Knowledge repository for blue-collar workforce management

These 4 Internal Communication Practices Drove Engagement For 1000s of Deskless Workers

Straight from the horse’s..err.. our mouth.

In the previous, we saw how IC tools now facilitate more than just communications and how it can transform the employee engagement landscape. When a solid strategy meets with some great tools, here’s what happens:

Employee Engagement → Employee Conversations → Employee Experiences

After much trial and error, we hit upon some of the sure-shot ways of kickstarting and sustaining employee engagement, while also facilitating great employee experiences. Here are our top 4 practices.

1) Find ways to make conversations bidirectional

Internal comms strategies have always been designed to be top-down, especially so for the deskless workforce. The barista, the mailman, the construction worker or the retail sales agent, are all just given instructions to carry out everyday “tasks”. It’s no surprise that these industries have high churn, low motivation, and low engagement.

What we did: We tweaked with the top-down communication structure without destroying its original framework. We enabled two-way communication between management and employees, and also seeded peer-to-peer conversations. To accomplish this, we identified those topics where deskless workers could weigh in on, and those which were outside of purview of discussion. We put in strict controls and appointed the management to moderate conversations. At the end of the day, these social conversations retained the work-related flavor, but had a dash of informality for employees to enjoy it during breaks.

2) Give them a platform to showcase everyday work

Deskless workers don’t always work out of the office. As their job demands them to be on the field, or with customers, they’re mostly working solo all the time. In such a case, the social and value networks, which are deemed important to stay in a job, becomes hard to create. With no little or no sync up with the team (if they even have one), they’re bound to feel lost and have motivation levels dip through the week.

What we did: We put the same control structures we spoke of earlier and gave them a platform to SEE what their peers were doing. We also allowed them to share their everyday stories and opened it up for social validation within the company. Humans love to have a sense of affirmation and yearn to be a part of something larger than themselves. In putting this theory to practice, we enabled engagement to grow organically within organizations. Employees are now more connected to their peers and have a semblance of social and value networks.

3) Set up structures to encourage peer-based learning

The difficulty in scheduling, training and proving effectiveness of new modules can be daunting, especially in the case of deskless workers. Trainers who work for this segment of learners can surely vouch for this. The tight schedules and on-field nature of work do not help either party. That’s a shame because training can be a great IC hook for employee engagement.

What we did: We helped companies digitize and deliver their training in a manner that fostered competition and delivered outcomes. This win-win formula had a few specific ingredients. A tight content plan, a spotlight on those who were completing training, a safe space for employees to ask doubts, to name a few. All these factors encouraged the rest of the employees to step up and finish their course within the stipulated time. It also cut down training time by 87%! The ongoing conversations around doubts and completion, in-turn created a buzz for the big bang quiz at the end of the module. Besides awarding performers, we also looked for knowledge gaps and improved training effectiveness. The result? An attendance rate of about 70% for most quizzes, with an average score of above 80%. Our favorite moment was when an employee asked: “When are we going to have the next quiz?”

Find effective ways to identify and resolve grievances

The issues for the deskless workforce could range from tech functionality (“Not able to log on to my work email”), professional grievances (“Not received a reimbursement on my gas bill”, “Need an advance on my salary”, ), or personal issues (“Came under a racial attack from Tom, yesterday”).. you get the idea. One way to solve this would be to ignore the complaints, have employees discuss grievances in public, let it snowball and become a PR nightmare. Another way could be to have one person to man all such issues, have her/him connect to the relevant department to resolve them. While effective, it was not the most efficient. The bureaucracy involved could eat up a significant portion of everyone’s time.

What we did: Set up a complaints channel, where employees could air concerns and issues to the immediate boss, privately and discreetly anytime. It was more real-time than email and more secure than chat. The issues went directly to the person involved, details were stored in a central repository, and complete issue resolution became a part of the manager’s KRA. The manager was incentivized to solve issues, while the employees could focus on the work to be done.

Engaged employees care about the customers because their leaders care about them. It’s a follow-on effect.

To help the management identify latent issues, we devised a method to encourage employees to speak up freely: We started an online public forum, on the lines of Reddit’s “AMA” or “Ask Me Anything”. The employees could pose any work-related questions directly to the top management, for a fixed number of days. When employees saw a few speaking up on sensitive topics, such as safety and insurance cover, others were emboldened to do the same. Because there was a lot of overlap, the management was able to pick those issues that were ailing a majority of the employees and quickly moved to fix it, avoiding potential attrition in the future.

Internal comms makes happy workplaces a reality!

Here’s our 2¢ if you’re thinking about experimenting on engagement strategies: Go by first principles. Test on a small group, that does not include yourself or your colleagues. Because your target audience is the deskless workforce, ensure that your initial test group involves them.

And then, feel free to loop us in if you want us to help you with the process.

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