The ultimate guide to writing and sharing effective frontline communications
Learn to write clear, creative communications – and save time along the way!
Ah, the struggle of frontline communication teams: you want to do everything you can to drive knowledge retention and employee engagement, but to do that, you need truly effective communications – and that takes a lot of time and effort.
The Nudge customer success team is here to help! In this guide, we’re giving away all our secrets and serving up a collection of tried-and-true tips that any frontline organization can use to write creative, effective communications, while saving time and energy.
Download the guide to learn:
- Why writing creatively is the secret to effective internal communications
- How to write creatively (plus an exercise to put it into practice!)
- How to build a content strategy and use campaigns to save time
- Plus: a free internal communications campaign builder!
The Ultimate Guide to Deskless Employee Communication
Everything you need to create an effective employee communication strategy for your deskless workforce.
The deskless workforce. A powerful group.
They comprise 80% of the workforce, and yet they have been more or less forgotten when it comes to helping organizations grow and thrive. But what top brands have known for decades is this: ignoring the power of your frontline staff is the biggest mistake that organizations can make.
Whether you’re in retail, foodservice, manufacturing, hospitality, or any other predominantly deskless industry, your workforce is the most important asset in creating a profitable, stable business that can adapt to the changing world.
The most important way to invest in your workforce? Communication. Effective employee communication can boost
engagement, increase revenue, reduce turnover, improve workplace safety, and much more. It can culturally inspire your workforce and empower your teams to do their absolute best… if it’s done right.
And, believe us, it’s not always easy to get it right. But we’re here to help. This guide has everything you need to create an effective employee communication strategy for your frontline and deskless workforce.
So, let’s get started.
What is employee communication?
There’s no shame in starting from the very beginning – especially when it comes to deskless employee communication, which is a relatively new concept… at least in its current form.
At its most basic, employee communication (or, corporate communication or internal communication) refers to the way that information flows within an organization. Traditionally, this flow was almost exclusively top-down, with communication coming from head office to managers to employees.
The relationship between head office and its employees dates back to the 1800s, with forward-looking companies quickly recognizing the relationship between employee engagement and a steady flow of two-way communication. But things get really interesting from the 1960s onward, with deskbound employees enjoying a steady stream of new innovations: computers, fax machines, email, the internet, not to mention the technology boom of the 2000s and beyond.
But while technology for deskbound workers continued to evolve, the communication channels for frontline and deskless employees more or less stayed in the ‘90s, with email, intranet sites, paper surveys, and bulletin boards remaining the preferred methods to engage with the largest workforce in the world.
And that’s a problem, because the deskless workforce presents a number of unique challenges that need to be addressed through communication.
What makes communicating with deskless workforces unique?
You can’t communicate with your deskless workforce the same way you would a deskbound team. Here’s why.
They’re distributed and disconnected
Some deskless workers are on the frontline, working in retail, foodservice, or hospitality in small teams dispersed across the country (or the globe). They might have little to no connection to other locations, or even direct coworkers that work different shifts without overlap. Other deskless workforces are even more distributed and disconnected, particularly employees that don’t operate in a location at all (think delivery workers and other supply chain or logistics employees that are on the road, working solo). These workers are particularly at risk for disengagement and fractured communication.
A heightened need for real-time info
If the COVID-19 pandemic showed us one thing, it’s that deskless employees need to be agile and responsive. Even when your organization isn’t navigating such uncertain times, your workforce still benefits from real-time communications that allow them to react to sudden changes to promotions or strategies, not to mention valuable insights from other locations or even unexpected safety protocol changes.
No access to technology
Employee communications have almost entirely moved online. For deskbound employees, that means email, Slack, and any of the countless other office communications platforms that have emerged over the past couple decades. For deskless employees, communication has stayed slightly more analog – verbal updates from management, memos on the bulletin boards, or a poster in the break room. Technology has stayed a bit more dormant for this workforce, with communication shared via intranet sites and email that employees can’t even really access during work hours, if at all. In fact,one research study found that 45% of non-desk workers have no access to their company intranet at work, and 83% don’t have a company email address.
Frontline and deskless industries – especially manufacturing, facilities management, retail and foodservice – tend to have more standard operating processes in place that need to be followed by employees. Think opening and closing procedures, food-handling protocols, machinery handling, workplace safety processes, and so on. It’s crucial that these teams have up-to-date information on these processes at all times – and are able to access it quickly and efficiently.
A lack of community
A distributed deskless workforce makes it incredibly difficult for your employees to feel like they’re part of a larger community, working toward a common goal. In fact, according to The Deskless Report, 42% of frontline workers don’t feel connected to coworkers outside their location. This fragmentation is even greater in franchise locations, where communication with head office is even more fractured. This lack of community can be detrimental to morale and lead to huge turnover costs if not properly addressed.
Why employee communication is so important
Employee communication has huge impacts on your bottom line. Here are some of the ways effective employee communication can save or make!) you money.
Increased operational agility to change quickly
The ability to respond quickly to changing local, national, and global conditions means something a lot different than it did a couple years ago, and the role of employee communications has been a huge differentiator for companies looking to accelerate change to stay relevant (or even just open) during a crisis.
Less employee turnover
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the retail and hospitality industries consistently have the highest “quit rate.” Depending on the industry, turnover rates can be as high as 300%. And it goes without saying that high turnovers can take a huge chunk out of your profits. One estimate puts the cost of losing a single retail employee at over $3,000, while this research found the cost of losing a hospitality worker is between $3,000 and $13,000. There are several reasons frontline turnover is such an issue – and salary isn’t really top of the list. Frontline workers want a sense of purpose, clear information, and a company that listens – all of which has traditionally been lacking at frontline organizations, where communication can be somewhat of a broken telephone.
Fewer workplace accidents
Financially – and this is really a no-brainer – there are a number of reasons why you want to avoid workplace accidents among your frontline workers. There are medical and administrative expenses, as well as loss of labor, but according to the National Safety Council, there’s also time lost by workers indirectly involved: cost of time to investigate and report on injuries, damage to work property and vehicles, and overall productivity loss. All told, the cost of workplace injuries in the U.S. is estimated to be over $170 billion a year. But with a proper communication strategy in place, safety training becomes an ongoing process that keeps deskless and frontline workers engaged and well-informed on protocols and daily tasks.
Yes, deskless employee communication boosts engagement, but employee engagement isn’t just about happiness. Deskless workers armed with the right information are more engaged in their job – and are more productive and profitable as a result. In other words, to make more money, you need to give your frontline workers the information they need to make you more money.
Better CX and guest loyalty
The value of customer retention can’t be overstated, and the cost of losing customers is a serious concern. Better customer experience starts with better employee experience. While some industries (we’re looking at you, retail) have moved into an omnichannel approach, where brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sites work in tandem to provide the best possible customer experience, it’s crucial the organizations ensure that their deskless and frontline workers are keeping up – and a proper communication strategy is the solution.
Fewer costly mistakes
In industries like retail, foodservice, and hospitality, mistakes can have an especially huge impact on customer loyalty and revenue – not to mention workplace safety. What makes it even more frustrating is how many mistakes can be easily avoided by standardizing tasks and clearly communicating with your deskless workforce. That means sharing easily digestible information and then finding ways to test retention and identify knowledge gaps on an ongoing basis. It also means leveraging upward feedback to hear directly from your frontline on what’s working – and what’s not – so you can keep processes as regulated as possible.
More valuable ideas
One of the most profitable benefits of deskless employee communication is that amazing ideas find their way from your workforce back up to head office – and to other locations. After all, if one location discovers an easy way to improve the customer or guest experience through a tweak in a display, or boosts sales through a simple upsell, wouldn’t you want the rest of the company to leverage that learning?
The psychology of uncertainty
with Dr. Wendi Adair
Fun fact: no one likes a lack of information. From a psychological point of view, a lack of information leads to feelings of uncertainty, which leads to a stress response.
“We are motivated as humans to feel like we have a good sense of what’s going on. A lot of what our brain is doing is trying to figure out what’s going on around us and find ways to feel like we have a sense of control,” explains Wendi Adair, Professor of Organizational Psychology at the University of Waterloo.
That’s where you see disengagement and demotivation kick in. When employees are feeling that uncertainty, they’ll naturally try to distance themselves from it as much as possible. “When there are feelings of uncertainty or ambiguity, we’re motivated to reduce those feelings.”
Reviewing your existing deskless employee communication strategy
Before you can start creating an effective communication strategy, you need to take stock of your existing one. And yes, even if you don’t have a formal strategy in place, you still have communication – or lack thereof – to audit. Here’s what you need to know.
How to run an internal communications audit
An internal communications audit is a review of how well your organization and its leaders distribute and collect information to and from your workforce and how well the current setup aligns with your overall strategy. This audit is especially crucial for organizations with deskless and frontline employees, who spend very little face-to-face time with management and don’t have regular access to computers, so a specialized strategy is crucial. A communications audit will ensure you identify the right way to share information.
Download the full guide to get a printable worksheet to use when running your audit!
1. Create an audit team
If you don’t have a dedicated internal communications team to run the audit, put together an ad-hoc team composed of delegates from operations, HR, and marketing. You may also want to include someone to represent the frontline employees to provide additional perspective.
2. Set goals
Audits work best when they focus on improving specific aspects of your internal communications. The narrower and more measurable the goals are, the greater the chance your audit will succeed. Develop your goals by asking questions about how information is shared with your frontline or deskless workforce:
- What information is shared with my frontline?
- What formats and channels are used to share information?
- Who is sharing information with my frontline?
- Who might want to communicate with them?
- Are my communications being read? How easy are they to find, read, and remember?
- Do I have a way of measuring the impact of my employee communications?
- Is the information being shared having an impact on workplace safety and consistency of execution?
- Are our communications effectively driving profits and revenue?
- Is the information being shared having an impact on turnover rates and employee morale?
- Are our communications boosting productivity?
- Are we sharing the information employees need to do their job better and more efficiently?
- Are we collecting ideas and best practices?
3. Collect information and insights
Collecting the intel for your communications audit is a multi-stage process. The steps can be done in any order, but we recommend collecting your information in the following stages:
Workforce insights are a critical step in any communication strategy and are extremely informative in your internal communication audit. Raw numbers can be used to either support or challenge the anecdotal feedback you’ll be collecting later. Depending on what types of communication technology and tools you already have set up, these numbers can come from multiple areas:
- Email/newsletter readership and engagement rates
- Information retention test results
- Employee survey completion rates
- Metrics on employee ideas and suggestions
- Employee turnover rates
Communication tools review
An internal communications tool is a method, product, or software that you use to send and receive messages to and from your team. The tools you use should make your communication strategy more effective and streamlined – but they can do the opposite. As you review your tech stack, answer the following:
- What tools or platforms are we using to communicate with our frontline?
- Who manages those tools?
- Whose decision was it to use those tools? What was the objective behind this decision?
- How often are these tools used to send internal communications? To whom?
- How well do these communications fulfill their objectives?
Numbers can tell you a lot, but the human side can tell you just as much, if not more. It’s important to interview both sides of the conversation: executive management and the workers. When talking to management, get their perspective on what they prioritize, how they think the company should be communicating, and what they think the gaps are. When you do get to talk with frontline workers, don’t ask leading questions. Balance quantitative and qualitative responses and give respondents an opportunity to free-write their answers.
- Do you feel in-the-know and up-to-date?
- How much do you know of what’s going on in the company?
- Who would you go to with an idea or with feedback?
4. Analyze the intel
Once you’ve harvested your information, you can analyze the data to uncover weaknesses in your internal communications strategy and look for signs your communication is broken (check out our sidebar for warning signs). Compile your findings into key insights, then go back to your audit goals to see what conclusions you can derive. From there, you’ll develop a list of recommendations to share with stakeholders and start to prepare a plan of action. Here are a few examples of recommendations you might bring back to the organization based on your audit findings:
- Choose a new communication tool or platform to make communication simple and easy.
- Create a monthly or quarterly communication calendar to ensure your communications are targeted around a core goal or objective.
- Identify the metrics you want to track and how you’ll track them.
- If you don’t have one, create a dedicated communications lead who will work with various stakeholders to create and share information.
Remember, you don’t have to overhaul your entire internal communications system all at once. You can improve one component at a time, focusing on the area that will deliver the most value to the organization and its employees.
Building out an effective strategy
Once you’ve identified your organization’s communication problems, it’s time to address them with a new strategy better suited to your workforce. These steps will help you get started.
Download the full guide to read more!
Share your details below to get the full 40+ page guide, which gives you everything you need to audit your existing employee communication, build out a new strategy, and monitor your efforts long-term.
The Ultimate Guide to Deskless Employee Communication
Everything you need to create an effective employee communication strategy for your deskless workforce.
What does every organization want? Better business outcomes. That means higher profits, lower turnover, and better productivity and efficiency. And the key to shifting the needle on these crucial metrics is simple: your workforce.
To set up your organization to thrive, you need to harness the power of your workforce. In order to do that, you need to be making data-driven decisions based on the needs and demands of your workers.
Wondering where to start? This guide will help you understand what data-driven decisions are and why they’re important. We’ll identify what data to collect, how to harvest the metrics, and learn what to do with data.
Data alone doesn’t tell a story. You need to process and analyze those numbers to find trends and correlations. You need to find the story. As Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard put it, “The goal is to turn data into information and information into insight.”
So, let’s start turning data into insights.
Why do I need to make data-driven decisions?
How engaged is your workforce? How reachable are your teams in uncertain times? How confident are your employees in executing current or future programs and strategies? These aren’t questions to answer with your gut. These are questions that can – and should – be answered with data.
Making data-driven decisions is deeply rooted in workforce analytics. That’s the process of tracking and analyzing key employee metrics to make fact-based, data-driven decisions to improve performance, engagement, and more. This crucial data can help drive better business outcomes across organizations, everything from sales and CX to operational efficiency and productivity.
Why does workforce analytics matter?
Workforce analytics provide organizations with the data and insights to stay agile and responsive, and set up its employees for success. Here are six reasons workforce analytics matter for your frontline or deskless organizations:
1. It drives performance and productivity
Workforce analytics allow you to answer the questions that can inform crucial decisions around performance and productivity. How consistent are locations in implementing SOPs and protocols? What locations are consistently lagging in performance, and why? How confident are my teams in executing a program or promotion?
Using data from feedback forums, confidence checks, and other sources to answer these questions provides the insights you need to tweak policies, implement new processes, and identify worrisome locations or regions quickly and easily – in short, better support your frontline at scale.
2. It identifies key knowledge gaps
Knowledge gaps cause money loss and safety issues, particularly among frontline and deskless employees, who are at greater risk due to less robust training, poor employee communication, and inconsistent processes (fun fact: ineffective on-the-job training can cost businesses up to $13.5 million per 1,000 employees per year).
But with knowledge testing quizzes and pulse surveys, companies can get far more strategic with their training. Through execution metrics, surveys, knowledge quizzes, and other data, analytics can identify knowledge gaps, protocol confusion, and other red flags. From there, organizations can triage their training to address the most urgent needs, then fill out the rest of the program as more resources become available.
3. It mitigates disengagement and turnover
Do you know whether or not your employees are engaged? How can you be sure?
Only 16% of companies use technology to measure and track employee progress and engagement. Those who don’t rely on a combination of observation, anecdotal evidence, gut feeling, and wishful thinking. This means that you don’t know for sure whether or not your frontline and deskless employees – the ones who are in the most stressful positions – are burnt-out or not. And seeing as burnout is responsible for up to half of workforce turnover, this is definitely an area that organizations can’t ignore.
Data from mental health surveys, feedback forums, and other communication channels can help you establish your workforce’s level of burnout and disengagement. Performance and engagement analytics can further inform the potential business impacts of your situation. With these tools in place, you’ll have an early warning system and be able to act accordingly with disengagement strikes.
4. It highlights the trends that lead to better business outcomes
Workforce analytics have the potential to identify trends that could transform your organization.
Here’s an example: Data analysis might discover that one branch of a retail franchise has consistently better sales, higher employee engagement scores, and lower turnover. You might then discover that this branch’s manager has initiated a few new policies that have completely transformed the location. The organization scales these policies company-wide, and numbers across all branches show significant improvement. You would never have detected that outlier branch without looking at the data.
This may seem like a somewhat extreme example, but it’s not that far-fetched. That’s the power of best practice sharing, and people analytics is the channel to capture these valuable ideas at scale.
5. It identifies star performers
The secret sauce to driving key business initiatives – and ensuring continued growth and success on the frontline – comes down to your top-performing employees. But here’s where it gets tricky. You may have thousands, hundreds of thousands, or (why not?) millions of employees across the country, or even the world. How do you identify your top performers? How do you find the fabled needle in the haystack?
Luckily, there are several proven data points that will allow you to gain a better understanding of both potential and active high performers within your workforce, no matter how large that workforce may be.
6. It improves operational execution
You’ve spent 6 months planning a product launch. You’ve executed on the signage, the PR, the inventory. But… are your associates ready? Here’s another area where workforce analytics can have a major impact on business outcomes. Using a customized concoction of data from surveys, check-ins, and skill-testing quizzes, you can create a crystal ball that will tell you how successful your launch will go before it even begins.
Workforce analytics for frontline and deskless teams: a unique challenge
While reviewing workforce analytics is crucial for any company, it becomes especially valuable for deskless organizations with massive employee bases spread across the country – or the world. Collecting and analyzing workforce data allows you to make informed data-driven decisions so that you can boost the efficiency and operational agility of your teams, no matter the size.
What data to collect
The first step of harvesting data for making data-driven decisions is knowing what metrics to collect. Here’s an in-depth list of the employee metrics that all deskless organizations should track on a regular basis. Depending on the communication and feedback tools you have in place, some of these metrics will be easier to capture than others. We’ll get into collecting your data later, but for now, here’s a metrics wish list:
These metrics will help you gauge how reachable your workforce is and how effective your communication strategies are.
Adoption and reachability
This is a crucial metric for any communication strategy, answering the question, “Who can I reach?” Ideally, the answer would be 100% of your workforce. Depending on the tools you use to communicate with your workforce, your reachability rate can be difficult to nail down. For example, if you communicate by email, you might be able to calculate how many email addresses you have on file, but you don’t know how many are recent, let alone how often they’re checked. At Nudge, we consider employees reachable if they’ve used our app recently, and we’re confident that your messages will reach them.
Generated through knowledge testing and quizzes, knowledge rates can show whether the information that has been shared has been properly retained. This helps ensure that you’re identifying knowledge gaps as quickly as possible.
Again, this will depend on your communication tools and channels, but ideally you have a metric to track how your workforce is consuming content. What percentage of your staff opened your latest announcement? How many read to the end? How many clicked the CTA at the bottom? How often are SOPs accessed and read? These numbers, where available, will help you see whether your content is actually being read by your employees.
This metric tracks the level of engagement linked to a specific communication campaign, whether it’s an employee experience initiative, like a wellness month, or a new customer promotion or product feature. Ideally, you can quantify this data even more with a campaign engagement rate, calculated by the number of employees who interacted with the campaign compared to the number of employees who received it.
These metrics will help you monitor your feedback channels and capture great ideas, no matter how big your organization.
Feedback participation metrics
To get an at-a-glance understanding of whether you’re fostering a culture of feedback across the organization, look at who is regularly engaging with your feedback channels. Depending on the tools you have in place, you can see who is providing feedback through surveys, forums, or other channels. You may also be able to segment these findings by region or location to identify top-participating groups, as well as those that are quieter.
When you’re collecting feedback from hundreds of thousands of employees, it’s important to have ways to quantify their sentiments at scale. This might be done through sentiment analysis, crowdsourcing/upvoting ideas, and numbers-focused feedback (like multiple-choice surveys). Capturing ideas in these formats lets you turn qualitative feedback into quantitative insights to make more data-driven decisions.
These metrics will help you successfully execute on key events, like promos and product launches, by understanding how prepared and knowledgeable your employees are.
Depending on your industry and organization, you might be leveraging standardized task lists within your internal communication strategy to reiterate standard protocols and processes.
Employee performance metrics on frequently assigned tasks and their completion rates will indicate the effectiveness and consistency
of your execution.
Closely tied to execution and confidence are metrics related to a specific campaign or key event, like a product launch or a major organizational change. This could be a combination of metrics around reach, knowledge retention, task execution, sales and revenue, and feedback as an indicator of overall campaign success.
Employees’ confidence is directly related to their ability to fulfill their job requirements, whether that be speaking confidently to customers about a product or service or executing on a specific task. Capturing data around employee confidence through a survey, knowledge quiz, or forum is a critical metric needed to predict the success rate of key events, like promos or launches.
These metrics will help you keep a pulse on employee morale and identify red flags around disengagement and turnover.
Employee engagement metrics
Employee engagement metrics can be measured in a variety of ways. They can be an aggregate metric based on how your employees engage with your communication and feedback channels, or it can be based on dedicated surveys and pulse checks.
Voluntary turnover rate
Voluntary turnover tracks the number of people who have left your organization on their own volition against the average number of employees overall. A high turnover rate means that an above-average number of employees are quitting. One important note: What constitutes a “high turnover rate” will vary according to a number of factors, such as location, industry, and your own historical benchmarks.
Employee advocacy rates
Employee NPS? Yes, it’s a thing. It’s essentially asking whether your employees would recommend your company as a good place to work and/or whether they would recommend your company’s products or services to a friend. Tracking employee advocacy is a good way of tracking overall employee engagement.An engaged employee is more likely to be an advocate of your brand. Conversely, if your advocacy levels are low, there are likely engagement issues within the organization that may be negatively impacting productivity or customer service.
How to collect your data
Now that you know which metrics you want to be capturing, how do you capture them? There are a few different ways to collect workforce data depending on the communication tools you have in place. Here are a few methods to consider:
Download the full guide to learn more!
Download the full guide to read more!
Share your details below to get the full guide, which includes step-by-step instructions on turning data into decisions, the data mistakes every organization makes, and much more. Plus: Printable charts and reference sheets!
The Deskless Report 2021
In June 2021, Nudge surveyed 865 deskless workers and 300 deskless leaders, and collected data from Nudge’s 55,000 frontline users, to answer a question: “What’s the state of the deskless workforce?”
In exploring the viewpoints of both workers and leaders, this report delves into the disconnect between them – the gaps between what workers want and what head office is providing. In this report, we’re looking at who deskless workers are, and what they desperately need in order to do their jobs. But we’re also looking at the role of the deskless leader: what keeps them up at night, how they’re prioritizing the employee experience, and what they’re investing in next year and beyond.
Read the full report to learn:
- What drives engagement and motivation in deskless workers
- The #1 challenge facing deskless leaders right now
- The state of deskless worker communication
- The state of deskless worker feedback
- How leaders are investing in employee experience in 2022
PRESENTED BY NUDGE & FEATURING FORRESTER
The ROI of digital frontline communication
How effective frontline communication can deliver tangible outcomes.
As we navigate out of these unforeseen times into a new normal, frontline and deskless organizations need to continue to support their workforce. And that support starts with the technology that enables organizations to share real-time info and collect in-the-moment feedback from their most valuable asset: their employees.
In this two-part webinar, guest speaker, Forrester Senior Consultant Veronica Iles walks through Nudge’s recently commissioned Total Economic Impact™ Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, to dive deeper into Forrester’s findings, which included a three-year ROI of 484%. Then, Nudge COO Jordan Ekers and our guest speaker, Forrester Senior Analyst of Digital Commerce, Scott Compton, discuss the trending challenges facing the frontline, and the role that technology can play in bringing these organizations into the “new normal.”
Watch this webinar today to see how effective frontline communication can deliver tangible outcomes across your organization.