Posted by lisamrohloff
Communication is a desire of all humans. Over the centuries, humans have found better, faster and easier ways to communicate. We’ve even found ways to communicate with people who are thousands of miles away or in space. As we’ve advanced, we’ve benefited – at least most of us. One specific area that has benefited is workplace communication. Modern technological advances have allowed organizations to have intranet sites that inform employees about company sponsored events, stock value, employee resource groups and training opportunities. Employees visiting their intranet sites can learn more about the company and what leadership’s goals and vision are. They can view organizational charts, access forms and policy documents and even read company newsletters. Those who have company issued devices such as laptops and smartphones have the means to send and receive messages via company email, use an electronic time keeping system and access various applications. Because companies have kept up the pace with modern technology, communication within them has been enhanced. It has opened wonderful doors of opportunity for many employees. However, there is one segment of the workforce that lags far behind the others in terms of having good access to modern communication methods and modes – production workers.
Employee engagement is lowest among production workers. This lower employee engagement can be linked to less efficient communication to and from production workers. So, while the majority of our workforce has been able to take advantage of and reap the benefits of what Mary Chayko, in her book Superconnected, calls a participatory culture, production workers do not have these same opportunities. While internal workplace communication is growing and changing with the times among all other segments of the workforce, production workers are being left behind. It’s no wonder they are less engaged.
While solutions to this problem are difficult to find, the reasons are fairly simple. If, for example, you are a welder working the third shift at a large company, you most likely don’t have a company issued laptop or smart phone, you don’t have the ability to leave your work on the line to attend a town hall meeting and you probably don’t even have a company email address. So, much of the company information about upcoming events, changes, training opportunities, policies, etc., is cascaded down to you through word of mount or perhaps a poster on the break room bulletin board. You are not a part of the participatory culture that everyone else enjoys. This creates a serious communication gap between production workers and the rest of the organization.
How can we bridge this digital divide between production workers and the rest of the workforce? How can we give them better opportunities to participate and engage with the business they are such a valuable part of? Is it financially feasible and beneficial for organizations to invest in ways to create avenues with which communication can flow to and from production workers? An article by Jeffry Bartash in MarketWatch emphasizes how low unemployment rates (among other factors) have left many businesses facing a labor shortage. Companies are paying for workers to take courses and get certifications as a way to obtain more skilled laborers. They’re also offering better pay and benefits to attract workers. What if some companies offered production workers time to attend town hall meetings and other company-wide events, or leverage mobile application technology? Bulent Osman writes in Forbes magazine about how important it is to reach these employees, and that leveraging mobile technology is a feasible way. Companies absorb the costs of providing workers with the tools to communicate better because they know how it benefits the business and increases employee engagement. I issue a challenge that we begin to find ways to close the digital divide between production workers and the rest of the workforce, and that we provide them with better communication tools.
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