Despite the traditional image of an employee at a desk in an office, a significant proportion of today’s workforce is deskless. A recent report estimated that deskless employees make up 80 percent of the global workforce. They’re health care professionals, retail associates, baristas, truck drivers and construction workers — their workplace is in motion, their home bases are break rooms, bulletin boards and the manager’s office.
As communicators, reaching deskless employees presents a common, but daunting, obstacle. But there is one thing that nearly all workers have in common: smartphones. At Limeade, we believe this is the best way to reach deskless workers — more and more, companies see the potential for employee mobile apps to amplify and enhance their communications.
But a big question still looms: Once you reach employees, how do you make sure your communications are relevant, engaging and actionable in a way that encourages employees to return? Here are four tips, inspired by our customers:
Blend the business essentials with engaging content
When companies need to deliver important resources to their employees, blending the fundamentals with more engaging content can prove successful. Though we may feel confident in what people need to know, communicators should also put themselves in employee shoes. And they want to know: “what’s in it for me?”
Successful communications cut through the noise to generate excitement and increase interaction. The right blend isn’t a constant. In health care for example, a nurse might engage with a message that doesn’t resonate with administrators. That’s normal — identify what works for who, pinpoint any overlap and capitalize on your employee personas.
Wabash National, the premier North American manufacturer of semi-trailers, truck bodies and liquid transportation systems, knew they needed a solution capable of reaching workers with important attendance tracking and benefits information, but they also wanted to provide a platform to connect and inspire their employees.
Based on their unique population, Wabash National ramped up peer-to-peer recognition, helping employees feel appreciated and supporting adoption of the essential tasks also housed in the app.
Ask employees what they need and deliver
If a workforce is primarily dispersed, companies need solutions capable of adapting to different needs. We won’t always know what your different employees want and need, but luckily, we can ask.
Encompass Health, one of the largest providers of integrated health care services, includes 131 hospitals and 280 home health and hospice locations spread across four time zones and 37 states. With tens of thousands of deskless clinicians and support staff each doing their part to empower patient outcomes, the Encompass Health population was ready for a change in how it accessed Company information.
Leadership was careful to conduct research and surveys to identify employees’ unique communications needs. Ultimately, this approach displayed a genuine understanding of the employee population and started the ongoing process of connecting people to the overall Encompass Health culture. Today, Encompass Health employees use a mobile app that sends communications and allows access to key information when convenient to the varying schedules of its workforce.
Give power to the people
As teams (and their resources) grow, the need for a communications initiative increases. In many organizations, communicators don’t sit near their employees, separated by the nature of their function or actual physical distance. This isn’t an obstacle, it’s an opportunity. Encourage local leaders to participate, expand reach by including more voices and watch as grassroots momentum builds.
Enterprise Holdings, one of the most recognizable car rental providers, took advantage of its regional subsidiary structure to deliver relevant updates to its employees at a local level. Knowing subcultures are a strength, Enterprise enabled regional group channels to encourage local communications.
Though they engage with the companywide communications, employees continue coming back for the connections. They’re joining conversations with coworkers, viewing region-specific updates and most importantly, they’re actively building their immediate subcultures, and in turn the overall Enterprise culture.
Show people you care when it matters most
Sometimes encouraging people to return to communications means showing them how much we care in important moments.
Fortune Brands, a home and security products company built on industry-leading brands, used communications app as check-in and support system in a difficult time when Hurricane Florence hit.
Employees accessed information without having to rely on email (especially important for deskless employees without company email) or phone lines and were able to connect with colleagues enduring the storm. That kind of display of care means a lot to people, and when it happens in a trusted communications resource, people will come back in other important moments.
A successful communications plan takes a deep understanding of your workforce. These customer stories shed light on a simple truth: you need to reach people, but you must also find unique ways to reach them over time.
The good news is that companies today are working on the problems and discovering innovation solutions. They’re reaching out to deskless employees and succeeding, and that’s great news for other companies just starting to tackle their own obstacles.
Employee connection, efficient information delivery and companywide alignment are possible, even when there’s no desk in sight.