March 26, 2020

Employee engagement at the right time, during a crisis

bruce howe putti apps

We are living in unique times. The number of emergencies, crises, disasters that businesses and we all deal with, is far too high. If I think about the last year or so, in New Zealand we’ve had mass shootings in Christchurch and the eruption of White Island, and our friends over the ditch in Australia have just been through the horrible bushfires. Now we’re all living in the times of a pandemic with COVID-19.

Most good businesses talk about sustainability plans and ultimately the best businesses do follow through and document those plans. Often this is done after a crisis. In reality what happens when a crisis hits?

We panic. We try to do our best by helping people and making sure that they’re okay and in comfort. We then do the obvious business-check and see if we’re able to go on. Business results tend to recover, and large businesses have the reserves to soldier on – but what about the people? Purpose driven businesses need to be thinking of more permanent ways of keeping in touch with employees and ongoing personal well-being as emergencies unfold.

I was a leader of a business during a major crisis. In a previous life, I was GM for Nokia in East Africa. Living in Nairobi, Kenya, and regularly traveling through beautiful parts of Africa like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and another 15 or so countries. These were the times when Nokia was still the market leader and we had an incredible team that was motivated and committed to the challenge. We had a great life in Nairobi moving freely and exploring an amazing part of Africa. That was until September 21st, 2012 when the Westgate mall shootings occurred. It was an horrendous terrorist attack by 4 al Shabab extremists who walked into a mall and started to shoot it up, eventually killing 71 people and wounding another 200. It was the mall that we used as a family, most of our friends, and our teammates from Nokia. My wife had been there the day before the shooting!

We panicked! We first selfishly thought about ourselves, friends and then my thoughts were to our team and who might have been inside. We got on WhatsApp quick smart. I sent a message to our sales manager and office manager to ask them how they were and families. Quickly followed by, had they been in touch with anybody in the team. They then jumped on WhatsApp to check in. We had a few days of chasing each other around and we were lucky that nobody was hurt in our team.

By the time we got back to work which was a few days later, we sat down as a team to talk through all manner of stuff. It was tough. As the dust settled, we reviewed how we dealt with the situation. We were not proud of the lack of process, our inability to be in quick contact with our team and then the appropriate follow up.

There is a huge role for digital tools to help with employee engagement. Mobile is by far the preferred means of information consumption and engagement. Additionally, COVID-19 is accelerating a movement towards working remotely or working from home. This is not a unique concept but certainly at a scale that COVID-19 is pushing us towards does mean a completely unique situation for many individuals and businesses.

I am now lucky enough to be working in a business that can respond quickly in times of crisis though development of digital tools and apps.

We at Appranet are delivering the information that is required during an emergency to the employee and management team. Being able to call out for help, being able to maintain regular contact is essential for an employee to maintain a feeling of belonging and support by the business. In addition, the business shows accountability towards the team. The business now has real time feedback from the team at a macro level to understand trends and exposure for risk analysis. These are day-to-day conversations that just need to happen. They need to happen seamlessly, while tracked digitally. The business needs to know which employees are in a good space, which employees are not, and which employees are potentially in grave danger. Only then, can the business truly offer the support that is required.

Safety at your finger tips


At Appranet, we have been able to respond quickly to this need and we’ve created an “emergency app”. Team Safe App collates all essential information around emergencies using the immediate, current threat of COVID-19 as an example of how to provide very clear guidance, policy and support information to employees. The mobile app enables daily check-ins and forms relevant to escalations and reports that are required. Through push notifications the app allows for communication from the head office so that a management team can communicate directives and messages of support. Our very own Team Safe App brings a level of quantitative insight that gives agility for the business to make quick decisions in few of employee welfare and business performance.

Employee engagement programs are about the idea of embracing how an employee feels, how passionate they are about the organization and the commitment levels. During times of emergencies or crisis the closeness of an organization to an employee can be the difference between showing true engagement levels and demonstrate the purpose of an organization versus well, the opposite.

 We are currently offering a free trial of  Team Safe. Email us at info@puttiapps.com to know more.