How to Communicate With All Your Non-Wired, Hard-to-Reach Employees

Factory workers and other employees working in remote locations can be difficult for HR to communicate with regularly. (Photo by Dreamstime).

I’m a member of the Council of Communication Management (CCM), a professional community of roughly 350 senior communication professionals. One of the ways we learn from one another is through your basic ListServ. It’s not slick, but it’s a rapid-response feedback mechanism and advice column, and one of the organization’s most meaningful benefits.

The other day, this question from a CCM member hit my inbox:

I’m interested in learning about any best practices for helping plant managers communicate with their ‘non-wired’ employees (managers who are in a manufacturing setting and have employees without access to their own computer). If you’ve heard of any tips, tools, ideas that help the plant managers (and the employees) communicate more effectively, I’d so appreciate hearing from you and hearing about best practices.”

I quickly jotted down (if one can jot in e-mail) my experience in an e-mail response. after hitting send, I figured it was something others might also be dealing with, so I’ve copied my response here:

I work with a manufacturing client with many non-wired employees, at least at work. Though the client does offer kiosks in their facilities, many of these employees lack the time, capability, or interest in using them. We’re trying to reach these employees to encourage healthier behaviors. We’ve gone about doing so in a few ways:

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  1. Computer learning cards. We created these to help employees learn to help themselves. These were placed at every kiosk and were highly visual, making the learning process less cumbersome, intimidating, and reliant on their getting on the computer first.
  2. Shift break talking points. We have recruited volunteer wellness champions at every facility and for every shift. We’ve equipped them with exercises and talking points that make it possible to quickly cover different aspects and benefits of the wellness program. Each exercise requires employees to get online so they can gain more comfort and have help on hand. and every exercise has an accompanying employee handout so employees remember what they learned.
  3. Plant manager e-newsletters. We deliver quarterly e-newsletters that equip plant managers — and remind them — to cover important information we want to get to the non-wired employees. These e-newsletters also give the plant managers tips about how to help their non-wired employees gain greater comfort online. At this particular client, their benefits budget can be offset by their location’s level of participation in the wellness program. As a result, we’ve seen much more active interest on their behalf. Plant managers have taken what we’ve delivered centrally and expanded upon it locally. To give them recognition and to share their advice, we capture their tips in a section called “From the Front Lines.” We supplement this in a plant manager forum where they can also talk one to many. The e-newsletter’s been particularly successful; in a recent survey, plant managers told us they want these more frequently.
  4. Wellness champions e-newsletters. We’ve created a different monthly e-newsletter specific to the volunteer wellness champions and local HR. These also offer monthly reminders, tips, and links to important information and resources. As with the plant manager forum, we offer the champions and HR a forum for their issues, needs, and opinions. They’ve discussed everything from increasing participation to including third-shift workers.
  5. Social media. As I mentioned, many of these employees actually are wired, they just lack interest. So, we’ve tried to make things more interesting and employee-centric. We use blogs, podcasts, Twitter, forums, and other social means to open the communication channels and gear the information around what employees want to know.

What about you? How are you reaching hard-to-reach employees?

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s Free-Range Communication blog.