Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

To reach non-desk employees, walk through a day in their shoes

Do you think your frontline, manufacturing or retail employees don’t notice that you’re not talking to them? They do, according to Tribe’s research with non-desk employees of large companies nationwide.

Even worse, they interpret a lack of internal communications as a lack of respect. When non-desk workers don’t hear from their company leadership, they assume it’s because their day-to-day contributions to the company’s success are simply not valued at the top.

Of course, it’s not easy to reach all those employees who aren’t sitting in front of computers all day. But that’s not a great excuse not to try. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

At Tribe, we recommend looking for touch points that are unique to your employee population. It helps to go out to the plant or the store or the hotel. Walk in the employees’ shoes, go through the paces of their days. Where do they enter the building when they come to work? Where do they eat lunch? Where do they park? Are they driving a truck, operating machinery, loading boxes or standing on a retail floor? We look for touch points that might be less obvious than a poster in the break room.

Over the years, we’ve come up with some pretty weird touch points to reach non-desk employees. Can you pre-load the trucks the night before with a rearview mirror hangtag? Can you put signage inside the van they ride to work from the off-site parking lot? Can you use floor decals? Window clings on restroom mirrors? Fortune cookies?

You need to understand the physical environment to find those untapped touch points. The trick is to get out from behind your desk and go see what it’s like out there. If you’ve already done that and have come up with some really smart touch points, we’d love to hear about it.

Looking for new ways to reach your non-desk audience? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

4 Methods for Reaching Employees Without Computers

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 improving communications with your offline employees? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Look for unexpected touch points to communicate with offline workers

Do you think your frontline, manufacturing or retail employees don’t notice that you’re not talking to them? They do, according to Tribe’s research with non-desk employees of large companies nationwide.

Even worse, they interpret a lack of internal communications as a lack of respect. When non-desk workers don’t hear from their company leadership, they assume it’s because their day-to-day contributions to the company’s success are simply not valued at the top.

Of course, it’s not easy to reach all those employees who aren’t sitting in front of computers all day. But that’s not a great excuse not to try. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

At Tribe, we recommend looking for touch points that are unique to your employee population. It helps to go out to the plant or the store or the hotel. Walk in the employees’ shoes, go through the paces of their days. Where do they enter the building when they come to work? Where do they eat lunch? Where do they park? Are they driving a truck, operating machinery, loading boxes or standing on a retail floor?  We look for touch points that might be less obvious than a poster in the break room.

Over the years, we’ve come up with some pretty weird touch points to reach non-desk employees. Can you pre-load the trucks the night before with a rearview mirror hangtag? Can you put signage inside the van they ride to work from the off-site parking lot? Can you use floor decals? Window clings on restroom mirrors? Fortune cookies?

You need to understand the physical environment to find those untapped touch points. The trick is to get out from behind your desk and go see what it’s like out there. If you’ve already done that and have come up with some really smart touch points, we’d love to hear about it.

Looking for new ways to reach your non-desk audience? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

TRIBE TRIVIA: Cascading information to offline employees

Q: True or False: The cascading method of sharing communications with non-desk employees replaces the need for corporate to communicate directly with this hard-to-reach audience.

A: False, according to Tribe’s national research with non-desk employees. 72 percent of respondents said communication from their top management is important to them. 84 percent said the information they get from the top is “not enough,” and 34 percent said they hear from corporate “hardly ever.”

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe. 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Internal communications trends: Three positive changes

The internal communications field has come a long way in the past decade or so. The Thanksgiving holiday has me thinking about what I’m thankful for in our business, and three positive changes come to mind.

1. Non-Desk: There’s a new awareness of the importance of communicating directly with offline employees, and more companies are making it a priority to find ways to connect this difficult-to-reach audience. Although cascading information through direct managers remains a default channel for manufacturing, sales and hospitality workforces, more and more of the companies we meet with are already convinced that a critical component of their internal communications strategy will be finding touch points to connect with those employees who aren’t sitting in front of a computer all day.

I remember meeting with the CEO of a manufacturing company in my home state of North Carolina and trying to convince him of the need to communicate with employees outside his corporate headquarters building. He saw no need to spend money on the many employees in all his plants scattered across the state in small towns. When I pushed him on the issue, citing the importance of engagement in that population and its business benefits, he looked at me and said, “Elizabeth, we’re the only game in town. Where else are they gonna work?”

2. Vision and Values: A decade ago, many companies viewed this as a soft topic without clear business benefits. Tribe was far more likely to be called in to help with reorgs and layoffs than with communicating the vision. If top management gave any attention to this area, it was often to develop crazy long mission statements that covered every possible cliché clause. Then they’d print those up and hang them in the company reception area, and that was that.

Nowadays, a large part of our business is working with companies to create employee alignment with leadership’s vision and to help them see how their individual roles contribute to the success of that vision. A critical element of that is finding ways to bring the company values to life, in the sense that employees throughout the company are guided by those values when they make day-to-day decisions in their jobs. 

3. Talent: In the old days, internal communications wasn’t always where the star talent showed up. Young creatives, and I include myself in this group, were drawn to what we saw as the glamor and excitement of consumer branding. And truly, it was a lot of fun to shoot television spots in New York and LA, settling in for ten days or so at a great hotel, eating on expense account at all the trendiest restaurants.

Fortunately Millennials place a priority on meaningful work, and they are increasingly drawn to our field. Many most talented young writers, designers and strategic thinkers are attracted by the opportunity to help improve the quality of work life — and to make work more meaningful — to employees in companies across the globe.

So I’m grateful. It’s a good time to be in our business, and a privilege to have seen it evolve over the past stretch of years.

Interested in strengthening your company’s internal communications? Tribe can help.