Communicating with a mobile workforce03/03/2016
World in Motion
Internal Comms professionals face the perpetual challenge of conveying key information to a growing mobile workforce; whilst technology should in theory allow communication to flow more effectively, often there isn’t one solution that fits all employees working remotely.
There are so many channels to communicate with mobile workers and finding the right mechanism to ensure employees remain at the heart of everything a company does is paramount. How to truly engage with a remote workforce, keeping them informed of operational news and allow them to contribute to the ‘big picture’ should be high on any IC team’s agenda. The key lies in understanding the audience and providing engaging content that can work across a whole host of formats.
Workers generally fall into either the mobile or remote working categories and solutions for keeping these employees informed, motivated and engaged vary greatly. IC professionals need to clearly signpost the relevance and importance of each message to ensure that it’s not all lost and perceived as ‘white noise’ and consequently regarded as having little impact on employees’ day to day work. A useful exercise is to analyse what is working and ditch the ones that aren’t working. Review how your audience likes to receive information both professionally and personally and see what technology is available that they are likely to utilise and embrace.
Mobile by choice
The days of the 9-5 office based job are over - employees have the ability to have autonomy over their work days. The globalisation of business combined with the advancement in mobile technology provides a huge array of options for many workers who are keen to cut down the time and money spent on commuting and gaining a better work-life balance. Let’s not forget that it’s not just one sided – a remote workforce is beneficial for the company too – saving money on office space and equipment whilst increasing productivity as staff feel empowered.
The benefits of having a remote workforce are many, but managing teams from a distance can still be challenging, particularly for managers supervising staff they don’t meet face to face and where schedules are difficult to co-ordinate. There needs to be a balance between flexibility of workplace and productivity, and ensuring that everyone remains on target, on brand and on message.
Areas for consideration:
- The key is to ensure staff have the IT required to make them effective working from home, once this is nailed then communicating with them should pose less problems than if their devices and systems are frustratingly slow.
- Remote employees can stay in touch through myriad software options including emails, SMS, conference calls, video platforms and online meetings.
- Find time to schedule regular communication with managers to relay the company’s strategy, general updates, the global picture.
- Facilitate and encourage opportunities for mobile workers to socialise either formally or informally – they don’t have a watercooler to share stories, so create a forum that they can enjoy the wider company community. Mobile workers may love their flexibility, but that doesn’t mean they enjoy missing out on being part of the office culture. Try and get them to come on site occasionally.
- Town hall meetings remain important and an opportunity to have a face to face, don’t dismiss this as a vital form of communication.
Workforce on wheels
Reaching a workforce that is mobile, especially one without access to emails and whose performance/KPIs are often based upon their efficiency and delivery of their routes, means stopping to check an email using either their work or personal equipment is not a viable option.
Busy drivers, nurses, engineers only spend a few minutes each morning collecting the relevant equipment from the depot before heading out on the road. This brief checking in process only allows a very short period in which to hear company news. Given these realities, then the most effective strategy for communicating with a mobile workforce is to hire managers with excellent comms skills who can relay key information face to face in an impactful manner - mobile employees need information in order to serve your customers well.
Areas for consideration:
- Videos shown during site meetings can be a succinct way to reinforce key messages.
- Employees like hearing about ‘big picture’ messages from those that are responsible for implementing it. Coincide town hall meetings with shift changes to give the widest number of employees the chance to hear the messages.
- Regional meetings – it may mean hitting the road for senior staff, but time and effort invested will invariably pay off.
- Electronic signage boards where staff gather, displaying company news.
- Emails to personal addresses – although caution should be taken as this is not a preferred method for all staff.
- Brochures, newsletters, magazines, postcards mailed to home addresses can target specific employee groups. Don’t fall into the trap of believing print is dead, it can be incredibly effective if done right.
- Posters in break areas, entrances, exits also reinforce key messages and help build awareness of campaigns.
- Useful messages on a web portal, which can be accessed from staff rooms, mobile devices and home.
It’s important to deliver the message in the most impactful way to these workers, as invariably they are the staff closest to your product or with the greatest customer contact….yet they are usually the least well informed! Make this your priority; behaviour of individual employees is having a bigger effect on business than ever before as customers demand more from brands. These frontline staff have the potential to be your biggest brand advocates or detractors, and have a direct impact on the business bottom line – keeping them motivated should be one of the top 5 key strategies within your business.