The shift worker communication landscape has progressed, technically speaking, leaps and bounds in the past few years. How is your company adjusting to changing shift worker demands in how they want to communicate? Especially with Millennials? In the following, we will cover a few key areas to consider when evaluating the places for improvement in how you are communicating internally with your shift workers.
Effective Communication with Shift Workers Starts with Management
In many cases, the management team is a shift worker’s direct line of communication with corporate. The management team is responsible for effectively communicating the needs of the company with shift workers and the needs of shift workers with the company. In order to ensure that the management team is communicating the same messages to shift workers and issues that arise at the end of a shift are addressed in the following shift, manager schedules should be overlapped with night and day shift workers and a handoff between managers should occur. Daily management team status meetings are especially useful at the beginning of shifts in order to transfer knowledge from the day’s activities.
Standardized Internal Communication Keeps Everyone “in the know”
Ask “how” first
When you have a new type of information to share with workers, ask your workers how they would prefer to receive the specific type of information going forward. They will appreciate that you are involving them in the process and it will increase the likelihood that they will absorb/use the information because it is in the form they prefer.
Provide an intranet and internal chat
A company intranet is a great place for internal communications to move online. It can be used as a platform for all workers to communicate information with each other, for workers to chat internally about topics that are important to them, and for corporate to share important pieces of information. Internal knowledge and documents should be made easily available via the intranet. An intranet and internal chat encourages company-sensitive topics to stay internal. Both platforms prevent conversations from moving onto social media or into personal spaces (preventing HR and PR problems from arising).
Send email newsletters
Weekly email newsletters sent to workers are effective for sharing important company updates and changes that affect shift workers. It is important to also include fun, educational, or well-being resources that your workers might have interest in as a way to show that the company cares about helping its employees and doesn’t send newsletters as a way to just talk about themselves.
Optimize communications for mobile
Shift workers are not always near a desktop computer, so it is important that they still can receive alerts and messages when they are on-the-go. Push notifications from mobile apps are a great way to quickly communicate important information. Mobile alerts are also a great way to communicate with Millennials as they tend to dislike reading long emails and would prefer short messages delivered on their mobile devices.
Modernize work schedule communication
Gone are the days when shift workers needed to look at their schedule in the break room and write down their hours on a piece of paper. There are better ways to communicate work schedules with shift workers nowadays, thanks to technology. Now, it is possible for a worker to hold their schedule in the palm of their hand (on their phone) and be made aware of schedule changes at the moment they happen. No more missed shifts because someone “didn’t get the message” that a change was made to the schedule. Shift workers now also have the ability to communicate with their coworkers in a safe atmosphere in which they don’t need to share their personal phone number with all of their coworkers. Yes, we are talking about Branch Messenger here! Click here for more information on how we can modernize your work schedule communication.
Ask for suggestions
It is important that shift workers feel their thoughts for improvements within the company are being heard without feeling they will receive negative feedback for bringing up that something is broken. One simple way to be open to suggestions is to provide an anonymous “suggestion box”.
Create an internal language
An internal language can consist of a variety of acronyms or slang words that are used throughout the day to describe key aspects of the business. The words can be based off of inside jokes or company-specific terms. Not only are internal languages fun, they help workers feel like they are part of a team and assist in easily communicating internally even when customers are present. source
Communicate Organizational Changes with Workers
“Companies with high effectiveness in change management and communication are three and a half times more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers than firms that are not effective in these areas.” source
You have heard this over and over again - the one thing that is constant is change. As technology evolves, the rate of change increases. Here are just a few things to consider when communicating a change to your workers:
Be clear about what is changing and why the change needed to happen. Don’t sugar coat it and don’t make the mistake of thinking your workers can’t handle the truth.
Consider the ways the change will affect workers emotionally.
Inform workers how the change benefits them.
Explain the process for implementing the change.
Tell workers what the company needs them to do.
Consider the source that will initially introduce that the change is happening and through which channel the communication will occur.
Open a line of communication so that workers can ask questions about the change.
Quizzes and Surveys Are Your Friend
Short quizzes are a great way to ensure that important company information has been clearly communicated company-wide. These quizzes should be easily-accessible to workers. The company intranet, weekly email newsletter, or mobile app are great places to administer quizzes. Try to vary and prioritize which quizzes are mandatory and don’t have an incentive to complete with ones that are “nice to have” spot checks that might also include an incentive for completing. Varying the types of quizzes reduces quiz fatigue and increases the chances that workers will be actively engaged when they are filling them out.
Quizzes can also be used as a competitive mechanism for team building - think quick company trivia each week with a leaderboard to show individuals or teams with the most points, leading to a big prize after a certain period of time.
Surveys should be used to ask for feedback from workers on a regular basis on a variety of topics that are important to them. It is best to vary long surveys and shorter ones and offer incentives every once in a while for completing surveys that are most important to your company.
Include Everyone in Events
Company events are opportunities for workers to come together in a positive atmosphere to get to know each other and for companies to instill their cultural values. If possible, schedule an event when all employees can attend. If this is not possible, record the event, have a makeup event for workers who couldn’t attend the main event, or provide some sort of account of the event - pictures, presentation, etc. It is important that workers feel they are on the same team, even if they work across departments or during different shifts, and that they aren’t missing out on important company communications that occur during the event.
Don’t Leave Night Shift Workers in the Dark
Night shift workers often feel like “the forgotten ones” because they have fewer corporate staff resources at their beck and call compared to day staff. Since night shift workers can’t immediately communicate with corporate workers during the day, they often feel isolated and that they can’t influence processes and decisions in a timely fashion like their counterpart shift workers who are on the same schedule as them. A night shift worker’s productivity can be negatively impacted if they feel like there is a bottleneck; they can’t get something done until corporate is back the following day.
These feelings of helplessness can be mitigated. Shift worker schedules can be staggered, to allow for overlaps so that the previous shift can communicate with the new shift. Same goes for management and corporate staff. Daily status meetings at the beginning of a shift for all shifts ensure that important company information is distributed and concerns can be immediately communicated and addressed. Internal messaging systems also allow for open communication between all workers as well as decreasing the time it would normally take to answer a question offline, by corporate, or another shift worker.
In short, there are many ways in which we communicate internally with shift workers. Some of these ways have been drastically disrupted by technology in recent years. Being aware of how you communicate with your shift workers and being open to suggestions on how to improve your communications will help you stay ahead of the ever-changing organizational communication curve.