5 ways to reach non-wired employees

Workers in the manufacturing sector and similar industries often aren’t online at work; so how do you communicate with them?

I am 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, as well as one of the organization’s most meaningful benefits.

The other day, this question from a CCM member hit my in-box:

“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 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 Saint-Gobain Corporation, a manufacturing client with many non-wired employees—at least at work. Although they offer kiosks in its facilities, many 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:

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 recruited volunteer wellness champions at each facility and for all shifts. Wellness champions include factory floor employees and plant managers to HR pros and office workers. We 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 information they need to relay to non-wired employees. The e-newsletters also give plant managers tips about how to help their non-wired employees gain greater comfort online. To give them recognition and to share their advice, we capture their tips in a section called “from the front lines.” We supplement this e-newsletter with a plant manager forum where they can also talk to each other. 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 monthly e-newsletter for volunteer wellness champions and local HR executives. The e-newsletter offers monthly reminders, tips and links to important information and resources. As with the plant manager forum, we offer the champions and HR execs a forum for their issues, needs and opinions. They’ve discussed everything from increasing participation to including third-shift workers.

5. Social media. Many of these employees actually are wired outside of work, but lack interest in logging on. 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?

Fran Melmed is the owner of context communication consulting and blogs at free-range communication.

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