Today’s guest post is courtesy of Workforce Institute board member Bob Clements. Bob is Senior Principal at Axsium Group, a leading workforce management consulting firm. In the post below, he shares ideas about how workforce management technology capabilities can enhance the effectiveness of communications with your frontline workers – especially those who aren’t at a computer all day. Pictured here is one example that Bob cites below – using a time clock to deliver instructional information to employees who don’t work on laptops.
Today, January 26, 2015, is Better Business Communication Day. I have to admit that I did not have this holiday in my calendar. It seems the world is full of made-up holidays like “International Day of Awesomeness” (March 10), National Leave the Office Earlier Day” (June 2), “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” (September 19) and National Christmas Ugly Sweater Day (December 11). Like you, I ignore most of them, but Better Business Communication Day caught my attention.
We could all do a better job with our business communication: less email (and email that is more to the point), fewer meetings (and meetings that are more to the point), and more real-time interpersonal communication (i.e., conversation) with colleagues. One area that really needs help is communication with hourly workers.
Don’t get me wrong. A lot has been written about effective business communication. Organizations spend tremendous energy crafting messages that will resonate with their workers, especially when it is a big topic, and when organizations have big topics to share, they spend big bucks on brochures, websites, videos and more to spread the word.
But, what about the little messages? What about the day-to-day messages that make your hourly workers feel connected to the organization, its leadership, and its direction? And, how do you turn communication from one where you are talking act your workers into a conversation where your hourly workers’ voices are heard?
For many, email is not an effective tool. It is not practical to give a retail sales associate or production line workers a work email address. Company portals are an option but portals are not something that workers interact with regularly. What’s needed is something that hourly workers interact with every day that helps improve their productivity rather than distract them from doing their jobs.
The good news is such a thing exists and you probably already have it in your organization. It is the time clock and the workforce management (WFM) software that drives it. Every day, your workers need to clock in and out. Modern time clocks can do much more than simply capture time. Many are capable of delivering messages to workers, ensuring they get read, and some support two-way communication. But, the time clock is just one aspect of your WFM system that can improve communication with hourly workers.
Many WFM systems include messaging or communication capabilities that act like email but without the cost of additional email licenses and the trouble of providing email clients. Like email, leaders can send messages to groups of hourly workers while individuals can send notes to with ideas, questions and observations. Unlike email, rules and workflow can control replies, notifications, etc. to keep such communication from being overwhelming.
Another WFM module, Task Management, gives organizations powerful ways to communication tasks that need to be completed at remote locations. These tasks can include detailed instructions including drawings, photos and video that show exactly what needs to be done. Workers have the ability to provide feedback in the form of written communication or surveys about the task, any problems that they had completing it, and suggestions for ways to do it better in the future.
Tasks managed via a Task Management system can be instructive like “setup a display” or it can prompt workers to complete a survey or take a training course.
A hot new idea in WFM is social collaboration. With social collaboration, workers log into the WFM system via a browser, tablet or mobile device and are given a Facebook-like newsfeed of conversations happening between others around the organization. They can participate in these discussion or start their own. Social collaboration is a powerful means to solve problems, share best practices and develop relationships between employees in geographically dispersed locations.
So, join me in celebrating Better Business Communication Day. Use your WFM system as a channel to improve communications with your hourly workforce.