Engaging Disconnected Employees

deskless workers are remote employees
Disconnected workers, those without desks or ways to easily access their intranet or email, need specific strategies to help them. Read on.

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You have now developed your communication strategy and have started the process of ensuring you have an IT champion for your initiative .  The time has now come to ensure your solution has as broad a reach as possible within your organization.  For many, this will mean effectively reaching both connected and disconnected employees.

What’s a disconnected employee?

elevatepoint news updatesEmployees who do not have full-time access to a computer or are primarily working outside of your organization’s corporate network. You may think you don’t have any, but they can include physicians, nurses, construction workers, miners, stockroom employees, mailroom employees, salespeople and even your leaders who are rarely at their desks.

Numerous studies (Gallup, Hay Group, Modern Survey) have been conducted on the importance of employee engagement as it relates to company performance, innovation, job satisfaction and more.  It is a major consideration then to ensure you are effectively communicating with your entire workforce.

Connected employees are obviously easier to reach with your communication strategy and can provide you great insight into its effectiveness. The challenge remains that you may also need to reach employees with varying degrees of connectivity in order for your strategy to be fully successful.  Additionally, even connected employees may at times work disconnected from your corporate infrastructure, and you need to ensure you can reach them during those times.

Levels of disconnect

Depending on the organization, disconnected employees may fall into several common categories. Understanding how disconnected some or all of your employees are can help ensure that the appropriate solution capabilities are delivered in your initiative.  Here a few examples of disconnected employee levels:

  • Minimal – employee has a corporate email account and is able to use VPN to access corporate assets (including a social intranet), but doesn’t have access to a PC during the day (works on a warehouse floor, a mine site, etc).  The employee may check email periodically or access the intranet or other systems occasionally, but the employee doesn’t feel fully engaged.
  • Moderate – employee may or may not have a corporate email account or be able to access information that resides behind the corporate firewall.  The employee may have some access to a PC during the day, but doesn’t rely on internal tools due to a general lack of access to the corporate network.  The employee feels fairly disconnected, but would take some time to stay engaged if easier engagement methods were available.
  • Major – user does not have a corporate email address and cannot access corporate information that resides behind the firewall.  The employee is disconnected from the greater organization but may have relationships with peers in close proximity. Without a focused effort on reaching this type of user, engagement is likely nearly non-existent.

Why worry about workers without desks?

digital workplace is happening nowIf your employees or remote workers don’t have access to key company information and don’t have a company email address, are we wasting precious company resources trying to engage them?  Does the company really believe there is benefit in such as focused effort? Let’s examine that further. There are many reasons why not engaging these employees is a bad idea. Here are just a few:

  • In many cases, these employees are very important to the health and viability of the company.  For example, a large distributor relies heavily upon moderately disconnected warehouse workers to do their jobs extremely well, and in a high degree of alignment with corporate.
  • Engaged employees have the means and motivation to surface great ideas and innovative improvements to leadership, resulting in a better company.  Failing to engage a segment of the population due to their level of connectivity could mean lost innovation and opportunity to improve.
  • In some extreme cases, lack of access to key information can prevent employees from either effectively doing their job or doing it safely and in compliance with standard operating procedures.  Providing access to important company information is a right for the employee and a critical responsibility to the organization to ensure the company is moving to the beat of the same drum.
  • Engaging your workforce effectively has dramatic impact on many operational and organizational success metrics including, but not limited to:
  • Employee job satisfaction
  • Employee productivity
  • Company profitability
  • Employee turnover
  • Employee absenteeism
  • Employee safety
  • Product quality
  • Customer satisfaction

Strategies dealing with remote workers

Hopefully we’ve made a case that you should engage disconnected employees. Assuming that is correct, here are a few strategies you can try to better engage disconnected workers.

  • Develop a comprehensive mobile strategy for your organization.  Most people own a mobile device, even those disconnected from your corporate infrastructure.  You need a mobile strategy that provides access at points where they do have connectivity (wireless hotspots, cell, facility office wireless, etc).  Enabling disconnected employees to access your news and other communications on their mobile device helps ensure that these workers remain current on happenings, are more aligned with what the company is trying to accomplish and are more engaged and interested in doing their part.  Some key elements of a successful mobile strategy include:
  • Consider bandwidth constraints and deliver mobile solutions that will still run smoothly for disconnected employees
  • Ensure that social features are available for disconnected employees so that they can communicate and collaborate with others.  Engaged employees not only receive top down communications, but also have channels to have their voices heard.  The ability to rate & comment on news, share information, and other social activities directly from a mobile device will increase engagement
  • Ensure the solution can support other whitelisted email domains beyond your corporate domain.  This allows you to provide access to these workers with their personal accounts while still maintaining control over who can access your systems
  • Empower local leaders.  Even in remote or disconnected scenarios, there will likely be a manager or lead that can be called upon to communicate key information to his or her team.  Make sure you’re talking and working with these individuals to get them excited about the initiative and understand the capabilities he or she will have as a result.  Get input early and often.  Understanding what the boots on the ground think will be the best ways to communicate information locally.  These leaders may then be more willing and able to provide local methods to engage employees in real time.
  • Ensure the voice of the disconnected employee is heard.  Disconnected employees may have great ideas and input.  Focus your efforts to provide channels for these workers to be able to share their knowledge, insight, and concerns. For example, ensuring these employees have easy access to an online ideation tool will allow them to share ideas and receive feedback; this can go a long way to giving these users the voice they deserve and which your company needs to hear.
  • Consider cloud-based solutions.  Many disconnected employees can at times gain access to the internet (for example, at home or a coffee shop).  By leveraging cloud-based solutions that require a simple login to access, you can open up key communication and engagement channels without the IT and business complexities associated with providing access to solutions behind the corporate firewall.  Cloud-based applications continue to become richer and more advanced in capabilities, and can provide significant value at very reasonable cost to the organization.  As with mobile solutions, consider bandwidth constraints and ensure the solution can support login by users without a corporate email address if that is a requirement for your organization.

building an intranetAn effective engagement strategy should incorporate all your employees to ensure you are reaching and impacting your entire workforce and aligning them with your corporate strategy or initiative.  We have seen companies turn around a wide range of engagement challenges by focusing on this often underserved group.  In closing, let’s look at an example of the impact a disconnected worker can have: Listen to the story of one man: a factory worker at a brewery in Ohio.

As always, connect with us on Twitter for the latest and stay tuned to our next blog from questions we heard at the IABC Employee Engagement Conference in Denver – “Measuring ROI on Employee Engagement.”

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