straight to the organisation’s intranet, or wherever the information sits.
You could also expand it for the whole family. For instance, colleagues caring for elderly parents, employers might want to provide links through the app to Alzheimer’s UK or other high-quality resources.
A call to action
Through its work with schools, Piota has proven that it can help organisations that are finding it difficult to communicate with large, diverse and dispersed audiences. It seems a natural transition to apply, what Dickson describes as: “A simple to use, robust, affordable and engaging tool” to workplace wellbeing.
With a multitude of digital wellbeing solutions becoming available, the danger is that an employer might say: “Oh, just another app”. But Piota is different. Dickson says: “Our goal is limited to being experts in engagement and communication”.
To wrap up Dickson explains: “It’s a very good way for companies to at least show the world that they are trying to reach everybody. Hopefully it will encourage those employees who are reluctant to come forward to read the resources on the app, feel reassured and then maybe take action”.
“Awareness of mental health, particularly around Covid-19 and the impact of working from home; the fact that it’s likely to be a structural change, with people no longer working as much in an office in the future. These factors combined make us believe that this is the right time to bring the Piota solution to corporates”.
Dickson explains: “It’s a versatile tool. It may be that a company with a small number of employees, in one location, uses it in a completely different way to a company with 1000 people and a remote salesforce. The objective now is to get feedback from corporates so that we can adjust the app to meet different needs”.
Piota is looking for 10 corporates to test the water and help to refine the solution to ensure it meets employers’ needs. To find out more, contact [email protected]
About the author:
Claire Farrow is the Global Director of Content and Programming for the Mad World and Make a Difference Summits. She also drives the content for Mad World News. Claire is on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times.