The Gatehouse Blog

Making the case for an employee comms app at Stansted Airport

The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at

Internal Communications Channels manager Zoe Spinks explains why creating an app was the next logical step for internal communications at Stansted airport.

I love the variety of my job and the fact that we are normally the first point of contact for our colleagues, as it helps me understand what is happening across our business. We are often the eyes and ears for the organisation and it’s important that we find out what’s going on.

Our colleagues trust us and they need to feel confident that we are going to address issues or concerns which can range from their rest room being a mess to questions around the latest balanced scorecard. Being the first point of contact also helps us build trust with our directors – they understand that we are normally the team who has a good overview of what’s happening across the airport and generally find out what’s going on.

Across Manchester Airport Group  we have more than 4,500 colleagues who are based at four different sites, Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth. From these 4,500, more than half are colleagues who are at the front line and are the face of our business.

These guys generally don’t have access to emails or PCs, so it can be difficult to get a message to them. One of the first questions I asked when joining was “Do we have an app?” as it seemed the logical thing to me. The operation is so busy that having time to sit down and absorb a newsletter isn’t always possible. Given that, it seemed logical to develop an app to reach this audience; it’s accessible by many more people than we can reach by email and you’re not pushing the content in their faces. It’s on their personal devices and is free to download.

We undertook a big project and had Wi-Fi enabled in all nine of our colleague rest areas at Stansted, because we know people are likely to download it if they don’t have to use their own data packages.

Making the case

This was the first business case I’d had to build, and was quite a daunting task to begin with. However, with a strong supportive team and clear guidelines I built the case for moving forward with an app.  That was one of the first lessons in terms of a business case; how to make it strong. I knew what I wanted it to say and do but that passion and faith has to be backed up with solid data and evidence. I collated data on the number of colleagues with PC access, the scores they gave us in our annual colleague survey with regard to communications and also data from the outside world around smart phone usage.

The arguments for proved to be  really compelling, and pres ent ed  as a package of other activity to build engagement, the app concept really captured everyone’s imagination. The app was mentioned in a presentation alongside our engagement strategy  which was presented by Head of Internal Comms Anna Russell. It was picked up on quickly. “Ooh, an app?” Tell us more about that.” It was then a case of yes, we love it, go for it!

From the initial idea, to having an app ready to go was about  6 months. The team at TheAppBuilder are just fantastic to work with. There were some challenges as we worked through the various risk and assurance processes which large organisations have for safe guarding purposes, but ensuring we had the right measures in place to monitor content going into the app and making sure it was compliant was essential.

As a result of the business case and for the benefit of future app developments we identified a need for all colleagues to have an email address and using these as unique log-ins. We can then look to personalise the app and tailor it to each colleague. Colleagues could securely access their annual leave, wage slips etc. via the app. It’s about the opportunity to build on the app’s capability and functions.

Since launching two weeks ago over a quarter of the population have already downloaded the app, and almost all of those have supplied feedback and suggestions for the next phase, we which we are working to implement.

What’s on the app?

There’s a lot of content going in to the app which will be updated on a daily basis. There’s a group page and one for each of the airports, all with the same structure; group news headlines, localised news, leadership galleries, key contacts, MD news, links to social media, vacancies, Google Translate (for  our operational teams), our weekly newsletter and lots more! We also have nomination forms for our employee recognition scheme, VIP, Values in Practice.

The direct link allows colleagues to nominate their peers in recognition of going above and beyond in their role against one of our values. We have five values: ‘Finger on the pulse’, ‘Brilliant at what matters’, ‘Why not?’, ‘Power of team work’ and ‘Safe Hands’. For example, ‘Why Not?’ is about allowing our people to be innovative, to ask, “Hey, why not? Why can’t we do this?” I’m actually awarding a Why Not? pin badge today. A member of our security team came up with a design for a poster to display the data from the annual employee survey. It was a brilliant design and one which can be duplicated across other departments. A perfect example of Why Not?

Lessons and advice

Creating an app was the next logical step for our communications. We needed a solution for reaching our frontline teams and  the app solved that for us. It puts  news, information at their fingertips and encourages that two way conversation.

If I was to offer advice, I’d say surround yourself with a great team, listen to your stakeholders, build your business case, believe in it, be passionate about it and most importantly, want to be the driver for change.


Zoe Spinks is Internal Communications Channels Manager at Stansted Airport.

After working in finance in the early part of her career she retrained in HR, joining Stansted in her current role two years ago.