by | Aug 27, 2020

We’re several months into the pandemic now. High time to let all those frontline employees know that they’re not just essential workers — they’re also respected and valued.

That takes more than generic thank-you signage in the stores, factories and distribution centers. Telling essential employees that they’re heroes can fall flat when concrete evidence of their value doesn’t follow.

Essential, but expendable

Hero pay (called hazard pay or thank-you pay by some companies) was certainly welcome, whether it was a one-time bonus or higher hourly pay. Although in many cases that was a short-term perk that’s since expired.

Ironically, hero pay seemed to make some essential workers resentful. One Starbucks barista said, in regards to his $3 an hour raise, “”It feels like Starbucks could’ve been paying me this the whole time, and they’re just choosing to do it now to help me feel better,” according to this piece on NPR.

Frontline employees are also facing more hazardous conditions at work. Grocery store employees are dealing with customers who are angry about being asked to wear masks, being told they can’t bring in their own reusable bags or just that their favorite brand of toilet paper still isn’t in stock. Employees at Dollar General and similar retail chains are even finding themselves facing down armed robbers.

Instead of feeling appreciated, many essential employees seem to be experiencing a lack of support from their employers along with a sense of expendability. And with the current unemployment numbers, there’s a grain of truth to that.

Making their communication channels a priority

One of the ways companies can show that they value these frontline workers is to include them in their internal communications priorities.

These non-desk employees make up the majority of the employee audience in many companies, yet their internal communications channels may be limited to the occasional poster or flyer and information cascaded through their managers. It’s harder to reach employees who aren’t sitting in front of computers, but not impossible. (Find four strategies for reaching these essential employees in Beyond Cascading.)

If the company truly values these essential employees, the people who often create the customer experience and deliver on the brand promise, they can demonstrate that by finding channels for them to access company news and information — and to share their feedback, questions and concerns with corporate.

Tribe’s approach to non-desk channels begins with understanding the physical environment of the frontline employees. Are they standing, walking or driving? Is it noisy? Where do they enter the building? Where do they take their breaks?

No silver bullet

There’s not one right answer to the best channels to reach frontline or non-desk employees. Sometimes there’s not even just one right answer for a specific company, because their essential workers might include several different physical work environments.

The pandemic has provided many businesses an opportunity to re-examine and re-invent. If those frontline employees are truly essential to your company’s success, maybe now’s the time to re-think how corporate communicates with them.

Interested in finding new ways to connect with your essential workers? Tribe can help.

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