Select the Right Communication Channels for Deskless Employees

November 05, 2019

Employees not tethered to a desk can be hard to reach, but these nonwired employees must be a priority for corporate communications leaders.

Are your employees frequently on the road or away from the office (sales reps, consultants)? Are they on company property, but not connected by phone or computer (production line workers, cleaners, catering staff)? Or just too busy with day-to-day activities to use their computer, email or phone (call center agents, nurses, doctors)?  Gartner classifies “nonwired” employees into three groups: 

  1. Nonwired and stationary: Employees without an electronic connection, such as a company phone or computer.
  2. Nonwired and on the road: Employees who spend the majority of their time away from company sites.
  3. Wired but busy: Employees who have access to email, phone and computer, but don’t have the time to check them frequently. 

Corporate communications leaders at organizations with a large number of nonwired employees face a difficult challenge — how to provide this deskless population with key information such as company news, strategy and events to ensure they are working productively, safely and toward organizational objectives.

“An important first step is to gain a better understanding of how nonwired employees spend their work day, what types of information they value and how they prefer to access it,” says Humaira Arifin, Senior Principal, Advisory, Gartner. “This insight can help you not only target the right channel, but also share relevant content at the right time to sustain channel adoption.” Gartner analyzed channel feedback data from more than 60,000 employees, 9,000 of whom were deskless, to uncover employee preference, use and effectiveness of communication channels.

Channel preference, frequency and effectiveness

When it comes to learning about topics that concern individuals or their jobs, a Gartner survey of nonwired employees found that more than three-quarters say they prefer to receive information from their manager.

Their second and third preferences are email and peers on their team. However, frequency of use shows a slightly different ranking: Peers, email and manager, in that order. When nonwired employees ranked communications channels from most to least useful for their jobs, the results mirrored their channel preferences and frequency of channel use. However, individual channels vary in their effectiveness at achieving different objectives.

“ Nonwired employees report accessing information from peers on their team more frequently than any other channel”

Certain channels are more effective at achieving three key goals for communications:

  • Help employees easily share information with others 
  • Enable employees to link their work to company objectives
  • Provide employees the tools and resources they need to do their jobs

On a weekly basis, nonwired employees report accessing information from peers on their team more frequently than any other channel. A Gartner poll of communications leaders at organizations with large nonwired employee populations indicates that many of these leaders aren't tapping into peer networks for providing tools and resources to employees. This represents an opportunity for communications to leverage peer-to-peer channels to reach these employees.

Relative effectiveness of managers, peers, email and intranet on achieving communication goals

3 tips to communicate with nonwired employees

In addition to selecting the right channel, consider these strategies to improve the resonance and effectiveness beyond channel selection:

  1. Customize messagesA deskless population has limited access to mass communication channels such as the intranet. But when available, these employees tend to disregard any information that does not have immediate personal or professional relevance. To ensure resonance and encourage ongoing channel adoption, tailor messages based on employees’ motivations, interests and experience — and ensure the timing is relevant. As employees expect to receive different messages in different ways, choose specific channels to meet specific messaging goals. For example, role-specific information may be best delivered by managers, while strategic organizational goals may be most effective coming from senior leadership.
  2. Drive manager communication. Managers are not only the most preferred employee channel, they are also highly-effective at achieving key communication goals; they help employees share information, link their work to company objectives and access needed tools and resources. Help them make the most of time spent with employees by identifying opportunities for meaningful conversations — and provide tips and tools to help them confidently lead those conversations.
  3. Enable peer learning and collaboration. Nonwired employees frequently engage with peers. When employees feel connected to their colleagues they’re more willing to share ideas with and learn from each other. Encourage employees to share stories to build camaraderie and provide discussion guides that allow teams to reflect on past successes and commit to future actions that will improve team performance.

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