HomeGermany-StartupsBridging communication gaps in the workplace: Interview with Flip's co-founder Benedikt Ilg

Bridging communication gaps in the workplace: Interview with Flip’s co-founder Benedikt Ilg

In this interview, we have the pleasure to speak with Benedikt Illg, Co-founder of Flip App. Flip is an innovative platform designed for customer-facing employees, effectively bridging the communication gap between HR and IT. This unique platform empowers deskless workers to connect and engage seamlessly with their companies and colleagues.

Founded in 2018 by Benedikt Illg and Giacomo Kenner, Flip’s headquarters are based in Stuttgart. Their vision was to create a centralized solution that serves as a single point of contact for businesses and their employees, ensuring equal access to essential resources, corporate updates, and various opportunities for all staff members.

Join us as we gain insights into Benedikt’s entrepreneurial journey, his intake with communication gaps, the importance of connecting companies with frontline workers, and so much more.

Can you walk us through your entrepreneurial journey and how it led you to create Flip App? 

I founded Flip during my traineeship at the car manufacturer “Porsche”, where I was part of the Data Analytics team. It was during my time there that I realised how difficult it was to reach my colleagues in frontline roles, particularly in production and logistics. I became frustrated with the challenges of communication between deskless and computer-based employees and I took the decision, if I wanted to fix the problem I was experiencing, I would have to build that solution myself. Together with my school friend Giacomo Kenner, I started to develop the first version of Flip, working full-time at Porsche during the week, and focusing on the prototype at the weekends. Having raised my concerns with the management team at Porsche, they recognised the merit of a platform, designed for the deskless worker, that could be integrated into existing IT systems, bridging the gap between all branches of an enterprise. By the time the App went live, we had identified an additional 10 clients that would benefit from the same solution, and we realised that our creation had significant potential, and the growth we anticipated could be exponentially better.

In your early days as an entrepreneur, did you have any mentors who played a significant role in your growth? How did their guidance impact your entrepreneurial journey?

I was extremely fortunate in that area. I was able to rely on strong, knowledgeable business mentors, right from the very beginning. At the early stage of Flip, we were using a co-working space and our first neighbour was Martina Merz, who many will recognise as the hugely successful CEO of Thyssen-Krupp and the aptly named “most powerful woman in the German economy”. We soon developed an invaluable mentor-mentee relationship. She provided us with key feedback in relation to our product and was instrumental in opening doors for us, leading to board rooms where important conversations and decisions were happening. Today we continue to rely on mentors and business angels, such as Matthias Müller, former Volkswagen CEO and acclaimed entrepreneur Roland Berger. 

What are some key challenges companies face when it comes to connecting with their frontline workers, and how does Flip’s app address those challenges?

A major challenge is the serious lack of connectivity. Ironically, I know, we are living in an age of digital expansion, where we sometimes feel too connected. Frontline workers, who don’t sit in front of a desk or computer are carrying out significant, core duties with pen and paper. They put time and effort into accumulating and cataloguing information that often passes through numerous hands, with feedback failing to work its way up or down the chain. 

Companies are also struggling to provide practical technical solutions for frontline workers, failing to see that deskless staff have a different set of needs. As a cohort who are typically not tech-savvy, don’t write emails, and do not utilise Teams, Slack, or other such platforms, they require a solution that is intuitive and simple, with access to the information they need. 

It is vital that communication platforms are straightforward and wide-ranging, covering everything from canteen updates to the organisation of shifts. Flip provides a crucial asset to enterprises, providing a platform that actually serves deskless workers, making it easier for internal communications teams and management to effectively and proactively pass information to all staff. Bridging the gap between communications, HR and IT, Flip’s innovative, interactive technology equips users with instant access to news, information, and services relevant to them, no matter where they are in the world. 

Can you elaborate on how Flip bridges the communication gap between management and frontline workers?

We provide a single technical solution that instantly connects frontline workers and their organisations. It’s a clever, optimised app that gives deskless staff the ability to efficiently communicate and take part in wider company discourse. With Flip, they have the flexibility to plan their shifts, engage with HR processes, and converse with other departments. It opens up an entirely new working environment for frontline staff, leaning towards the positive digital transformation of deskless roles. 

On the other hand, employers are able to experience a new and better way of working too. For perhaps the first time, they can communicate vital corporate information with 100% of their workforce, from the onboarding process and even talent development. Just one little app that fits into everyone’s pocket can successfully bridge the growing divide between deskless staff and their places of employment. From onboarding to talent development, and from shift planning to absence requests, it also assists with company operations, enhances company culture, and helps broadcast those all-important team announcements. Flip connects every employee with the right people, news, information, and tools.

Why do you think it’s important to integrate HR, IT, and communication tools to connect companies with their frontline workers?

Globally, deskless workers are an often ignored sub-group, but the pandemic really proved just how important they are in the smooth running of entire industries. They, like computer-based employees, deserve and desire advanced, forward-thinking technologies that make their professional life better, while actively improving the work/life balance too. From an employer’s side, the cost of not adapting solutions for frontline workers can be detrimental to a business. Take a look at talent retention. Fluctuation of staff and turnover have cost more than €730 bn worldwide, and looking beyond the finances when valued employees decide to quit, companies lose much more than just the time and money it takes to replace them. Organisations and departments can be left without the quantity and quality of talent needed to execute strategic plans and deliver for customers and other stakeholders. 

Interestingly, it’s often about much more than remuneration when frontline employees decide to leave their job. More often than not, it is because their professional needs are not being met. Like any employee, they want to feel appreciated, valued and to have the same opportunities for development and professional growth as their computer-based colleagues. As we march towards the digitalisation of frontline work, it will largely be the role of comms, HR and IT staff to ensure deskless workers’ needs are being met. They will become integral partners in the retention of frontline staff, adding significant business value to organisations.

In the current economic climate, where labour shortages are a challenge, how can companies utilise technology and employee platforms like Flip App to attract and retain skilled workers?

Any company that claims to be taking talent attraction and retention seriously must start implementing technologies and solutions that directly target 100% of the business. The needs of frontline workers should not be underestimated, and if efforts are made in this area, companies will notice increased employee engagement, loyalty and retention. This is even more important in sectors such as manufacturing and healthcare, where the majority of staff are frontline and highly skilled. 

Intuitive software is a window into the beating heart of a company and can reveal employee expectations for their professional lives, whilst empowering employers to act on this and respect an employee’s private life. Engagement is a clear path towards retaining talented staff, and the digitalisation of frontline work is instrumental in continuing a pattern of open, efficient and productive work. Platforms like Flip help to ensure that employees want to lay the foundation for their career growth and development, rather than focusing on their next move.

What is your vision for the future of connecting companies with their frontline workers, and how do you plan to further innovate and address emerging challenges in this space?

I envision a future of work that is inclusive and acknowledges the efforts of both white and blue-collar workers. There is no reason why blue-collar employees should have to come in on their day off to check schedules or have their time-off requests get lost in a sea of analogue processes. Obviously, every department in a company differs from the next, but that does not mean that corporations should put all of their efforts into making sure that just one part of a company is up-to-date and digitally advancing with the times. 

Inclusion is an important part of successfully running a business, and a lot of the debates we are having around the future of work right now, are very one-sided. Conversations are mainly centred around four-day work weeks and remote work, but this simply isn’t a reality for 80% of global workers. The future of work, if it is to be a positive and effective one, must be digitally transformative, taking everyone into account. 

What are some specific technological advancements that you believe will have a significant impact on improving the connection between companies and their frontline workers?

AI has certainly been a hot topic in recent times, and it definitely has a massive role to play in industries that are heavy on frontline workers. For example, it will be very useful in the automation of tasks that are very repetitive. Automation, through AI, will have the potential to make frontline work far more flexible, giving back precious time to employees and reducing the risk of being overworked and burdened. Managers can focus on developing and engaging with frontline staff and overall this will have a significant impact on work culture and talent retention, essentially putting the human factor back into a business. But to get to the stage where AI can be effectively deployed by corporations, in a manner that would benefit deskless employees, we need to build a strong technological foundation. Until then, transformative tech like AI is pre-emptive, in my opinion. 

Can you share some success stories or examples of how Flip App has positively impacted companies and their deskless workers?

We are very proud of the successes we have experienced since launching Flip on a global scale, and we have worked with some fascinating and ambitious companies and their dedicated workforces, such as Edeka and McDonald’s. At Edeka, data showed that 97% of employees were utilising the app and had shaved 42 minutes off of their daily admin tasks such as checking bulletin boards and setting up promotional materials. In the fast-paced world of these large corporations, 42 minutes can make a significant difference in the course of a single day, with the technology allowing frontline workers to have the flexibility and opportunities afforded to computer-based employees. The same can be said for McDonald’s, which introduced the McOS to over 65,000 of their employees based in Germany, empowering effective shift planning and communication in an often hectic environment. 

Can you reflect on a challenging moment you faced during the early stages of building Flip App, and share how you successfully overcame it?

Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow, and Flip certainly has benefited in this regard. When I left my role at Porsche, to commit fully to the establishment of Flip, they came on board as our first customer. However, they elected to put the project on hold as they were making some management changes, and this proved challenging, with our first client going on pause. At the time, I was working with three other people who fully believed in the project and were depending on Flip being a success. So, we dug our heels in, stayed persistent, and over the course of six months, continuously went to bat for Flip and the potential it had to turn the HR, IT and comms industries on their heads. We got the app off the ground, and Porsche returned as a client. Sometimes you really do have to keep the faith and power through. 

As an experienced entrepreneur, what advice do you have for others looking to build a company from the ground up?

I am going to keep this one short and sweet, as for me, it is perhaps the most important bit of advice I have to impart. “Don’t start your search for a solution. Look for the problem and when you find it, make sure you completely understand it.”

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Antonio L. Escárzaga
Antonio L. Escárzaga
Antonio López Escárzaga is the Head of Content at EU-Startups, with a background in Digital Marketing, Antonio drives his passion for effective communication and entrepreneurship. He firmly believes in communication’s transformative power and strives to harness it to foster growth and innovation.

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