Communication should be personal, which is why, over the years, blue-collar companies have mostly stuck with in-person meetings for announcements, training, and hiring. Yet, in-person meetings are often more counterproductive than most people think. The real value behind face-to-face interactions is hard to measure—and many have tried—but it all comes down to the idea that we as humans simply prefer in-person interaction. And yet, the Internet is full of memes and even coffee cups that tout “that meeting could have been an email,” and it’s true more often than not.
The problems with in-person meetings are plenty, chief among them is that people are just plain bad at listening (even though we all think we’re great at it). In fact,
“the average person only remembers about half of what he has heard.” Studies have also found that “once you know people well...there’s an unconscious tendency to tune them out because you think you already know what they are going to say.”
That brings us to the question: how do we make sure people actually process important information that we share with them if they aren’t listening?
Strategy 1: Email for Blue-collar Workers?
Email is often the first digital communication practice that companies employ to mass distribute information and policy changes. And this is a pretty good option as long as every single one of your employees has an email address and spends their entire workday in front of a computer. They always have their email open, and so anything that comes through, they will see within minutes.
The same can’t be said for most blue-collar workers who are more likely to be out on a job, organizing the warehouse floor, or on the line working heavy machinery. They aren’t using their hands to move a mouse around a desk, waiting for emails to update them every few minutes, but their needs for instant and reliable communication remain.
Strategy 2: Can’t My ATS Send Messages?
A lot of applicant tracking systems (ATS) have, indeed, adapted to help companies with employee communication post-hire. Many of these systems now allow you to send company-wide messages, which is excellent, but two issues remain.
1. Messages sent via ATS can only be read after the recipient logs in.
Having to log in to an ATS system to see a message brings about many of the same issues as email. If most blue-collar workers don’t have time or the equipment to log into an email, they don’t have the time or equipment to log in to a software system to receive the same message.
2. Employees cannot send messages via the ATS.
You can easily blast out a message about a change in company policy, health care plan, vacation time, and then expect a line of employees outside your door at the end of the day waiting to ask questions. This is because most ATS software only allows one-way messaging, from the system to the employee. Deskless employees can see the ATS system’s message, but they can’t respond with any questions or concerns they may have. And since most blue-collar workers are on a job all day, the only time they have for HR questions is before or after their shift, times that are often misaligned with the head office hours.
If you can’t send emails, and an ATS can’t do the whole job, and you aren’t excited about the idea of sitting at your desk before the first shift, after the last shift, and on weekends, what else can you do?
Strategy 3: Use the Tools You Already Have → Text Messaging
You don’t need an app, you don’t need internet, you don’t even need a smartphone to have instant communication with your workforce. If your employees have phones, they can receive—and reply to—text messages. In fact, 97% of Americans already send or receive at least one text per day, so you don’t need to spend a single minute training people on a new communication system. With texting, you can:
- Send out employee announcements without having to schedule a time when everyone can gather in one place
- Rest easy knowing 90% of your employees read your message within 3 minutes (and you’ll have a record of who didn’t get the message so you can send a simple reminder)
- Receive questions or reports from the field during regular office hours
Text messaging isn’t just important for the younger workforce (although 75% of American Gen Z and Millennials prefer to talk with other people via text instead of talking to them in person). A Gallup poll found that texting is the #1 most used mode of communication for Americans under the age of 50. Whether you are looking for new ways to adapt your business’s communication due to new safety regulations or just interested in ways to improve employee engagement and education, implementing a text messaging platform into your regular workday will provide the benefits of better communication and give you a leg up in attracting the younger generation to work for you.
Moving towards technology is one step closer to improving your employee communication (which improves productivity and retention). If you’re interested in learning how to have open and transparent communication at work, read more in our article on Communicating Effectively with Employees during Times of Change - Part 1.