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Collaboration, not co-location

Mark Seemann, CEO - StaffCircle

The majority of our global workforce do not sit at a desk. Working in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture, this frontline ‘deskless workforce’ amounts to 2.7 billion people and roughly 80% of the global population. Yet despite their overwhelming number, 1 in 3 front-line workers say they don’t feel valued by their manager, nor are they likely to have access to channels, digital or otherwise, which allow them to provide feedback about their organisation. 

If this is not handled with care, a ‘them and us’ culture between frontline and office-based workers is the result. After all, office-based staff, who are connected to the company’s systems, are often significantly more engaged and have much greater visibility than frontline workers who often only communicate anecdotally. This is truly damaging as it triggers an ‘out of office’ / ‘out of mind’ mentality which leads to lower employee engagement, and therefore much lower performance. 

However, with the pandemic essentially separating all teams and removing the office hub that created this divide, what we’re seeing is a level playing field appear. Over the last sixteen months, businesses everywhere had to find new ways of creating a unified feel, no matter the location. And as preparations are instigated for the hybrid working model of the future, it is more important than ever that leaders continue to achieve this level of inclusion. 

Communication between everyone, everywhere
BrewDog is a classic example of what happens when you don’t communicate with your workforce – or even worse, communicate one thing to your staff but portray a different image to the public. After its disgruntled employees accused both the company and its co-founder of fostering a toxic “culture of fear” and bullying, the company was forced to issue an apology letter to address the broken relations with its employees.

Undoubtedly, the fact that an unhappy workforce had to resort to social media to get their voice heard reveals that BrewDog’s communication is very much of a top down approach, with no platform for employees to channel their opinion. Whether in the physical office, remote office, factories, what this fiasco has highlighted is the importance of connectivity, communications, and checking in regularly with your people.

Especially as we navigate the new norm, fostering an engaging and inspiring culture is more paramount than ever to employee wellbeing, productivity, and mental health. Without this, employees are simply not engaged nor part of the company culture and this can lead to a complete breakdown in trust, the pillar of an organisation. 

Out of office, out of mind
With workers spread across varying locations – whether due to the effects of the pandemic or simply because they’re a ‘deskless worker’ – organisations need to unify its workforce in an alternative way. As such, leaders can provide all employees with the necessary tools, alongside desktops/laptops and mobile devices, to ensure information, collaborative tools, and in-depth communication is accessible for the entire workforce and not just those who are office-based. 

Likewise, leveraging performance management technology so that this core messaging is built into the daily lives of your frontline workers is another way to firmly embed your culture into their mindset. Such data-driven insights provide the basis for informed decision making and a more strategic HR function, as well as result in high performing cultures with more engaged employees and higher retention. Add AI to digitisation of HR processes then business leaders and HR managers can get access to unparalleled levels of actionable workforce insights and trends.

So to avoid frontline workers becoming isolated and separated, and thus the prospect of two distinct cultures appearing, having an internal communications strategy and tech-enabled HR systems to support all workers is vital. This can make all the difference to keeping discussions flowing, employees in the loop and encouraging new ideas and discussions, regardless of time or location. 

A helping hand from technology
Digital communication platforms can help overcome challenges with inclusion and ensuring that frontline workers have an opportunity to feed back their thoughts and have a voice. Newsfeeds, team chats, social channels, video meetings, phone calls, e-mails and employee pulse surveys are all likely to reduce this divide. After all, according to Trade Press Services, effective internal communications motivate 85% of employees to become more engaged in the workplace. Whatsmore, a higher engaged workforce is a more productive one, and can increase profitability by 21%

So how exactly can technology achieve this? Using an integrated company newsfeed as part of your communications platform allows both frontline and remote workers to cut past the often-laborious task of checking their emails and get to see exactly what they need to see. While emails can be easily overlooked, a newsfeed that highlights urgent issues and offers real-time updates which frontline workers can receive across different channels helps boost a culture of openness and inclusion. With many companies having switched to remote working, the odds of someone being left out of the loop are higher than ever. By adopting a robust approach to communications, a high level of transparency can be created which will preempt issues with visibility with all workers. 

The bottom line
At the heart of creating a culture that enhances employee wellbeing and promotes inclusion is ensuring that there is communication across the board that allows all employees, deskless, office-based, remote or otherwise, to feel heard, engaged and a key component of the business’ ethos. Ultimately, you can’t have an aligned culture unless it is aligned with everybody. 

One of the most positive things about this pandemic has been the overwhelming effort from businesses in bringing people together via technologies that can transcend the social distancing methods put in place. People need inclusivity, motivation and recognition wherever they are.

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