Tech Alone Won’t Close the Frontline Communications Gap

In companies with dispersed employees, getting HR communications from corporate desks to remote locations is a challenge. And when you do, a message sent isn’t always a message received. It’s hard to get the attention of frontline essential workers who don’t have the same on-the-job access to technology as desk workers.

It’s tempting to think technology is the answer, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic spurred many companies to invest big money on collaboration tools. But a shiny new app or intranet isn’t always the solution for non-desk workers, who account for 80% of the global workforce.

This study on frontline workers found that only 38% say they know how to use work applications and software effectively. And, in manufacturing and retail, 35% and 23% respectively spend at least a fifth of their work time searching for needed information.

Why Technology Alone Is Not the Answer

Popular employee communication platforms like Yammer, Teams, and Slack work best for employees at a desk who are online during the workday. Frontline workers on the production floor or in the stock room aren’t checking their phones during the day, and the one or two computers in the breakroom aren’t always updated or readily available.

And although desk workers may be conditioned to check in during off hours, most essential employees disengage after work. When employees clock out, they tune out.

What Is the Answer? It’s a Mix

We’re not here to rain on your tech parade. In fact, you may be using technology right now that can help get your message out to stores, sites, and distribution centers. Common HR systems like Workday, ADP, BenefitExpress, and SharePoint are limited, but most likely you can push short messages to employees somehow. But they need to be well-crafted.

The true answer is to mix it up with multiple channels — print, digital, and human.

  • Reach them where they are. Your best chance to reach them is at work, so find creative ways to get their attention. You can find out more by reading Fix #3 in our series on communicating with frontline workers.
  • Match the message to the media. A campaign with postcards, entryway banners, and app pushes needs clever messaging tailored to fit each channel. Check out this infographic.
  • Know who they trust most. Essential workers want to hear information from their peers and managers, not the CEO or HR. Check out Fix #5 in our series to make the most of employee advocates and line managers, and help them get your message out.

What we’ve offered here is an answer to a specific question: Can the latest technology help close the communications gap between corporate and frontline workers. But the more comprehensive solution involves strategic planning.

Because no matter what tools you’re using, without a communications strategy in place, you’re probably leaving many employees out of the loop.

To learn more about how to reach non-desk employees, and how to fix the most common HR communications mistakes, download our ebook, Communicate with Purpose.

Download our ebook, Communicate with Purpose

Keep up with us on LinkedIn for more tips on HR communications.