During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s become critical for employers to communicate with their workers on the fly, on everything from fast-changing schedules to new health and safety protocols. When you run a white-collar operation, it’s easy to send a global corporate email. But many hourly workers don’t have personal, let alone corporate, email addresses. How can employers best connect with offline, non-desk workers?
Fortunately, there are many channels that employers can use to communicate with their workforce, from high-tech to old school. Of course, with four generations now in the workforce, demographics may drive which methods are most effective for any given group.
For example, while Baby Boomers may be most comfortable opening a mailed letter, Millennials and Gen Zers may be most at home with a mobile app. Generally, it’s in the employer’s interest to communicate important alerts and messages through multiple channels—such as those described below—to ensure that everyone’s in the loop.
Using Smartphones to Communicate with Workers
While many hourly workers don’t have access to PCs, chances are, they have a mobile phone. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of Americans own cell phones, and 81% of them are smartphones. This offers multiple potential communication options for employers, including:
Texting is the most common form of communication for adults under the age 50. Not only do 91% of people prefer texting to voicemail, texts are highly like to get opened. Text messages have a 98% open rate, while email has only a 20% open rate. Furthermore, even the most basic cell phone can send and receive texts, and read receipt capabilities allow employers to verify that texts have been opened.
In addition, texting is inexpensive and workers of every generation understand it.
Mobile Communication Apps
Employers might also want to look into mobile apps developed specifically for corporate communications. Once the employer sets up an account; workers download the app onto their smartphones. When a message is received, they’ll receive an alert, similar to texting.
In addition, employers with liberal social media policies can consider creating a closed Facebook group and share news with workers already on the platform. Those with a young demographic might also want to take advantage of chatting software like Google Hangouts. However, because not everyone is comfortable with these technologies, these options seem better suited as secondary communication methods rather than primary ones.
Low-Tech Communications Still Have Value
One employer we know has communicated with its large hourly workforce throughout the pandemic by sending printed letters and updates via U.S. mail. While this is less than ideal when it comes to urgent news—in that event, managers are tasked with calling their team members—it still has a place with employers.
For employees who are actively working onsite, posters and flyers, of course, remain a time-honored way to make announcements to the workforce.
In addition, some employers—such as manufacturers, whose workers are generally all in one place—are upgrading from corkboards and posters to digital displays as a way to keep employees informed.
Like electronic billboards, digital displays demand employee attention. While they’re more expensive than printed posters, they’re dynamic, hard-to-miss, and make it a snap to share information in real time.
How About Messages Delivered via Time Clock or Mobile App?
Sometimes, an employer’s HR software offers communication tools as well. For example, at EPAY, we specialize in serving employers that manage an hourly, often distributed workforce. For these employers, time-tracking is essential. Punching in and out of work—via time clock or other time-tracking method—is very much a part of the workday.
As a result, we offer employers another employee communication solution: the capability to deliver messages right at the time clock or through our mobile time-tracking app.
How it works: employer-created messages are served up to workers before they can clock in or out, guaranteeing their attention. Messages can be sent globally to the entire workforce…to specific work crews or teams…or even to individuals. Managers at every level have fast, fool-proof communication tool to add to their toolbox.
Consider this: in one survey of hourly, non-desk workers, only 40% said they consider themselves well-informed on company news. Beyond the immediacy of the COVID-19 crisis, forward-thinking employers are looking for ways to improve this. After all, employee engagement is key to improving retention and productivity—and these days, that’s more important than ever.