Manufacturing team meeting

My dad is a dinosaur when it comes to technology. He retired from a long and storied career in medicine without ever using a computer or cell phone and steadfastly refuses to learn how to use either of them—even today.

Does he feel disconnected from the world? Absolutely not. Because he has options suited to his situation.

I was reminded about the importance of communication options when I read an article that described how one-third of all employees are deskless workers—such as employees in manufacturing centers, retail outlets and health care facilities—who are not reached by commonly used internal communications channels. It made me wonder: How can we ensure these employees feel connected? Which channels do we need to maintain for this unique group?

Here are three strategies to improve communication for your non-wired employees, so they feel part of a larger community and understand how to contribute to your organization’s mission and goal:

1. Train managers to be frontline communicators

When workers have concerns or questions, the first person they go to is their manager. But managers often reach these supervisory positions because they were good at their jobs—not because they have the skills or training to be good communicators.

Help managers with their communication role by defining expectations, building their knowledge of key topics and providing tools (such as Frequently Asked Questions) to help them share updates and answer questions.

2. Don’t underestimate the value of a printed newsletter

Years ago, I wrote a newsletter for a bricklayer’s union that was mailed to members’ homes. I was especially proud of the publication when these construction workers voiced their appreciation for being recognized and for the effort put into creating a publication that addressed their needs.

But don’t sit back and expect non-wired employees to grab the latest edition of your newsletter. Invest in research and content that is compelling for this group.

3. Take the time for two-way communication

One of the best ways to engage employees is to interact with them; ideally face to face. We know from our research that employees crave interaction with leaders—from informal site visits to planned large group meetings. Taking a moment signals that communication is important.

We recently completed research with manufacturing employees at a chemical plant. Here’s what one employee had to say, “Those small ten-minute information breaks when we take time out of our day to chat, go a long way.”

Internal communication needs to be adapted to fit the needs of each employee group, including those who are not as easy to reach—just like my dad would be if he was still working.

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