18 August 2017

How do you engage a remote / non-desk workforce?

We did our own research into this traditionally ‘hard to reach’ audience, speaking to non-desk workers and their managers to find out what’s important to them.

Communication within a business is easy right? Just send an email, do a desk drop, update your intranet, send a push notification, put up some posters and hold a company conference. But now think of your average labourer, warehouse worker, mechanic or cleaner. No laptop, irregular shifts, no desk. Maybe a quick, five-minute team huddle in the morning or poster in the canteen?

Are these still the only ways to connect with these employees? And are they effective? How do we ensure these people are in the loop, engaged and living the company values?

That’s a challenge we’re interested in… and with engaged workforces outperforming their peers by 147%, there’s never been a better time to find out.

What people told us:


Understanding where the business is headed

This audience is interested in the wider business vision. They want to hear from senior leaders to understand the overall direction of the business and make them feel valued.

Peer to peer sharing
Managers and their teams are increasingly looking for ways to learn from, and share experiences (both successes and failures) with colleagues from across the business. 

The BYOD option

Many people are now using their own devices and apps to communicate with colleagues outside of the IT department’s control. People are generally willing to use their device provided it was optional, not mandatory.

The social barrier

People aren’t keen to use personal social media accounts for work but many do follow their employer on one or more social media platforms.

So what works well?

Here’s a taster of what we’ve uncovered so far…

Understanding your audience and leadership visibility

Spending time with employees to understand the realities of their day-to-day and what’s truly important to them (which may differ within different employee clusters). Site visits, live broadcasts, blogs and recognition from leaders all demonstrate an appreciation of your workforce and this means a lot to this audience.


Setting managers up for success

According to Gallup, engagement is highest amongst employees who have some form of communication every day with their manager. Yet in a survey by Beekeeper of 1,500 manufacturing managers, 82% said speaking to their employees was difficult. Spending time with this key audience, listening to their needs and responding to feedback, providing them with tools and support that make it easy for them, and, importantly, investing in developing their capabilities – this quite literally can be the make or break of comms.

Streamlining communication channels

Selecting channels that work best for your audience and ensuring every channel has a clear purpose. Don’t forget to tap into channels that already exist – employees are increasingly willing to engage with comms via their own mobile device.

Traditional print methods are still useful, when placed in communal areas, making it easy for employees to access and think about introducing channels that work well in individual employee environments (e.g. radio, apps etc). To get apply a ‘test and learn’ approach – pulse surveys to get quick feedback on new approaches and adapt.

Content is king
Nobody has time to wade through reams and reams of copy, so provide bite-size headlines with the option to access more detail if needed. Employees respond positively to seeing their peers appreciated, celebrate the great work people do, make it relevant to their roles. Content should be structured yet customisable enough to allow managers the autonomy to bring comms to life with their own local stories that will be meaningful to their teams.


Our Hackathon – engaging remote workers

Engaging remote workers was the topic of choice for the first in our series of ‘Synergy Hackathons’. These are regular events that we run with our teams, partners and clients where we take a challenge, share some of our own findings and open up the discussion around the best engagement tools and techniques to engage this audience, sharing experience and coming up with new ways to engage. We posed three challenges and watched the room come alive, brimming with ideas and inspiration.

Highlights include:


Equipping influencers

Remember who the key influencers are within your teams. Follow the McDonald’s example and give them an honourary position / t-shirt / armband and ensure these people are armed with up to date information. Peer-to-peer is a great way to engage and should be used with reward and recognition programmes. More thoughts about identifying influencers can be found here.


Generational divide

The generation gap can be a challenge, but instead, we see it as an opportunity. Reverse mentoring is a huge opportunity to make the most of all the experience and skills in your organisation.

A download of our Hackathon can be accessed by filling in the form below.


We’ll soon be releasing a more detailed report about engaging ‘blue collar’ and remote workers, packed with research findings, industry trends and best practice. If you’d like to receive this hot of the press let us know by emailing chris@mccannsynergy.com.uk. 



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