In today’s world there are still a large number of employees who do not have access to emails or a computer, and while many organisations are relying more heavily on digital channels, it means that a huge population of people are missing out on internal communications. Of course there are benefits for businesses going digital - you can talk to employees instantly, in any geographical location and in more cost and time efficient ways. But for front-line, plant and factory workers, if communication is poor it can have a detrimental impact not only on their working lives, but on the performance of the organisation. For many employees in this situation, lack of communication can lead to isolation, frustration and a feeling of being undervalued and out of the business loop.
As internal communicators in the manufacturing, hospitality, automotive and health sectors, engaging hard to reach employees in a meaningful way can prove tricky. Non-desk employees do not tend to have access to computers or a smart phone. Another challenge is that their roles often mean they have limited time and may not have regular contact with their manager or peers. Our research into internal communication for these hard to reach employees found that this group receive the least amount of communication than any other group and often when they do, little thought has been put into how this information will make them think, feel and act.
We found that 84% of hard to reach employees feel that they are not getting enough communications and feel disconnected from the business. Considering that this population are generally the largest group of employees, the big question for IC is how might we communicate more effectively with this population?
Many IC teams really struggle to connect with hard to reach employees, but throughout our research we discovered that the simplest solutions were often the most impactful.
If you truly want to engage this group we would recommend you to:
- Have hard to reach employees high on your agenda – develop a strategy specific to this group and make communicating with them your priority. It’s really important that both the planned and well thought out communications exist, as well as the spontaneous and everyday conversations happen on the shop floor. Ask yourself how agile your organisations internal communications are? As we become more sophisticated with our communications and move to roll out more online; stop and think, is that right channel to inform, involve, ignite, or invite offline employees, or is the “old-fashioned” face-to-face method still best?
- Communicate in plain, simple language that’s ‘real’ and puts a personality into your message - forget the jargon, acronyms and management terminology that we commonly fall into, and craft messages that genuinely connect with people at a personal level. As Simon Sinek says, start by communicating why it’s important.
- Involve managers – they are the eyes, ears and voice in the organisation – managers hold a great deal of influence over the way a message is delivered and received. You could and start by enhancing the communication skills of managers. A really valuable exercise is for managers to ask hard to reach employees to share what’s important to them from a communications perspective and how they would like to communicate.