Need to know:
- Employers should involve all employees in communications, and consider smartphone apps if certain sites have limited access to email.
- An effective communications strategy should be simple, coherent and focused on key messages.
- Organisations should aim to use a variety of channels, such as video, which can communicate a lot of information in a small amount of time.
- Communications should always be jargon-free, engaging and interactive.
If employees do not receive regular, targeted communications, it can cause a lack of engagement and lead to lower levels of productivity. However, making sure a communications strategy includes and engages non-office-based employees can be challenging.
So, what are the top tips to help employers communicate with all staff, regardless of their working environment?
Get everyone on board
When planning a comprehensive communications strategy for a non-office-based workforce, one of the first things an organisation should do is involve its employees, says Mark Carman, director of communication services at Edenred UK.
“Get local managers, engagement ambassadors and influencers on board early in the process,” he says. “Get employees involved by encouraging them to ask questions. It has to be a two-way process to be effective.”
If in doubt, ask employees about their preferred form of communication. “We find if [organisations] consult with employees, influencers or engagement ambassadors and ask them how they want to be communicated to, [they] will get the message on tone, so it will be read and accepted when distributed,” Carman says.
If employees on some sites have limited access to email at work, employers might consider using a communication app. However, this will need to be sold to staff as a valuable tool. “The trick is giving them a reason to use up valuable storage on their own mobile devices to download the app,” says Carman. “By integrating social recognition within the app [employers] are more likely to get [employees] to download it and use it on a regular basis, so they can recognise their peers and friends at work. [The organisation] can then use notifications to update employees about their benefits, too.”
Focus on a coherent strategy and key messages
Having a clear and coherent strategy is essential, says Sara Hope, co-founder of The Conversation Space. “Keep it simple and have a strategy that’s aligned to the [organisation’s] objectives,” she advises. “Take into account the context, culture and make-up of all the different work sites. Share examples which demonstrate the different areas and how they contribute.”
Hope recommends speaking to as many people as possible, both internally and externally, about what makes an effective communications strategy for non-office-based workers. “[Employers] need to build a case and understand [their] customers, clients and teams and create strong relationships,” she notes. “Gather as much data as possible, and use storytelling to bring the core messages to life.”
Key messages should be short, memorable and consistent says Helen Norris, former HR director at Nationwide Building Society. “Communicate on a need-to-know basis,” she advises. “Take time to target messages to the right audience and ensure that the headers and titles are attention-grabbing.”
Use different channels
Email, intranet and face-to-face communications are the most effective, but there are other delivery methods, says Norris. “There is still a place for print, which can be a very engaging medium when used effectively,” she notes. “Video is also one of the most valuable communication tools available and can deliver a lot of information in a short space of time.”
Employers should avoid using jargon, and bring in personality and humour if appropriate, says Norris. “Tell a story – employees like to hear about their peers – and get creative. Use teasers, such as a snippet of a bigger image or a few seconds of a video to create interest, and the employee will stay more engaged.”
Blogs, videos and infographics are all methods of engaging non-office-based workers at a time convenient for them.
Having employees directly involved in communications should also carry on past the planning stage. “Make it interactive, ask employees to comment, or put forward their ideas, suggestions and responses to a particular communication. Use the intranet to give employees a voice,” Norris adds.
To take this one step further, employers might offer incentives. “Periodic use of ‘freebies’ gives employees a reason to engage with the content and get on board,” concludes Norris.