INCLUSIVE COMMUNICATIONS FOR FRONTLINE EMPLOYEES

Frontline employees

A version of this article recently appeared on Forbes.com

Communicating with all those employees sitting in front of computers is easy. But if your workforce includes frontline employees in manufacturing, retail, hospitality or healthcare, you may have to work a little harder to be inclusive of that unplugged audience.

The benefits of that extra effort may include higher employee engagement, increased trust in leadership and helping front-line employees feel seen and valued. Also, this audience can offer important intel on the customer and/or the production process. Since frontline employees are the ones interacting with your customers and making the products, they have a unique understanding of problems and opportunities that corporate may not be aware of. Whatever your brand promise is, these are the people delivering on that promise.


Find Ways To Reach Them Beyond The Cascade

In the past decade, the channels available for internal communications have expanded incredibly. While we once relied on printed newsletters and pre-shift huddles, we now have mobile intranets, digital publications, digital signage, employee apps and more. But we still see many companies depending almost completely on the cascade method: trusting managers to be the communications channel between corporate and their frontline employees.

One common issue with this audience is that many companies don’t give company email addresses to frontline employees. That’s where smartphone apps and mobile access to the intranet can help, but we also recommend looking for unexpected touch points in their physical work environments.

Go see where they work

That’s why we believe it’s so important to visit the factories, retail stores, hospitals and other front-line locations. By putting yourself in these frontline employees’ physical environment, you may notice potential communications touch points in the break rooms, the stairwells or the employee entrances. That’s how Tribe has been able to develop unique channels for our clients, like window decals in employee parking lot shelters, floor mats and mirror hang tags in truck fleets, and murals in tunnels between buildings.

It’s also important to make frontline employees more visible in your internal communications. Let them see people in jobs like their own featured in newsletters, on the intranet and in videos.

Provide A Feedback Loop For Sharing Ideas With Corporate

There’s more to a successful communications plan than just spewing information at your audience. Put two-way communications in place so that frontline employees can share questions or concerns as well as suggestions and ideas.

If the same problem is an issue for numerous frontline employees, having knowledge of that problem gives corporate the opportunity to address it. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. And often, what unplugged employees want to share is not problems or complaints but observations or ideas about things that could be done better. This can be invaluable information for corporate.

The channel for this feedback loop can be as simple as an email address or a form on the intranet. But think about including more than one way for frontline employees to communicate. You might invite them to submit questions or comments for a town hall. You can encourage them to share concerns or ideas with their managers, and then make it a priority for managers to send those messages up to the appropriate corporate representative. You can also work to include unplugged employees in your engagement surveys, either by providing access to computers or tablets or paper surveys they can fill out.

One word of caution, however: Don’t let employee comments fall into a black hole. They need to know that their communication was received and that management will consider it. Find a method for acknowledging their feedback and let them know if and when you take any action as a result of their input.

Although making internal communications more inclusive of your frontline employees may take a little more effort and creativity, consider the multiple benefits of investing that time and energy. And remind yourself that we have many more communications tools at our disposal now than ever before.

Interested in making your internal communications more inclusive of frontline employees? Tribe can help.

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