As the way we work has continued to evolve, we’ve tried to perfect the art of communication through technology. In fact, we know technology plays a critical role in attracting talent. Based on a study conducted by Ernst and Young, 82 percent of respondents said “workplace technology would influence their choice to accept a new job.”

Communication is getting easier, happening faster, and allowing quicker adaptation to changes for some organizations. However, this trend also got me thinking about the organizations that have employees who aren’t in front of computers every day; people who possibly don’t have an email address or even a smartphone. As shocking as that may seem in the digital age, this is often still true in organizations with a largely hourly workforce. With that in mind, what are some tactics we can use as HR practitioners to communicate with these employees?

Below are some best practice ideas you can try if your organization fits what I’ve described above: 

Managing through uncertainty COVID-19 banner

Promote transparency and honesty

Have you ever felt misled or lied to when talking to someone? Let’s face it, we all have. I’m focusing on this first because your employees will pick up on anything that seems vague or evasive in the communications they receive from your organization. Transparency and honesty are the foundation of communication and creating a desirable company culture.

Don’t be afraid to be candid, especially now. Employees will respect you more for telling it like it is. When coaching managers, let them know that showing empathy for what employees are going through will earn respect and promote loyalty. Emphasize that employees still need to know the truth – even when news might be difficult to hear.

Be visible and converse

It’s easy to get caught sitting for hours at a time at our desks. I know if it weren’t for my watch reminding me to stand, I’d bury myself behind the computer screen longer than I should. The importance of being visible to your employees, especially in heavily hourly businesses that don’t have a lot of desk jobs, can’t be overstated.

We expect managers to be on the floor influencing productivity, maintaining safety, and leading our employees, and HR should be setting an example in this area. Here are some easy tips to get out there more frequently:

  • Block off time in your calendar to walk around your workplace and interact with employees – if you’ve got multiple locations or departments, you can rotate through those on different days.
  • Do your manager check-ins where they are rather than having them come to you – this gives the opportunity to chat with their teams as well.
  • Set aside time each week to address employee questions directly, such as open office hours, and advertise that to the workforce so they can access HR when needed.
  • Put a method in place by which employees or managers can raise their hand to have HR visit outside of the normally scheduled times you establish so you can address important items as they come up.

Don’t forget the importance and power of a conversation that helps guide employees. I know this is trickier nowadays given social distancing guidelines, but it can still be done following proper workplace safety procedures.

TV time? At work?

An inexpensive way to communicate to employees are providing televisions in safe public areas. A while back I was working with a food packing company based in California. As I toured the facility, one thing I noticed was in every hallway, corridor, or public communal spot, they had a television showing announcements, safety measures, and information that was pertinent to employees. These messages were delivered in multiple languages, both audibly and visually. They ran these throughout the day and at breaks. It was simple, yet effective. The multilingual aspect fostered a sense of inclusivity, as well.

If you go this route, make sure your messaging is crafty, precise, and if necessary, actionable. You can increase viewership by changing content frequently and having your leadership team do something fun or memorable get employee’s attention. You can also add a bit of gamification by showing team scores for different shifts that highlight their productivity levels, collaboration, or other important metrics at your company to introduce a competitive element – maybe even have some kind of reward each month or quarter for the team with the best scores.

Explore texting and call trees

Utilizing SMS text messaging, with the consent of the employee, provides an easy and efficient way to communicate announcements to staff, recruiting info to candidates, or onboarding steps for new hires. But this can get tricky if you’re in a situation like I mentioned at the beginning where cell phone access is sporadic among your employees. Not to worry, there’s an option here too.

Remember the food packaging company I mentioned above? That organization also utilized a call tree for people to connect over the phone when information needed to be relayed. This is more likely to reach more people as it can be used with cell phones or landlines. Use your organizational chart to map who’s responsible for contacting employees when pertinent information needs to be delivered quickly, and make sure you have a central, easy-to-update place for your employee records so their contact information can be kept current.

Conclusion: Communication is key in any setting

As you continue to improve your communication strategy to your hourly workforce, one way to measure your attempt is to survey these employees. If you have HCM technology, you may want to check your ability to push out a survey at your kiosk or clocks. A simple series of yes or no questions like “Were you informed about [insert topic] today?” should be sufficient. Remember, if technology isn’t on your side, nothing replaces a transparent, honest conversation with your team. In uncertain and disruptive times, communication becomes even more paramount.

Get more resources

Published: Friday, May 1, 2020