Brittany Walker

4 Reasons Not to Give Up on Communicating to Frontline Employees

Many companies with great internal communications have trouble reaching their non-desk employees. Why? Because communicating to employees who aren’t behind a desk all day can be hard. Whether it’s your sales force, retail team, physicians, manufacturing line or delivery drivers, frontline employees are often those who need to hear from corporate the most. Here are four reasons why sticking with a non-desk communications strategy could benefit your business.

1. You can’t expect employees to be aligned with the vision if they don’t know what it is. It’s no secret that many companies overlook communicating with non-desk employees. But it could be a big miss not to engage your frontline employees in the vision of the company to make them feel part of something bigger. In fact, Tribe’s national study on non-desk workers underlines the importance of communicating the company’s vision and values to this employee population.

2. Consistent corporate communication builds engagement. Many companies leave most – if not all – internal communications with frontline employees to their supervisors. While cascading communications can successfully deliver messages when executed correctly, our research indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top leadership interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

3. Frontline employees can have a tremendous impact on the customer experience. Whether the customer is an individual consumer or a business, they’re probably interacting with those non-desk workers. It is up to these employees to deliver on your brand promise.

4. Visibility from corporate is often something they crave. Just because many companies aren’t talking to non-desk workers doesn’t mean they don’t want communication from top management regarding the internal brand. Trust us, employees who work the overnight shift often appreciate these communications more than anyone else. We know because they’ve told us.

Need help with your non-desk communications strategy? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Keeping Frontline Employees in the Loop: 4 Tips

How does your company communicate with employees on the frontline, the retail floor or the factory line? Many companies leave all internal communications with non-desk workers to their immediate supervisors. Tribe’s national study with the non-desk employee population indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top management interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

But how do you reach employees who are in stores, distribution centers, restaurants and out driving trucks all day? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as you must consider the physical realities of their days and think creatively to identify potential touch points. Generally, Tribe recommends a combination of high-tech and low-tech solutions to build channels from corporate to the front lines.

For starters, Tribe also recommends the following four approaches:

1.    LOOP THEM IN: Commit to at least one channel through which non-desk employees will hear from management. This could be a town-hall meeting via video for manufacturing employees, a recorded message accessed through an 800 number, or even a quarterly letter from the CEO mailed to employees’ homes.

2.    ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK: Having corporate management talk to this audience is a good step, but you also need to create opportunities for these employees to share their comments and views. Two-way communication methods — from the ability to comment on changes in the company, to soliciting ideas for improving systems and processes — demonstrate management’s respect and the desire to understand the realities of these employees’ jobs.

3.    MAKE THEM HEROES: Spotlight frontline and field workers and celebrate their contributions, through regular bio pieces in a company publication, recognition programs or contests that highlight employee performance.

4.    TAKE THE CEO TO THE PEOPLE: Again, there’s no substitute for giving employees a chance to meet face-to-face with top management, and it’s particularly meaningful to non-desk employees. Look for opportunities to have members of your leadership team visit stores, plants and other facilities so they can rub elbows with the people doing the most important work of your company.

Interested in communication channels that work for your non-desk employees? Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

The growing importance of mobile

This week, Cisco released it’s numbers on mobile devices in 2014. And the results were clear. We’re moving quickly toward becoming a majority-mobile society. You’ve seen the latest tech: wearable devices like Samsung and Apple’s smart watches; smart thermostats and smoke detectors from companies like Nest. We are becoming more and more dependent on the grid and the Internet of Things. Simply put, we have tech in almost every aspect of our lives, at home and on the go. Here are the numbers for average mobile users in 2014:

585 MB Traffic/month

  • 3 hours of video
  • 3 hours of audio
  • 10 video calls
  • 4 app downloads

But perhaps more interestingly, they also released their predictions for mobile use in 2019. Based on the trends for this year, Cisco surmised what the tech world will look like in five years. Initially, I was shocked at the results. But considering the leap we’ve made since 2010, the year of the first iPad and “check-in” apps, it is a plausible jump. Here are the predicted numbers for 2019:

4.4 GB Traffic/month

  • 30 hours of video
  • 10 hours of audio
  • 10 video calls
  • 20 app downloads

People are becoming more and more accustomed to doing almost everything on mobile devices. Cisco also sees wearable tech increasing by almost five-fold. It’s also interesting to note that though these numbers represent the average global user, the study suggests that North Americans will play a significant role in the increase.

This shows a huge potential for mobile in the workplace. Some of the main reasons companies are weary of investing in mobile is the fear that it will be underutilized, that people will be unable to take advantage of the features or that it will cost too much. And even though the future of mobile is impossible to see, these numbers should put to rest most of those concerns.

Employees need mobile. In an increasingly on-the-go society, employees need more options to receive company information. Tribe’s research shows that employees want and need to process information in different ways and through different channels. And especially for younger generations and non-desk workers, mobile is fast becoming the preferred alternate channel. If these trends continue (and we think they will) in the coming years, more options will become available and your company will be able to cater to what employees want.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Four ways that end-of-year CEO message can reach non-desk employees

Is your CEO planning to send that ubiquitous annual holiday email to employees? If so, see this excellent blog by Sharon McIntosh. Sharon was a client of Tribe when she was at Pepsi, where CEO Indra Nooyi, who is awesome, likely made none of the mistakes Sharon advises against.

There’s one potential footfall Sharon doesn’t mention. Unless your company is all office workers, that mass email is leaving out an important audience: all those employees who work on the manufacturing line, the frontline, the retail floor or in any other job that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer.

In Tribe’s national research, 84 percent of these non-desk employees said they don’t receive enough communication from executive leadership. And over 72 percent said communication from top management is important to them.

Don’t think that cascading communications through their managers is going to do the trick. Non-desk employees cite two major downfalls with the cascading system. One is that different managers communicate at different times, or sometimes not at all, leaving some employees more in the loop than others. The other issue is the inconsistency of the message. More than one research subject likened it to the kids’ game of Telephone, where the message becomes increasingly garbled as it’s passed from one person to the next.

Employees especially want to hear directly from C-level when the communication is about vision and values. And one would hope the annual CEO letter at least touches on where the company is heading.

So what’s a CEO to do? Reaching non-desk workers is more difficult, but that’s not a good enough reason to skip it. Here are a few channels to consider.

1. Send a letter, not an email. The simplest possible solution is an actual printed letter from the CEO, in an envelope, mailed to each employee’s home.

2. While you’re at it, send a vision book. Tribe recently developed a vision book for a large healthcare organization that was delivered by mail to employees’ home addresses, accompanied by a letter from the CEO. This vision piece can help non-desk employees better understand the vision and how their individual jobs support that vision, which in turn raises engagement.

3. Create a year-end publication to inspire pride. Another recent Tribe project is an annual magazine for a large building materials and consumer products company. A letter from the CEO opens the publication, which covers a wide range of company accomplishments over the past year, from new innovations to acquisitions, from safety milestones to product introductions. The over-sized photography features employees — many of them non-desk workers — from a wide range of their facilities and plants. The photos are shot in a style that makes the employees look like the heroes that they are, out there in their hardhats operating the equipment that makes the stuff the company sells.

4. Use mobile to communicate with non-desk. If the year-end CEO communication needs to be digital, include non-desk employees by texting a link. Better yet, develop an app that keeps them in the loop all year long. About half of all US adults own smartphones, but the numbers for non-desk employees are often higher, particularly for those employees in lower-paying jobs who are less likely to have their own computer at home. Tribe recently surveyed employees of a retail client and found that a crazy huge group of them– 91 percent — have smartphones.

Ready to find ways to communicate with your non-desk employees? Tribe can help.

 

Brittany Walker

Four reasons to communicate with frontline employees, even when it’s hard

Many companies with great internal communications have trouble reaching frontline employees. Why? Because communicating with employees who are hard to reach is difficult. Whether it is your sales force, retail team, physicians, manufacturing line or delivery drivers, frontline employees are often those who need to hear from corporate the most.

1. Communication builds engagement. Many companies leave all internal communications with frontline employees to their immediate supervisors. Tribe’s national study with the non-desk employee population indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top management interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

2. They often crave the visibility from corporate. Just because many companies aren’t talking to non-desk workers doesn’t mean they don’t want communication from top management regarding the internal brand. Trust us, employees who work the overnight shift often appreciate these communications more than anyone else. We know because they’ve told us.

3. Because non-desk workers can have a tremendous impact on the customer experience. Whether the customer is an individual consumer a business, they’re interacting with those non-desk workers. It is up to these employees to deliver on your brand promise.

4. You can’t expect employees to be aligned with the vision if they don’t know what it is. It’s no secret that many companies overlook communicating with non-desk employees. But it’s a huge mistake not to engage your frontline employees in the vision of the company to make them feel part of something bigger. In fact, Tribe’s research on non-desk workers underlines the importance of communicating the company’s vision and values to this employee population.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Providing Communication Tools for Direct Managers Can Solve Multiple Problems

In many, if not most, large companies, communication from corporate is cascaded through direct managers. For instance, corporate will email managers the news, and then managers are expected to share that news with their people.

This is particularly common with non-desk employees, like those on the retail floor, in the distribution centers, the manufacturing facilities and out in the field. Since these employees rarely have company email addresses, corporate deems them nearly impossible to reach, except through their managers.

In Tribe’s research, employees have two concerns about communications that come through their managers. The first is timeliness, in that some managers will share with their team right away, others will eventually get around to it, and still others may never do it. Corporate often has no way of knowing whether the information has in fact been shared or not.

The other issue employees often cite is inconsistency of message. Human nature being what it is, each manager will filter the information through their own lens. Employees in our research often referenced the childhood game of Telephone, where a message is whispered from one person to the next to the next until what the last person in line hears bares little resemblance to the original message.

Tribe’s research also indicates that many direct managers may struggle with this process. In our most recent study, 53 percent wanted online tools to help them communicate with their teams more effectively. This could be a comprehensive online tool kit of PowerPoint presentations, email templates and videos. Or it could be as simple as providing a one-pager of talking points and maybe another page of FAQ.

Either way, these communication tools address several issues at once. They increase the likelihood that direct managers will indeed share corporate communications with their teams. They promote consistency of message. And they help both the direct managers and their direct reports feel supported and valued.

Of course, in most cases Tribe would also recommend some corporate communications that go directly to employees rather than through their managers. In our research, 72 percent said that hearing from their top management is important to them. And 84 percent said they currently receive “not enough” information from corporate.

Even with employees who don’t have company email addresses, direct communication from corporate is quite feasible. If you’d like to know more, just ask us. We’d be happy to help.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Four approaches for reaching frontline and field employees

How does your company communicate with employees on the frontline, the retail floor or the factory line? Many companies leave all internal communications with non-desk workers to their immediate supervisors. Tribe’s national study with the non-desk employee population* indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top management interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

But how do you reach employees who are in stores, distribution centers, restaurants and out driving trucks all day? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as you must consider the physical realities of their days and think creatively to identify potential touch points. Generally, Tribe recommends a combination of high-tech and low-tech solutions to build channels from corporate to the front lines.

For starters, Tribe also recommends the following four approaches:

1.    LOOP THEM IN: Commit to at least one channel through which non-desk employees will hear from management. This could be a town-hall meeting via video for manufacturing employees, a recorded message accessed through an 800 number, or even a quarterly letter from the CEO mailed to employees’ homes.

2.    ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK: Having corporate management talk to this audience is a good step, but you also need to create opportunities for these employees to share their comments and views. Two-way communication methods — from the ability to comment on changes in the company, to soliciting ideas for improving systems and processes — demonstrate management’s respect and the desire to understand the realities of these employees’ jobs.

3.    MAKE THEM HEROES: Spotlight frontline and field workers and celebrate their contributions, through regular bio pieces in a company publication, recognition programs or contests that highlight employee performance.

4.    TAKE THE CEO TO THE PEOPLE: Again, there’s no substitute for giving employees a chance to meet face-to-face with top management, and it’s particularly meaningful to non-desk employees. Look for opportunities to have members of your leadership team visit stores, plants and other facilities so they can rub elbows with the people doing the most important work of your company.

For the white paper on  Tribe’s non-desk research, see “Communicating with Non-Desk Workers,” at www.tribeinc.com/bestpractices.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What’s so important about communicating with non-desk employees?

Many companies with excellent internal communications do a poor job keeping non-desk employees in the loop. But it’s a huge mistake not to engage your frontline employees in the vision and values of the company, the brand promise the company makes to consumers and what the brand stands for in the world.

Why? Because these are the very employees who are delivering on your brand promise. Or not. You can spend zillions of dollars on advertising and raise your awareness through the roof, but one surly drive-thru attendant can ruin the customer experience.

They’re all ears. Just because many companies aren’t talking to non-desk workers doesn’t mean they don’t want communication from top management regarding the internal brand. We know because we asked them.

Tribe’s recent study with non-desk employees indicates that these workers are craving more corporate input. Anne Fisher of CNNMoney reported on Tribe’s research in an article called “Note to executives: Your employees are in the dark.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

 

Cascading Information to the Front Lines

After you’ve developed your cascading communication plan and begin sending out messages to managers, what guarantees do you have that they’re actually making it all the way to the frontlines? This is a challenge many internal communicators face every day, and one that has many different solutions.

One of the goals of cascading communications is that it creates a face-to-face interaction between managers and employees. This provides frontline workers with opportunities to ask questions, share feedback and expand their knowledge of the topic being discussed. When the information doesn’t make it to its intended targets, the breakdown can affect employee performance and prevent companies from reaching their objectives.

The reasons for the communication breakdown are things everyone has encountered before. Some mangers are too busy and honestly don’t have time to have a sit-down with their team. Some filter the information based on what they think is important for their people to know. And another group simply doesn’t care what they are “supposed” to do, they just make up their own rules.

This is an area covered in Tribe’s white paper, Communicating with Non-Desk Employees. The previously stated reasons why cascade communications sometimes fail contributed to one of the main insights from the paper: Depending solely on supervisors to communicate is a mistake.

However, not all of the blame should be put on the managers themselves. Before you start pointing the finger and playing the blame game, first you may want to consider your own role in all of this as a communicator. Is the information you provide important enough that you would spend time discussing it? What about the message itself? Is it written in a clear and concise way that’s easily absorbed by its target audience?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” it may be time to go back to the drawing board. There are many different message delivery channels to use, and many creative elements to incorporate that will help guarantee your communication reaches its intended audience.

Are you encountering these challenges with your communications? Tribe is well versed in developing solutions to help connect your messages with their intended audience. Feel free to reach out and let us know how we can help.