Manufacturers often struggle with internal communications, especially between leadership and workers on the floor. This disconnect between C-level and floor workers is often referred to as “the executive/employee communication gap”. While floor workers aren't sitting by their computer on a regular basis, leveraging technology to make a simpler and stronger effort toward communicating with these employees can drastically increase productivity and morale and better synchronize projects. This requires a more flexible strategy that relies on mobile tech, and more dynamic and engaging ways of sharing and receiving important information.
TR Cutler, Inc. conducted a survey of 1,500 CEOs of small and mid-sized manufacturing companies, and found the greatest pain point amongst the executives was confusion about how to speak to their employees. Something as simple as communicating work tasks shouldn’t create fear and stress, yet more than 82 percent said that speaking to their employees was “difficult” or “very difficult.” Using mobile tech to create an open dialogue between floor workers and C-level execs offers a way to bypass this issue. Providing management insight into what floor workers want to discuss prior to a meeting saves valuable time for both parties and alleviates anxiety in the process.
Another problem stems from misguided prioritization. C-suite executives in manufacturing see no shortage of crises, and when there is a chance of losing customers, employee communications often take a back seat to focus on putting out fires that could result in a loss of revenue. It’s important to keep all employees informed, especially in times of uncertainty. Top management should try to remain as transparent as possible not only about problems, but about changes in company policies or goals as well, or they risk losing the trust of those creating their product.
Why do these workers feel left in the dark? They may quite literally not be getting the memo. Oftentimes floor workers are overlooked when it comes to general business announcements and not included in corporate email systems, which can lead to tension and frustration. A more negative corporate culture can lead to more risk in day to day processes- in fact, according to TR Cutler’s survey, 90 percent of executives report at least one incident with an order per week. This is a classic case of chicken and the egg. If employee communications were more streamlined and dynamic, executives would be able to prevent many crises.
Closing the Gap
There are many ways to improve internal communications. To start, leverage an omnichannel system to provide a consistent message across SMS, email, social media, etc. Employees are likely online and connected even when out of the office. By posting important company updates to either a public social site like Twitter when possible, or internal boards or websites when the announcements are private, CEOs can be accessible to all their employees, even when they aren’t on the clock.
While it may seem insignificant, it can also be a huge morale boost to simply acknowledge personal details of staff. Things like major employee anniversaries, exciting company news — just send an email! Mailing or emailing a newsletter to clients? Send it to the employees, too. Conduct town hall meetings (whether virtual or in person) on a regular basis to make sure the staff feels they're being heard. Take advantage of technology like smart forms, which allow a more dynamic way to communicate with employees with the addition of multimedia. The key is to reduce steps in communication and make a more meaningful impact with each message.
Everyone carries a cellphone or tablet, and using a messaging app or corporate social network can help executives hear from the people closest to their product — the ones making it. Floor workers have a unique perspective that is often lost upon management; they see the problems and the opportunities close-up. Having a communication platform allows employees a two-way dialogue with management increasing transparency and reducing risks of setbacks.
Machine- to-machine communications can also help bridge the gap. Executives can utilize the Internet of Things to get machines working for them and free up floor employees to focus on things like QA and planning, rather than menial tasks.
With all the tools available to add to existing business processes or easily build new ones, there is no longer any reason or excuse not to improve employee communication. Executives and their staff in any industry should be on the same page, not struggling to talk to one another. Just because floor workers aren’t at a desk doesn’t mean they’re inaccessible, and by adjusting communication practices and leveraging technology, the employee/executive gap can be reduced significantly.
David Squibb is the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Xpertdoc Technologies Inc.