We often speak of the importance of communicating with your non-desk (or unplugged) employees. Even if you’re cascading information through their managers, we recommend having at least one channel from corporate that goes directly to the frontline. The cascading method can be hit or miss, depending on the communication skills of individual managers. When top leadership shares directly to non-desk employees, it helps those employees feel respected and that their contributions are valued. (For more on the importance of communicating respect, you might like this Forbes piece. For five common mistakes in frontline communications, see this Best Practices one-pager.)
TWO-WAY COMMUNICATIONS FOR THE FRONTLINE
But sending communications to these frontline employees is only part of the equation. Listening is the other. Providing the means for them to communicate directly with corporate can provide a rich source of customer information. These employees are the ones interacting with customers, delivering on that brand promise, and they see things that corporate can’t. Asking for their insights and ideas can provide incredibly powerful market research.
Hotel employees might know that the new shower attachments are positioned at an angle that causes guests to spray the bathroom floor the second they turn on the shower. Nurses might understand that family members are having trouble moving the heavy armchairs in patient rooms closer to the bed, so they can hold their loved one’s hand or talk to a patient with poor hearing. Waste management drivers might notice that customers are putting large junk items beside their garbage cans, hoping to have that old lawnmower or vacuum cleaner hauled away with the kitchen trash.
ASK FOR THEIR IDEAS
Employees may have all sorts of solutions to common problems or ideas for ways to improve, but you might have to let them know their input is welcome — and then acknowledge that it was received. For a hospitality client, we once ran a Bold Idea contest open to all employees. To make sure we got responses from employees outside the corporate office, we shipped giant cardboard kiosks to each hotel property. Employees could jot an idea on the attached entry forms (in English or Spanish) and drop in in the kiosk’s slot. We shot videos of each of the top three winners and honored them at the next big company-wide meeting. Not only did the company get some viable ideas for initiatives they wanted to implement, but frontline employees throughout the organization realized their ideas could be truly beneficial for the company.
COMPLAINTS CAN ALSO BE GOOD INFO
Sometimes leadership or communications staff are reluctant to open up two-way communication because they fear most of what they’ll hear will be complaints. But those complaints can supply useful information too. If frontline employees are frustrated by their managers, or find a process cumbersome, or need support in some way, it’s far better to know it. Then corporate has some hope of addressing the issue. Just because you don’t give employees a way to voice complaints doesn’t mean they’re not complaining.
Interested in improving communications with your frontline? Tribe can help.