If the recent global pandemic did anything positive for the workplace, it was reinforcing the importance of information sharing and connection. Now more than ever, employees want to be engaged in meaningful work and expect their organizations to communicate frequently and transparently about topics that are important to them. Leadership teams have recognized the need for and benefit of re-examining their communications and engagement approach. Many have boosted resources and increased the frequency of emails, intranet content and meetings to better connect with their employees, both in office and remote. Sounds great, right?
But wait – what about the employees who aren’t digitally connected for most of the day? These employees work on the manufacturing floor, in the warehouse, on the road transporting products, at the service counter and in other roles that are mobile. Are you connecting with them as effectively as with your employees who are sitting at desks or in meetings for most of the day?
Chances are, you’re not.
These “non-desk” (for lack of a better term) employees play a critical role in the success of your business. Their day-to-day responsibilities give them a unique perspective on operations, quality, service and logistics – the things that can make or break an organization. And yet, engagement rates are lower and turnover rates are higher for these employees than those of their colleagues. If you’re communicating with all employees equally across your workforce, what gives?
As part of our employee engagement work at Padilla, we’ve spoken with many non-desk employees across a range of industries to learn more about their communications and engagement challenges. Most have access to company information channels via kiosks, shared laptops or mobile apps. It’s not a lack of access that’s the issue – it’s a lack of understanding about what these employees want and need, and how to best deliver it within their work environment. Here are some of the frustrations we consistently hear:
- There’s a disconnect between corporate/headquarters and us. It sometimes feels like we’re two different companies.
- Company leaders and communicators don’t have a real understanding of our work environment.
- When we’re on the road for the bulk of the workday, we don’t have time to keep checking email to see if we’re missing anything important.
- We usually access the company’s intranet for a specific HR-related purpose. We don’t have time to dig around for company information, especially when there is limited access to the kiosk.
- We get most of our communications through all-hands emails or the intranet. Most of the information is about what’s happening at headquarters and a lot of it isn’t relevant to us.
- We’re genuinely interested in knowing more about how the company is doing, but we don’t know where to find that information and don’t have time to look for it.
- We have an important role in the success of our business, but we seldom see content highlighting what we do and why it’s important to the organization.
When it comes to workplace connections, non-desk employees aren’t looking for special treatment; they want to be met where they are and recognized for their contributions. Given their foundational role in your business, not taking the time and effort to meaningfully connect with them is a business risk that you can’t afford to take.
Interested in learning more?
If your business has a high percentage of non-desk employees, these tips can help assure they are included in your employee engagement efforts.
Access: Do your non-desk employees have the same access to information as desk employees? If not, you’re sending a message that non-desk employees aren’t as valued by your company.
Environment: Do you have an accurate understanding of non-desk workers’ environments? What resources do they have, what’s the noise level, how often can they check email? If you don’t know – visit. Stand where they stand. Do what they do. And talk to them about their daily routines and information needs – what they get, how they get it, and how they prefer to stay informed.
Channels: Have you considered using multiple formats to best deliver information to non-desk employees? For example:
- Company podcasts for transportation professionals
- Subtitles on videos shared in loud work environments
- Digital and/or traditional signage in manufacturing and warehouse facilities
Leadership: If you expect managers to cascade information to non-desk employees, are you supporting them with communication tips and templates? Provide resources to make it easier for them to share the information with the right channel and at the right time with employees.
Digital content: Are employee stories and highlights on the company intranet inclusive of non-desk workers? These teams are doing important work and they want to feel that their contributions are valued.
Work environments and connectivity vary across organizations, as do the needs of your employees. To learn more about how you can successfully communicate and engage with all employees, download Padilla’s tip sheet. Questions? Connect with Natalie Smith, SVP, Employee Engagement, at [email protected].
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