8 components of effective employee communication strategies
This is an excerpt from our Ultimate Guide to Frontline Employee Communication. Read the guide to get the full story on optimizing your frontline employee communication strategy.
An internal communications plan is important for updating employees on crucial issues, driving business objectives and promoting company culture and employee engagement. Unfortunately, though, only 15% of employees feel engaged at work—which suggests comms aren’t doing their job.
Part of this lapse is due to the communication channels being used. Despite the availability of more effective enablement platforms, most managers still use email for 95% of their communications. Email can be easily accessed by head office, but deskless employees like frontline workers, warehouse staff and field employees can’t access email as easily.
This is a problem, because over 80% of global workers are deskless. By limiting your message to email, you risk excluding a significant portion of your workforce.
Another aspect of the problem is what communications are being sent. They’re simply not working. We’ve all probably skimmed that 1000-word long memo about the company vision—if we opened it at all. Can you really say that engages your workforce?
Investing in an effective internal communication strategy
Internal communications have the potential to do so much more, and they don’t have to be limited by where your employees work. The beauty of technology is that our message can now overcome physical and digital hurdles. All we need to do is apply it properly.
Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled a list of the crucial components of an effective communication strategy to keep your deskless workers engaged and in-the-know.
Here are 8 components of effective internal communications strategies:
1. Timely information and real-time updates
Have you ever tried to redeem a promo coupon, only for the cashier to have no idea what you’re talking about?
It’s frustrating for the customer, but imagine what it’s like to be the cashier. Your customers are getting mad at you, but you were never told about the promotion in the first place—and now you’re both in a bad spot.
Companies know they have to keep employees in the loop, but gaps in communication still exist. According to Gallup, 74% of employees feel like they’re missing out on important company information and news.
This can lead to embarrassing situations like the one above, but can also have serious safety ramifications, such as in the case of food poisoning or product recall. Organizations need to spread information quickly to prevent further incidents and keep consumers safe.
But timely updates aren’t just preventative; they can be used to delight customers, too. Take the internal communications strategy example of Golf Town. Whenever there’s a golf tournament, they push real-time updates to their store employees so they can chat about it with customers.
2. A central hub of procedures, processes and SOPs
Having a central information hub is foundational to successful internal communications. It lists down all the protocols, procedures and policies that dictate how employees function. Businesses are very good at formulating and compiling these documents, but when it comes to access…
Let’s just say it needs work.
Company intranets generally have terrible UX and are a labyrinth of files, folders and security gates. It’s hard to access at the best of times, but even harder for deskless and frontline employees. According to research done by Poppulo, only 20% of companies have mobile-friendly internal communications tools. This gap is likely part of the reason why only 13% of employees use their intranets on a daily basis, and 31% never do!
Quick access to crucial operational documents is important for every industry, but it’s especially valuable for complex industries like manufacturing and facilities management. When an emergency occurs in a chemical plant, for example, you’ll want to bring up your emergency procedures right away. But even day-to-day processes need to be easily referenced by the people who need them.
Speaking of which…
3. Standardized task lists
General policies are great, but sometimes deskless employees need something a little more tactical to help with their day-to-day duties.
For example, retail or restaurant employees might need a standardized task list to walk them through opening and closing. Management might want to publish new cleaning and safety protocols to ensure their teams and their customers stay safe. In manufacturing settings, factory workers could have maintenance or inspection task lists on-hand to ensure proper care of expensive equipment and to increase worker safety.
No matter the case, standardized task lists help employees comply with approved procedures, even without direct on-site supervision.
4. Knowledge tests to boost retention
With the right enablement solution in place, you can get a lot of information in front of your workforce. But how will you know that they retain the info if you don’t test them? (That’s actually the logic behind our entire method, btw…)
Knowledge tests are often used to test awareness of basic safety and security procedures, such as OSHA best practices for handling hazardous materials, or the safe handling, preparation and storage of food. Having the ability to easily conduct, store and evaluate these tests at scale is a great benefit to organizations that need to both keep employees safe and protect the business from liability.
Knowledge tests are also valuable in less critical situations as well. For example, these tests can be used to gauge employee familiarity with your new loyalty program, or with seasonal product offerings.
5. Feedback forums (upward and downward)
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a manager or a frontline employee—everyone appreciates feedback. In fact, research indicates that 68% of employees that receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their jobs (and that number is even higher for millennials).
But it’s not just receiving feedback that matters to employees—it’s giving feedback as well. One study found that more employees feel more engaged at work when they’re asked for feedback versus those that aren’t.
You might think that upward feedback is purely for the benefit of the employee. If you do, you’d be wrong. A study by Gallup found that engaging employees in this way can have multiple tangible benefits to the business. Engaged employees had a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. In addition, highly-engaged business units achieved 59% less turnover than other less engaged business units.
If your company wants to get serious about upward and downward employee feedback, you need a communication channel where these conversations can happen organically, ideally with a way of capturing those insights for the head office to digest.
6. A channel for idea sharing
Many frontline employees in retail, foodservice and hospitality are widely dispersed, with locations spanning various regions or even worldwide destinations. Warehouse locations and fulfillment centers are likewise spread over a wide area. This makes it difficult for people to get together and exchange ideas in person.
But employees want some way to overcome this hurdle. A study by Queens University found that 39% of employees believe that people in their organization don’t collaborate enough.
Organizations, too, enjoy ample benefits from idea sharing and fostering a sense of collaboration among its workforce. Employers can work around the distance restriction with a channel (ideally mobile) through which employees can share best practices and offer suggestions—and head office can review these suggestions to take immediate action.
7. An internal community
The simple truth is that people accomplish more when they feel like they belong. Don’t believe me? Look at the stats. McKinsey Global Institute found that companies that foster better connections between employees see a productivity increase as high as 25%.
Yes, this may be difficult when retail or foodservice employees are working at fractured locations with only five to 10 employees on each team, but it’s still possible to create a sense of community across the whole organization. All they need is the means to connect to the larger community. The Queen University study discovered that 31% of baby boomers, 40% of Gen X, and 49% of millennials all support using social tools for collaborating within a company. Companies just have to approach internal community-building effectively and with intent.
8. Bite-sized “micro-communications”
One final thought on communications: most internal company emails are ineffective. 60.8% of employees ignore work emails, which is probably due to the fact that 62% of those work emails aren’t actually that important to their job. All this is compounded by the fact that deskless employees don’t spend much time in front of computers in the first place.
So how can organizations drive employee engagement and promote a sense of community among frontline employees? Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep communications short and to the point. Bonus points for instituting a BYOD (bring your own device) program and sending communications to employees’ mobile devices.
- Be targeted with your communications. Don’t send info that’s only relevant to specific regions or departments to the whole organization.
- Leverage video. Employees are 75% more likely to watch video than read text.
- Use gamification to increase participation and engagement.
Approaching an internal communications strategy “consistently and with purpose”
Great employee communication can make the difference between a revolving-door workforce with high turnover, and a family of employees that will stick with you through anything. While any one of the above ideas may help elevate your new internal communication strategy, the best way to make them work is to apply them consistently and with purpose. Invest the time and resources necessary to do it right.
Ready to put these components to use? Read the full Ultimate Guide to Frontline Employee Communication to learn how to build a communication campaign.