October 24, 2018

By Sonia Fiorenza, VP of communications and engagement strategies at SocialChorus

Many manufacturing organizations suffer from a lack of employee engagement. With highly distributed workforces and operations, companies struggle to reach and connect to non-wired workers, in plants or in the field. In fact, a 2017 Gallup report found that manufacturing employees are the least engaged of any occupation — only 25 percent scored as engaged.

In an industry based on production and output, it’s easy to overlook the value of human interaction. Many companies pour investments into emerging technologies like automation to increase productivity, yet fail to recognize the need to advance the “people” areas that equally impact operations — namely communications.

Sending emails or even posting signs in a break room isn’t going to guarantee that every manufacturing employee will know what’s happening at the company, especially in the time that they need to know. In the face of a skilled labor shortage, manufacturers must look at intra-company communication holistically. What prevents employees from feeling connected to the organization? How is poor communication impeding operations or increasing safety risks?

With this in mind, here are four steps to tackling communications challenges and creating a more engaged, effective workforce.

Don’t just rely on the intranet

Traditional internal communication methods on their own — like intranets, email newsletters or bulletin boards — can leave large swaths of employees without access to the information they need. A recent report found that 80 percent of workers globally are “deskless” — i.e., not sitting behind a computer screen — yet only 1 percent of the $300 billion in software venture funding each year goes toward technologies for these workers. Employees expect timely, relevant information that helps them get their jobs done, but often fail to receive this simply due to lack of access.

The fact is, if nobody is using whatever communications platform is in place, it’s the same as having no communications at all. Employees shouldn’t have to wait in line at a kiosk to receive their PTO balance or not receive updates simply because they don’t have a company email address.

For example, one top appliance manufacturer with tens of thousands of employees and dozens of research centers worldwide was experiencing this issue. With many manufacturing and warehouse workers without computer access, the company struggled to reach employees via email, intranet and newsletters—all of which had low adoption and left a large portion of employees disconnected.

In with multi-channel solutions

To transform its communications, this manufacturer launched a mobile-first solution to connect more global employees, get official information to them quickly, and give them a way to engage with other employees. Now, nearly three-fourths of all employees use the solution weekly and 74 percent report being better informed about the company overall.

This example highlights an organization that prioritized a multi-channel communications strategy — not just a mobile app or an intranet — to serve both wired and non-wired employees. The company distributes all communications from one platform to all its official channels, eliminating the need to copy and paste multiple in multiple places.

Target the message

There’s no use in having the right mechanism in place for reaching employees if that content doesn’t help them be better informed and aligned with organizational goals. Personalized, targeted and relevant communications drive engagement. Whether alerting factory workers of safety risks or machinery breakdowns or sending management-only corporate updates, it’s critical to customize communications for different groups of employees.

The Dow Chemical Company, for example, uses a mobile solution to reach its entire global workforce—more than 50,000 users—whether in the office, on the manufacturing floor, or in the labs. The platform can push content and information directly to workers’ preferred channels, targeting various groups with specific communications designed for their exact role and needs.

Don’t forget the medium

Traditional communications flow from corporate to workers in a top-down, usually text-heavy format. But employees are more receptive to communications they find engaging, entertaining and even inspiring—and mediums like video, images, links, and others can provide just that. Incorporating new types of interactive media can not only deliver the message but actually excite employees about being a part of the organization.

Also, communications should not be a one-way street. Employees must be able to interact not only with company messages, but also with each other and back up the ladder to share feedback. Communications should be a combination of corporate messages, employee contributions and targeted curated content. This well-rounded mix promotes community, morale and greater enthusiasm around the company that leads to brand promotion.

The future of communications

As Jennifer Holzinger, global employee communications and engagement lead at The Dow Chemical Company, said, “We’re only as good as the information we have.” By taking a 360-degree approach to communications, the company was able to “bring a higher volume of information and stories to people that are more meaningful.” By reimagining their internal communications in a way that puts the employee first, manufacturers will see a ripple effect on employee retention, productivity, and ultimately, profitability.

Roadmap to an Engaged Workforce, Industry TodaySonia Fiorenza leads communications and engagement strategies for SocialChorus, a workforce communications platform. Sonia has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications at Fortune 500 companies across industries such as financial services, biotechnology, manufacturing, and retail. She’s passionate about employee engagement for every worker from head office to the front line. Find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sfiorenza/.

Previous articleDigital Transformation Arrives on Manufacturing Floors
Next articleThe Future of B2B Voice Commerce