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Looping in the deskless workforce

De-siloing is the current buzzword in the world of employee engagement, breaking down invisible barriers between teams and workers. But are we de-siloing throughout? Sadly, companies are bridging communication gaps only between desk-based workers. A major part of the workforce, the non-desk workers (read frontline staff, blue collar workers, etc.), are still left out in the cold. The non-desk workers are not able to reap the benefits of employee engagement measures, largely restricted to the brick-and-mortar walls of the workspace.

The employee engagement reality

More than 80% of the total workforce in the world doesn’t work out of office environs. This implies they must be strongly connected technologically. So, it is ironical that 83% among them don’t have a corporate email address and 45%, no access to intranet. Most have limited or no access HR and managerial news and updates, daily stand-ups, peer interaction or documents on-the-go. They are not a part of IM networks like Slack and Yammer as well. In short, they are not looped in properly.

At best, they get messages on their phones on and off, which is just not enough. Imagine not being informed about a last-minute delivery cancellation only because you are not a part of the network. Or losing out on a day’s pay as you were unable to apply for a leave through IM.

How it is a business handicap

Slowly but surely, such instances break the trust of non-desk workers and kill their motivation. The common perception among them is, they are not sufficiently trusted and valued by their company and colleagues. They feel neither equal to others nor aware enough to participate in important company affairs. In short, they feel unengaged. As a result, productivity suffers and turnover rate increases. According to a recent report, over 90% of respondents linked engagement to performance, customer service, and productivity.

Businesses should ignore non-desk workers at their own peril. The cost of upkeeping disorganised staff is huge. And losing manpower regularly adds to the expense. Productivity also suffers. According to Gallup, the cost of lost productivity of actively disengaged workers in the US hovers between $483bn and $605bn.

This is a sorry state of affairs, especially in the growing connected and technologically superior world. We have the available technology in place (catch-all IM apps) and smartphone penetration is at an all-time high. Clubbing them is the way to go, and it’s hardly a task.

A win-win formula

Real-time and inclusive IM apps connect everyone in a business, from the CEO to the concierge. So non-desk workers, just like their desk colleagues, are regularly updated about the latest in corporate strategy, policies, events, and culture. This makes 74% of them, who feel consistent messages from senior management are important to them, delighted. They are also able to make their voice heard, via feedback, surveys, polls, etc., through such platforms. Mind you, messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger may be more popular but are not tailormade for business, unlike focused corporate IM apps.

The result: Trust, efficiency, and motivation rise; team-building and compliance turn stronger; and the non-desk workforce doesn’t feel left out. For businesses, it means greater retention of non-desk employees and lesser miscommunication costs to incur. A win-win formula for sure!

Ironing out the creases

It’s not a cakewalk though. Inflexible and digitally laggard companies are still averse to IM. They still prefer to communicate with non-desk employees through bulletin boards, sticky notes, and sporadic calls (or through just a holler across the room). It’s more of a mindset problem, really. They are worried about security: What if the vendor leaks internal data? They are unsure about what to communicate: Is it essential to inform the delivery guy about a change in company policy? They are doubtful of the reception: Will the office janitor read and reply to messages sent to him?

The change should flow in from the top leadership. Unless the CXOs actively participate and lead by example, these barriers will persist. They need to spread the word about the benefits of corporate IM and make it the new cool. The C-suite should also bring in stronger compliance and ensure only relevant communication is sent to non-desk workers, so that it leads to lesser number of unread messages and more engagement instances. Likewise, the CIOs should ensure that the tool they use is secure and compatible to multiple devices. The HR too should chart out a strategic plan for sound internal communication. These steps will make corporate IM adoption a matter of moments.

Towards a connected future

It is only today that we are talking about employee engagement in terms of desk and non-desk workers. Thanks to corporate IM, the lines between both are fast blurring. The future will see seamless communication among all employees, desk or non-desk, and there won’t be any need to write articles as this.

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