Since the start of the pandemic, the use of digital tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex has proliferated amongst the global workforce. While the adoption of these tools plays an important part in securing business continuity, it also highlights existing communication gaps and challenges between companies and their non-desk or frontline workers.
Despite advances in communication technology such as the abovementioned communication platforms, email still remains the primary channel for employee communication, with over 306 billion emails sent and received globally in 2020! It is a means of communication that many businesses cannot operate without.
Currently, frontline workers make up 80% of the global workforce. They are often on their feet or on the go and don’t always have a company email address or even a connected device to access email.
As a primary means of communication, email is therefore not a suitable nor cost-effective solution for frontline workforces.
How then, do companies keep these workers in the communication loop?
In this article, we will look at four creative solutions to communicate effectively with your frontline workforce.
Introduce digital screens in strategic work areas
Digital screens offer a great way to share multimedia content with your frontline workforce and can be used as a means to tell employee or company stories. They also offer flexibility through the use of local vernacular or employing relatable characters. Thereby generating interest and momentum for initiatives or campaigns, whilst sharing important news and updates.
To maximise the benefits of this real-time and streamlined approach screens must be placed in strategic areas such as canteens, waiting areas, access control entrances/exits and meeting areas. Combined with a strong communications strategy the digitising of your messages via screens has the potential to transform the way you convey messages and potentially boost engagement levels.
Install interactive digital media, like kiosks, on the factory floor
Depending on the organisational culture and the technical capability amongst your employees, you can consider introducing interactive digital media like kiosks where you can run polls and surveys to get engagement.
There’s a mix of ages in most organisations and mature team members may have trouble operating interactive kiosks, so you might need to consider providing training, or introducing a peer-to-peer learning environment. In this way, you will create an opportunity for all employees to extract value from the technology.
BUT even though digital screens and kiosks are already widely used they are not particularly effective. Workers need to be in a particular location to see the digital screen and many frontline employees are often moving about on the go, so do not have access to this information. Kiosks are also location-specific which means workers do not have access to the necessary information anytime anywhere.
So, what is a possible solution?
Build a communication app
Traditionally, communication among frontline workers has been dominated by outdated and inefficient approaches, such as paper-based processes including lunchroom notices, flyers, or even printed shift schedules. This is no longer an effective way of communicating; it leaves too much room for human error which can potentially result in costly mistakes for a business.
Digitally enabled businesses can empower frontline workers with improved, more informed decision-making, as well as increased productivity in the workplace.
In fact, according to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 72% of business respondents found productivity had increased when empowering their frontline workers.
With this in mind, it is worth considering the development of a mobile communication app that can streamline company-wide communication.
Use Short Message Services (SMS) and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) features
Not all frontline employees have access to smartphones but are on feature phones instead. One way to overcome this is through the use of SMS or USSD.
SMS and USSD features are particularly helpful for operational purposes like communicating shift changes, production challenges, and critical health issues such as a colleague testing positive for COVID-19. These methods of communication are ideally suited for workforces who largely use feature phones.
SMS offers the benefit of immediacy and can also aid the large-scale coordination of workforces in the instance of nationwide lockdowns, for example.
Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) offers a valuable way to run surveys and receive feedback from staff who don’t have access to smartphones or the internet.
Across all industries, companies are under pressure to operate more quickly and with greater intelligence than ever before. There is no doubt that ‘empowering frontline workers with information and insight is key to future success.’
Therefore, closing the digital divide that currently exists between companies and their frontline workers has become vitally important. The good news is that with the right tools and technology this is achievable.
Find out more about the business case for employee engagement here.
To connect your frontline employees, talk to an expert today.