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COMMUNICATING WITH MANUFACTURING EMPLOYEES

by | Mar 5, 2019

If you want to communicate with plant employees, start by walking a mile in their steel-toe boots. You need to know the specific physical realities of their work environment in order to develop effective touch points. (That’s Tribe’s Amanda McClay, right, and Steve Baskin, left, pictured above on a recent visit to a client’s manufacturing site.)

At Tribe, we work with a lot of non-desk audiences, from manufacturing to retail to hospitality. And of course, the solutions that work for one group might also work for another. But then again, they might not. There’s no one silver bullet that’s the perfect answer for all. (But if you’re interested in recommended strategies, you might like this blog.)

Site visits are one of the most important elements of our discovery process with new clients. The primary focus of those visits is to talk with a wide range of employees, usually in focus groups, to hear their perceptions of the culture, the company vision and the current state of communications.

But the other reason to don that protective eyewear, earplugs and helmets is to see where they work. We like to know if the work environment is brightly lit or dark, really loud or a low hum, crowded with people or long empty stretches of equipment.

Manufacturing employees in a paper plant will be working in a different environment from those in a steel mill. Those in pharmaceutical manufacturing will have a different physical reality from those in furniture assembly. Even within one company, different employee groups may have vastly different environments.

When communicating with manufacturing employees, an understanding of their physical environment helps point to potential touch points. Maybe there’s a long empty hallway that employees pass through when they arrive at work. Maybe there’s a room where they suit up in protective gear before each shift. Or maybe we’ll notice that employees are all on their phones while they’re taking the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the entrance of the plant.

With those touch points in mind, we can identify potential channels. That long hallway might be useful for floor decals, wall murals or short podcasts played through wall speakers. The room where they suit up might be perfect for a monitor with a touch screen to access the intranet, and an often-refreshed deck of digital signage playing when the monitor is not in use. If employees are using their phones at work, or in transition to work, we might consider an app or other online material.

Over the years, we’ve come up with some pretty weird touch points to reach non-desk employees. Can you pre-load the trucks the night before with a rearview mirror hangtag? Can you put printed floor mats inside the vans they drive around the site? Can you use mirror clings on restroom mirrors? Printed coffee cup wraps? Fortune cookies?

To communicate with manufacturing employees, you need to get out from behind your desk and go see where they work. There’s no substitute for being able to walk where they walk, see what they see, and hear what they hear.

Looking for new ways to reach your non-desk audience? Tribe can help.

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