The Tribe Report 5. The Non-Desk Worker Issue - Page 11

BY ELIZABETH COGSWELL BASKIN WHY IS NOBODY TALKING TO NON-DESK WORKERS? So many companies have very little communication between top management and their non-desk employees. Why? Because it’s hard to do. Communicating with all those people sitting in front of computers all day is much easier. They have easy access to the intranet; they can download employee e-magazines or open the electronic newsletter; they can read a blog post from the CEO. As a last resort, you can always shoot them a mass email. But all those sales associates, warehouse workers, hotel housekeepers, quick-service cashiers, and guys driving trucks out in the field are moving targets. At the same time, these non-desk workers are often the face of the brand. They are the people who create the customer experience. Companies routinely invest millions in promoting their brand to customers. Yet one surly drive-through attendant can wreck that customer experience. NATIONAL STUDY OF EMPLOYEES WITHOUT COMPUTERS This summer, Tribe conducted a national study of non-desk workers in companies with workforces of 1,000 or more. The subjects came from many fields, including retail, hospitality and food service, as well as fulfillment centers, airlines and oil rigs. Online surveys provided quantitative data while phone interviews offered more in-depth responses. As do many of Tribe’s clients, the great majority of companies represented in the study delegate most communication with non-desk workers to their immediate supervisors. The top management communicates with middle management, and they in turn pass that information on to their own team. LOST IN TRANSLATION This is an efficient system, but not always effective. Non-desk employees in our study complained that some managers are better than others at communicating. Also, that there are issues with timing (some employees hearing the news before others), consistency (employees of one manager might hear different information from those working for a different boss) and thoroughness of communication (some managers just give the highlights, while others will tell the whole story). A few respondents mentioned the old parlor game of telephone, where a message passed from one person to another soon loses any semblance of the original. R-E-S-P-E-C-T (JUST A LITTLE BIT) The most striking insight of the study was that when non-desk workers do not get any (or very little) commun