AB Thinks  →  5th October 2020

How to engage your non-desk workforce

Whether it’s the doorbell, the dog, the washing machine, or the WiFi, we’re all navigating a new normal when it comes to working away from the office. But how do we keep communication open, fruitful and productive for our employees when there’s no longer the option to meet face-to-face?

In the Opening Keynote of Voices 2020, ‘The New Era of Employee Experience’, we heard from four experts in the field on how to engage with your non-desk workforce. Here are the top takeaways:

#1 Be more intentional:
‘What we’ve seen happen with the impact of the pandemic is that diaries have started to govern the way we communicate. A lot of those informal interactions between employees and their leaders have disappeared. We need to remember the importance of informal communication. We need to check in with people much more regularly about how they’re feeling and whether that’s impacting their performance or approach. Finally, many of our non-desk workers are actually the people interacting with customers. It’s become more important than ever to keep these people motivated and positive, as these are the people who make a difference to the customer’s life.’

Jane Sparrow, Business Culture Expert and Founder at The Culture Builders

#2 Blend structure and empathy:
‘We need to be empathetic to the actual context of each individual employee and react to that reality. Start with “How are you? How are you feeling? Are your family members doing well?” Tap into the routines of your energetic employees, so that you can deploy those insights for others who may be struggling. Then you can approach things from a more structural perspective: “Are you comfortable with the current workflow? Are you getting enough management support? Is the tech working for you? Do you feel we’re delivering enough information prior to meetings?” Every question should be based around empathy.’

Anthony Vaughan, Co-Founder, E1B2 Collective

#3 Empower your managers
‘One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement is engaging leaders. But being a great communicator doesn’t always come naturally to managers. Here’s a strategy to tap into the power of managers and senior leaders:

  • Give them insight into how effective communication is for engaging people.
  • Give them training. But don’t reinvent the wheel: incorporate that training into something that that already exists in the organisation.
  • Give them tools. Things like templates and tips. If they’re easy to follow, your managers are more likely to continue to use them.
  • Give them measures and rewards. Demonstrate that they’re making a difference through their communication.
  • Give them a break! It’s OK not to know the answer to everything.’

Sia Papageorgiou, Director at the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence

 #4 Earn employee attention
‘I don’t think employees owe us their attention. We have to earn it. And we’re up against some of the biggest platforms out there, spending millions on capturing people’s attention. But our hidden strength is trust: the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that the employer is seen as the most credible source of information out there. Employees want to hear from us, but we need to make that content easy to find and quick to digest. We have to measure its performance, understand what’s working for our audience, and what isn’t. Great stories aren’t found in PowerPoint decks or internal reports: you have to speak directly to your people. Those personal stories will make your content sing, and stop thumbs from scrolling.’

Katie Macaulay, Managing Director, AB