Message received: How to reach your frontline with internal communications

Much of the discussion around internal communications revolves around what is being said. There are countless frameworks and checklists for crafting that perfect message. But too often, how messages are communicated to employees is left as an afterthought. 

The truth is, it’s not enough to create great internal communications. You also have to get eyes on it—and not just any eyes, but the eyes of your target audience.

Retail associate holding ipad

When your audience is corporate employees, there are lots of ways to reach them. You can send an email, post to the intranet, ping the team chat or bring everyone together for a town hall meeting, online or in person. 

But for the frontline, the issue of how you’ll communicate requires a bit more planning. Neglecting that question has been the downfall of many a great frontline internal communications plan.

The unique challenges of frontline communications

Your average frontline worker doesn’t report to a centralized office. They don’t log in every day to a company-issued device and check their email. They’re often on the go and working one-on-one with customers. There’s rarely an opportunity to gather everyone in one place at the same time. That rules out most of the typical communications channels. 

As a result, most frontline communications are still done the old-school way. Messages are filtered down from HQ through regional managers to store managers to employees. They’re mentioned in the team huddle or the ad-hoc group chat, or posted in the break room for people to read (or ignore) while eating their lunch.

As the complexity and frequency of messages from HQ to the frontline grows, these methods fall short. They make it almost impossible to: 

  • Deliver a consistent message to your workforce 
  • Target specific messages to specific regions or teams
  • Find out who actually got the message, and how it was received 

Without this information, it’s difficult to keep your team aligned across locations and ensure strategies are being executed as intended—which impacts your people, your brand and your customers. 

Here are three questions to ask as you develop your delivery strategy for frontline communications.

1. Where do frontline employees already spend time? 

Corporate workers spend a good portion of their day in front of a computer. So, it’s pretty straightforward to reach them there with employee communications. 

Frontline associates spend most of their time on the floor, behind the register or in the truck. They’re using devices—but not the same ones corporate employees use. Throughout the course of the day, they might be using scanners, tablets, weigh scales, POS systems, field computers or even their own smartphones.

Consider how you can get internal communications to the frontline on the devices they’re already using, so they can easily receive updates as they go about their day-to-day work.

2. How do communications fit in their day?   

So, you’ve implemented a digital communications tool to reach your frontline workforce on the devices they’re already using. But now the hard work begins: getting people to actually log in. 

Strive to reduce friction by integrating communications into their existing workflow. What’s the first thing frontline employees do they do when they start their shift? What other platforms are they logging in to on a regular basis? By piggy-backing on an existing habit, you can ensure your messages are getting to the right people in a timely manner. 

For example, frontline associates at Northgate Market complete a few minutes of training every shift. By sending internal frontline communications through the same platform that employees use for training, leadership can make sure that these critical updates are the first things employees see when they start their day. It’s fast, easy and fits seamlessly into their shift.

3. What’s in it for them?

Let’s face it: We’re all busy, distracted and dealing with information overload. Your internal communications have a lot of competition for the frontline’s attention. So, sometimes you need a little extra push to incentivize employees to engage. 

Gamification can be a powerful engagement driver. Leaderboards and prizes capitalize on employees’ competitive spirit to create a buzz around your communications tool and foster sustainable long-term engagement. 

Another way to boost engagement is to add an element of fun to the communications themselves. For example, Briscoe Group included messages from celebrity brand ambassadors in their internal communication strategy for frontline retail associates during the pandemic. Eden Housing shared a shoutout from Cedric the Entertainer and authentic video messages from senior leadership, which helped them to reach 100% participation in their internal communications.

Your business depends on a frontline workforce that’s up to date and engaged. But you can’t achieve that if nobody’s reading your internal communications. The best frontline communications strategies deliver messages in the flow of work, on the devices and platforms the frontline is already using, with the right incentives in place—so everyone gets the right message, at the right time.

See how you can instantly communicate timely, consistent information to the frontline in the moments that matter.

Lindsay Windover-Kroes has spent her career writing in the tech and education sectors. She’s passionate about helping others do their best work, from the head office to the frontlines.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.