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Internal Communications For Deskless Workers Is Hard. Here’s Why

For the longest time, our office policies and processes have been designed keeping the knowledge workforce in mind. This is true even for internal communications.

Be it email broadcasts for updates, social intranet for company-wide announcements, or even messaging-based apps for quick feedback, IC tools and strategies have so far catered to only the most visible part of our workforce.

For those working behind-the-scenes, either on the factory floor, in a call center, in a store, in catering, in the reception desk, or in an oil rig, the same playbook simply breaks down, at multiple levels.

Why’s that you ask? Let’s start with the workstyles of the two segments:

Internal comms for deskless workers does not follow traditional rules of management.

In traditional settings, the process for communicating with deskless workers is as follows: the information is sent to individual locations/units — mostly via email — and lands on the supervisor’s desktop. Because all employees are rarely present at the same time, and are without a desk, the manager is unable to relay the information directly to everyone. Instead information is distributed over the black board, between shifts and through the grapevine.

The result? Significant information dilution.

That’s one of the main reasons why impactful internal communication is so hard to establish with the deskless workforce.

By the time a piece of communication percolates to the bottom, all the purpose and motivation packed into it gets whittled down to bare minimum instructions. And if in case there’s a perceived gap in communication, it sets off the wrong kind of butterfly effect.

One can see that history has been rife with such mishaps: Be it British Petroleum’s oil spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, or the abandonment of distressed sailors by luxury cruise Star Princess, or the case of Nokia losing out on its marketshare.. ineffective communication practices between top management and deskless workers has been their undoing.

Internal communications without the right infrastructure can cripple strategies in more ways than one. Consider the basic principles that guide the praxis of an internal communications, developed by teams at IBM and Bloomberg LP:

An internal communications strategy should be:

Data driven, measurable
Personal, specific and actionable
Collaborative and enabling
Sensitive to employee time and attention
Creatively designed

Points 1,2, 3 are particularly important as it helps convey meaningful outcomes to stakeholders. A lack of a robust communication channel renders these three impractical. In a matter of seconds, the sustenance of your internal comms strategy comes under question.

To make sure that never happens, we’ll share ideas on how to design IC strategies for your deskless workers in the next post. We’ll also share features that you must look for while evaluating tools for the same.

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