How to reach non-wired employees
In my last blog, I shared tips on how to create content that will engage your frontline workers, accepting that some of them don’t (always) have access to the same hardware and technologies as their managers and desk-based colleagues.
And so, the next logical step seemed to be to take that concept further and focus specifically on those who are deskless or “non-wired”, and look at how we should go about reaching them with that engaging content. Emergence tells me that deskless employees make up 80% of the workforce! That’s an awful lot of people who are at risk of not getting vital comms in a timely fashion and a huge number of important colleagues who could start to feel overlooked, excluded and disengaged.
The best and broadest piece of advice that we can give is to health check your existing comms strategy and channels. If you already have channels in place designed to reach your non-wired people, find out if they are working. Speak to your deskless colleagues across the business to find out what they are, and aren’t, receiving loud and clear. When they are getting the key messages, how is that happening? Is it via tech or digital, or from face-to-face time with their line managers? Either (or both) is fine. But knowing what is and isn’t working will help you improve the offering and may even save you time and money in the long run.
Generally speaking, our deskless colleagues still tend to get the bulk of their information and updates from face-to-face time with their line managers. This can be formal or informal, structured or casual, weekly, daily or ad-hoc. It can be on the (literal or metaphorical) shop floor or in meeting rooms away from the noise and bustle. Regardless, whilst there is nothing intrinsically wrong with reaching our non-wired people in this way, safeguards should be made to avoid the pitfalls of cascaded comms, where crucial messages can be diluted, altered or repurposed according to the views and biases of each deliverer in the chain. A far better option is to provide managers with a robust framework with which to structure these meetings and ensure that key comms are delivered intact, unedited and unharmed. Depending on the resources available to them, this may include notes, slide decks or even short videos to be shared to inform and spark discussion. In my next blog, I’ll be looking in more detail at a case study of this kind of meeting platform.
Also, a highly beneficial tool in many sectors is for senior leaders to carry out Gemba Walks to meaningfully connect with their deskless colleagues, share information and ideas, and see for themselves what is going right and what needs improving. This has the added advantage of breaking down barriers and building trust between those at the coal face and the senior leadership team.
As much as we love tech and digital here at Guru HQ, we’re not opposed to championing print and paper when the benefits are clear to see. Intranet content and digital updates are great when you have regular access to a computer or smartphone, but sometimes the best way to share that content with our deskless colleagues is to create and share simplified, print-friendly versions that can be printed by line managers and displayed on noticeboards, in break out areas or even on the back of toilet doors! Just make sure a “less is more” approach is applied and that any hyperlinks are removed and replaced with the relevant headline information or a simple “search for…” signpost.
Social networking platforms and apps can be used effectively to reach your non-wired employees in their own time and space. But, for that reason, they will always need to be optional. Presence on the big players like Facebook and Twitter can be used to great effect, but you can only request or recommend that your people download the app and follow your page on their personal devices. And never let your people hear important company news from a social network that they should have heard from a line manager first.
Similarly, unless you are providing all of your deskless employees with a company smartphone, you can’t insist that they download and use any of the work-based social or news platforms and apps (such as Workplace, Slack or First Up) on their personal devices.
And whilst the tech exists to send text alerts or push notifications to employees’ personal mobiles, we would only recommend using such a tool for critical or emergency announcements, such as sudden risks to health and safety, unplanned and short notice building closures etc.
Ambient messaging via digital screens can be a good way of getting key messages out to your hard-to-reach people. It’s not a cheap option and content must be kept fresh and top-level only, but eye-catching and engaging content displayed in the right places can certainly help in getting information out there. As with printed media, hyperlinks are no use on a wall-mounted TV screen and sound should almost never be used. Needless to say, screens should not be mounted where concentration is required and digital distractions could be unwelcomed, unhelpful or downright dangerous!
As outlined in our last blog, once you have your comms strategy in place to serve your non-wired people, the key is to keep the content for those channels short, snappy and to-the-point. Your deskless colleagues are busy people, often on their feet or on the move, and so you need to grab their attention quickly and deliver to them what they need to know in an accessible and engaging way.
Read more: 35 internal comms examples – the ultimate list
Read more: Communicating with your gig workers
Read more: Trust in the workplace in 2022