Nordic startups are competing with each other to improve employee collaboration and well-being. All the current initiatives have one common thread: the user experience should be as smooth and straightforward as with mass market apps.
Whether you want to schedule a specific meeting or manage your supplier relationships, everything should now be do-able with a click or a gesture on your screen. This philosophy has a very strong hold in the Nordic countries, where lots of companies are now offering B2B innovations designed to provide a workplace experience as intuitive as those on Tinder and Facebook. Wandering among the stands at the Arctic15 conference, held in Helsinki in May, you would come across a good number of entrepreneurs keen to point out that if you want to be agile and responsive you need the right tools.
Setting up meetings with just a swipe
The most impressive initiative at the design level was SwipeToMeet. Teemu Arina, a Finnish serial entrepreneur by day and a writer on biohacking by night, has developed the app so as to enable you to schedule a work meeting or a get-together among friends with just three hand movements. All you have to do is to choose the type of meeting you want to set up and the participants you wish to invite. The app will then look into each person’s calendar and suggest several possible slots. To accept an appointment proposal you swipe your finger to the right, to move to the next possible meeting proposal you swipe to the left – which is similar to the way Tinder works. Once a time has been agreed it will be automatically added to your diary. ‟We wanted to provide a personal assistant which can manage the entire organisational side for the user and which, unlike Slack, doesn’t oblige you to download the app,” explained Teemu Arina. If a person invited to a meeting has not yet downloaded the app, s/he receives a text message or an email containing a link. ‟People today no longer want to work in stiff bureaucratic mode so we need to help them manage their business and private lives easily and simply with just one click,” argues the young entrepreneur.
Project management and idea generation on the same platform
Meanwhile, in the field of remote collaboration, there is Jakamo, a three-year-old Finnish startup that provides an app designed to simplify supply chain collaboration between companies in terms of supplier/customer relations, engineering processes, plus also R&D. Somewhat similar to Slack, the Jakamo system frees staff from the need to use email to manage projects, and in addition generates spreadsheets and reports in real time. All the collaboration between one firm and another can be managed directly via the app, and the structure is based on tabs and topics that make tracking easy. Everyone involved in a project or an exchange of information is added to the chain and the information is added to the tracking table. This system not only streamlines collaboration with customers and suppliers and allows you to track projects with just one click, but also provides a means of setting up joint idea-generating sessions and promoting a cooperative approach to problem-solving.
Learning by doing
Training is another field where things could be streamlined. L’Atelier met up with Jean Mauris, co-founder of BranchTrack, an Estonian startup that has developed a method for creating interactive, multimedia training modules in just a few clicks. The service, which is available in SaaS mode, enables Human Resources departments to fill out the specifications for a training module and then immediately receive a training tutorial, in which an avatar provides a practical scenario for the learner to tackle. For each scenario, the employee has to decide how to respond. At the end s/he will receive his/her score, together with advice on how to do better, whether his/her job is to sell, manage, launch a new in-company project, or whatever. ‟You learn by doing,” Jean Mauris likes to emphasise. And if you can make the creation of tutorials intuitive and fast, people can learn on a regular basis, without the training process becoming too costly or time-consuming for the company. The outcome will be better-trained staff who are able to widen their range of skills.
Effective training helps company staff to fulfil themselves in their jobs, which also serves to improve their overall well-being. It is also essential that they take on board the company core values and strategy and feel they are being listened to and made part of the decision-making process. However it is difficult to take the pulse of the workforce on a regular basis, especially at major firms.
VibeCatch provides a solution for this. The app is designed to generate a mini-poll containing one or two questions, which are sent out to staff at intervals decided by the company. Here once again, the company needs to take only a few steps to create and send out a questionnaire and then obtain a dashboard showing the results. ‟Taking the pulse of how your staff are feeling means you can see much more quickly what impact your strategic decisions are having on employees and react if there’s a problem at a given division or department,” explains VibeCatch CEO Juha Huttunen. This is undoubtedly a very useful service. However, there is one area where Huttunen thinks improvement is needed: staff ought to be encouraged to answer questions like: ‟How do you feel about the other members of the group?”, ‟Do you trust your bosses?”, more frequently by providing them with feedback on the outcome of the survey. It is of course up to the company to decide whether it wants to publish the results. Juha Huttunen indicates that only a minority of employers are currently following this line of action. Perhaps this will be the next stage of the transformation process.