For obvious reasons, communicating with deskless employees is more difficult than reaching those who occupy the same seat every day. And despite the hype, mobile platforms won’t provide the complete solution.
Communications is a big piece of the engagement puzzle. When you’re not in touch, warehouse workers, field technicians, drivers and similar workers feel removed. When that’s the case, there’s a pretty good chance the reason is much more human than organizational—and it certainly isn’t technical.
Engagement happens on the ground. So no matter how lofty your goals or supercharged your technology, if middle managers and supervisors aren’t on board, employees who rely on mobile devices or social channels may never be drawn into your culture, let alone engaged by it. To succeed, you should think as carefully about the manager’s role in the use of engagement technology as you do the technology itself.
Today, many—if not most—workers use their own mobile devices to stay in touch with their employer. But if they’re discouraged from looking at their phones while on the clock, your conversations about work-life balance and personal wellness lose much of their punch. It’s easy to say such things are important to your culture, but it’s up to line managers to prove that you mean it.
This means line managers have to do more than “buy in” to the notion of engagement, especially when it comes to deskless workers. It’s critical for HR to make them understand that (a) engagement matters and (b) your efforts won’t succeed without them. Since more often than not line managers tend to be focused on meeting their goals, they also need to realize (c) encouraging engagement is a part of their job.
When considering the technology that will support your engagement efforts, then, consider these points as they apply specifically to middle managers.
First, educate managers about their importance in making your engagement efforts succeed hit home. Demonstrate how allowing mobile use increases the effectiveness of campaigns and helps the business in general. For example, Tech Pro Research found mobile use gives employees more flexibility in how and where they engage with the company. Also, managers think about productivity a lot, so tell them about surveys that say employers who allow mobile use at work are more productive than those who don’t.
Don’t argue against the notions that mobile use can cause distractions, interrupt meetings and generally slow things down. These are all true. But remind managers that since mobile devices are ubiquitous today, an outright ban could hurt morale and squeeze your reputation as an employer of choice.
To strike the right balance, get input from both managers and employees to create a policy that lays out when mobile use is allowed for each type of worker.
Hold Managers Accountable
There’s an old saying that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers. It illustrates how, practically speaking, managers have the most impact on the day-to-day work experience.
So again, make sure managers understand the ultimate effectiveness of your engagement program depends on their approach to supervising their team. If employees are required to watch a video message, they shouldn’t be reprimanded for connecting to YouTube when they have a spare moment. When reviewing a manager’s performance, look at how well your messages have been getting around their department. If the facility in Des Moines shows signs of being less engaged than the one in Cedar Rapids, survey employees about whether they’re able to easily access your campaigns. If they’re not, find out why.
Message from the Top
Finally, everyone should know that your approach is meant to bolster your engagement efforts. Once you’ve created the policy, involve executives to take the lead in spreading the word. It’s simply human nature that people pay more attention when their boss is talking.
The whole idea of employee engagement rests on effective communications. If your workers aren’t getting your message, their engagement isn’t as deep as it could be. If your efforts are lagging, don’t look to the technology first. Make sure the human element is working properly.
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