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6 "Do’s and Don’ts" for Improving Engagement and Communication With Hourly and Frontline Employees

Posted by EmployeeChannel on 2.15.2017


Your hourly and frontline employees are the backbone of your organization. They are the stewards and voice of your brand who create the products you sell, sell the products you create, and nurture the relationships that inspire customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Over half (58.5%) of all workers in the United States are hourly. This country and its economy are built on the relationships between employers and their frontline employees. And yet, communication and engagement initiatives designed to improve the employee experience are often focused heavily on corporate, salaried employees.

Well, what about everyone else?

There’s no reason a non-salaried or frontline employee should feel less engaged with his work or with his employer than a salaried worker. We all have to work, and we all want to feel engaged in our work.

It’s clear that a better employee experience fosters a better customer experience. Improving communication processes with frontline employees not only improves their own experience with the organization, but ultimately improves the service they deliver to customers.

Happy employees. Happy customers. This is a huge win for the organization.

There’s much that can be done to improve engagement and communication processes with hourly and frontline workers. Here are some important “do’s and don’ts." 

1.  DON’T Rely on Supervisors and Direct Managers for All Employee Communication.

Yes, it is critical that supervisors and managers maintain positive, respectful relationships with their direct reports that includes an open (and ideally proactive) flow of information. However, an organization may be sowing seeds of discontent if relies too heavily on managers for employee communication. Information can easily fall through the cracks and frontline workers may feel undervalued if company leaders don’t value top-down transparency. An email note from a manager will never have quite the same gravitas as a message from the corporate office.

If important news must be communicated, do so quickly and involve your organization’s leaders. Information feels more siloed when it must pass through numerous people, districts, or departments before being communicated. The last thing you want is for workers to feel they are being left “out of the know.” This can lead to a lack of motivation, poor customer service, and higher turnover.

Ask yourself these questions:

Would you rather work for an organization that values universal access to information and that maintains regular communication with its employees, no matter their role, or an organization that chooses to silo information, relying on a trickle-down, need-to-know approach to information dissemination? Which do you think would inspire greater workplace productivity, more pride in the company’s mission, and more engagement in its day-to-day operations?

2.  DO Leverage Popular Consumer Technologies (Think Mobile) For Communication.

Bulletin boards in break rooms. Digital signage. Kiosks. Email sent to a personal account. Phone calls from the District Manager.  

These are all internal communication methods that frontline and hourly employees know well. And while these channels may be sufficient in many situations, they do not provide the anytime, anywhere accessibility that many people, especially Millennials, have come to expect from a world-class, progressive employer.

Mobile is king, it’s always on, and it’s convenient. Not only did internet usage on mobile devices surpass PC usage three years ago, but communicating via mobile phone is often the fastest way to get in touch with people. It’s the first device your employees will check when they go on break and when they head home for the night. It’s where they go to find information and to connect with people they care about. Smartphones are quickly becoming the universal device of choice among people of all ages.

If you want to become a more forward-thinking organization and communicate effectively with your employees, why wouldn’t you factor mobile into an internal communication strategy? 

3.  DON’T Rely On Email To Communicate Urgent Information.

Email isn’t always the best way to reach people during an urgent situation, and this is especially true with hourly or frontline employees. As mentioned previously, these employees typically don’t have a corporate email address and there can be no assurance that they monitor a personal email account on a regular basis. In addition, it’s likely that they are on the floor working a majority of the day, which means it may be many hours before they are made aware of a situation and can address it.

Though mobile push communications don’t solve this problem (employees probably shouldn't have access to their phones while on the floor), almost every employee will check her phone during break time, thereby limiting the time between a message’s delivery and the employee eventually reading it.

4.  DO Inspire Action Through Engaging Communications.

Consider incorporating images, video, a personal message from the corporate office, calls-to-action, rewards, and gamification into internal communication efforts. More interesting, unique, and engaging communications help to ensure that a message is read and understood.

As discussed previously, hourly and frontline employees are not accustomed to hearing from upper level management. A monthly note from the CEO can do wonders to inspire engagement and a deeper connection to the organization.

5.  DON’T Fail To Thank Employees and Call Out Exceptional Work.

It’s hard to attract and retain the right talent. 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the manufacturing industry. The Boomers are retiring and companies are struggling to recruit skilled young adults who perceive a career in manufacturing to be stagnant and undesirable. This is one situation where improving the employee experience and fostering a more progressive, employee-centric workplace could yield substantial benefits and help to attract and retain the next wave of fresh talent. 

Evan Stall, HR Manager for Federal-Mogul Powertrain’s South Bend, Indiana plant says retaining prized workers “comes down to one basic thing—and that’s how you treat your people.” No matter a worker’s age or industry, people want to be respected and valued at their workplace.

Retaining prized workers “comes down to one basic thing—and that’s how you treat your people."Evan Stall, HR Manager for Federal-Mogul Powertrain

Though monetary incentives and bonuses are an important factor here, communication also plays a huge role in the way you treat your people.

One way to leverage internal communication to create a better employee experience is to regularly highlight exceptional work. People don’t want hard work to go unnoticed, and yet many hourly or frontline employees assume that the corporate office doesn't care about the little guy. They’re not accustomed to high-level praise, which is precisely why it can be so impactful. 

Openly sharing praise and internal accomplishments inspires greater pride in the organization and its mission. If your employees believe they are accomplishing great things together, they are more likely to be loyal, positive ambassadors for the brand.

6.  DO Respond Quickly to Events That May Provoke Mass Concern.

Bad things happen. Laws change. Rumors spread quickly within the workforce. 

Will there be layoffs? Will I lose access to benefits? Will my pay be reduced? 

It is common for frontline employees to feel powerless in these situations—they are directly affected by high-level decisions they have no control over and often no knowledge of until the very last moment.

It is important that an organization respond swiftly to any event that might cause concern among workers. It could be a national event or crisis, an internal failure, a new and controversial law, a recent acquisition, or a poor earnings quarter.

Quickly and openly communicating issues inspires trust in the organization’s leadership. It shows that you’re looking out for the employee’s best interests and will be an advocate for them if necessary.

Hourly and frontline workers deserve to be engaged in their work and with their employer. Engaged, happy workers will stay with the company longer, work harder, and provide better service to customers. They will be active ambassadors of your brand, which in turn, will help to attract the next crop of talent.

Improving engagement and communication with hourly employees doesn’t have to be difficult, but it requires a determination to be more innovative and employee-centric; it requires a commitment to a transparent, forward-thinking workplace that puts your employees first and isn’t afraid to experiment with new technologies and processes. These are worthy aims we should all strive for.

Topics: employee engagement, employee experience, employee communication

Human Resources Today