Anthropological research has shown that communication in humans most likely evolved to ease tasks and facilitate collaboration. Without claws or body armor, we had to talk to each other to stay safe and hunt food. At some point, someone figured out the best way to signal that a predator was near.
And what happened to that person? They got a promotion.
OK, probably not. There wasn’t a lot of middle management on the savannah. But that “workplace” and yours probably had some similarities, including that staff communication is key to success.
The way to create a more productive workforce is to ease obstacles to effective communication. One of the best ways to do that is to employ a digital workforce platform that supports better communication for frontline employees.
Communication and Engagement: Why It Matters
What motivates frontline workers to do their best work? Getting a paycheck? Losing their jobs?
At Beekeeper, we asked and found that frontline workers are motivated by:
- A job well done and on time
- Positive feedback from managers and customers
- Knowing why and when changes happen.
What ties all of these together is that frontline workers want to be engaged with their work and the company they’re working for.
P.S. Download our Frontline Trends Report for more insight into what the frontline experience will look like in 2022.
The problem is, very few workers are fully engaged.
A Gallup study showed that only 36% of workers in America are “actively engaged.” A full 15% of workers consider themselves actively unengaged, leaving around 50% somewhere in the middle.
One of the main causes of disengagement is poor communication. This can take many forms, including:
- Lack of awareness regarding policies and processes
- Lack of context regarding changes and updates
- Inability to practice effective collaboration
- Lack of access to managers
- Lack of ability to communicate with people outside the immediate team/shift
Poor communication isolates employees from each other and from the company they work for. When they don’t know why something is happening, they understandably don’t really care what is happening. They don’t feel like part of an organization.
Employees who can’t communicate with each other can’t collaborate. They can’t troubleshoot. They can’t go over problems large and small. They can’t ask for help accessing information, and they can’t share ideas.
This isn’t just a hypothesis. Nearly half of “communications-laggard” companies think that their employees are disengaged. And let’s be honest: those numbers are a little low. Self-reporting often produces skewed results. Very few organizations with poor communication have engaged employees.
So how do you improve staff communication? Let’s take a deeper dive.
Identify the Obstacles to Effective Staff Communication
Here’s the thing about staff communication: it has to be more than an initiative or slogan. It can’t be fixed just by wanting it to be better.
Commitment to staff communication starts by recognizing what’s getting in the way of it. Here are some common obstacles for frontline workers:
- No centralized way to communicate. Most frontline workers don’t have access to a portal or company intranet and very few have a company email account. This means they frequently miss messages, don’t get updates, and never know when it is someone’s birthday.
- Too many apps. To circumvent this, employees use a lot of disparate apps. Our Frontline Trends Report showed that 57% of frontline employees are using WhatsApp or another SMS system. They also have multiple apps for things like requesting days off or changing their schedule. Not only is this messy and frustrating, it’s also really not great from a security front. And the 43% that aren’t using SMS might not have a way to communicate with each other at all. That means they are isolated from everyone except who they see face-to-face.
Use Technology to Create Connections
The right technology can foster stronger connections in the workplace and make for more effective collaboration.
For the frontline, this means a frontline success system that allows employees to send information in real-time and access important information in one, centralized place.
Really, the best way to think about this platform is not as a piece of technology, but as a new work nucleus. It isn’t replacing the office for frontline workers—they were never there in the first place. Instead, it’s creating the mobile, agile, user-friendly tool they never had.
How the New Nucleus Fosters Collaboration
Think of it like this. Imagine there is a company with a central office in Centralia, IL, and stores across the country. The people in Centralia make important business decisions. They want to de-emphasize the selling of gadgets and upsell widgets. Normally, this would filter to regional managers, then to store managers, and maybe shift leaders. Sell more widgets! Why? Who knows. How? Shoulder shrug emoji. Ask Centralia—well, no, you can’t do that.
But with the right communication platform, everything changes.
- Context from the Top: The central office can send out a video explaining why we now care more about widgets. Employees can watch this video on their phones from anywhere in the world to understand the context around the change.
- Information for Managers: With a digital workforce platform, managers can easily access more information about widgets—the details, how to sell them, pricing strategies, etc. If employees can also access that information, they don’t have to keep asking the manager basic questions. Instead, managers and employees can spend their time collaborating to implement the widget plan in the best way possible.
- Employee-to-Employee Communication: The store in Poughkeepsie has a customer who wants to know if widgets make a good gift for high schoolers. The employees are stumped—they can’t find that information anywhere. So they blast out a question on the messaging app. Turns out someone in Pismo had a customer buy it for their aunt, and the aunt loved it. But so did their aunt’s 15-year-old-daughter, and here’s why. That’s cross-country collaboration without Centralia needing to be involved.
When you create a new hub for communication, you make it working together easier than ever before.
Find the Best Digital Workplace Platform for Staff Communication
Beekeeper is an innovative frontline success system designed for frontline workers. It unifies your tech stack and makes it easy to integrate your favorite apps. It allows for one-way and multi-lateral communication, letting teams collaborate no matter where they are. It frees up managers from the mundane and lets them actually work with their teams.
At Beekeeper, we take the oldest principles—communication creates collaboration — and makes them work for the modern frontline workplace.
Download our Frontline Future of Work eBook to see how Beekeeper helps you stay ahead of the curve, or request a demo to get started today.