By Aysha Ahmed on May 03, 2022


Frontline workers are the heartbeat of manufacturing, and rightly so. They make up as much as 90% of many manufacturing organizations – operating heavy machinery, running production lines, managing warehousing and logistics operations of the floor, according to The Deskless Workforce.  

Because of the nature of their work, they are often referred to as “The Deskless Workforce” - they are not physically tied to a desk as compared to their administrative colleagues. They’re often physically disconnected from company headquarters and the activities of the rest of the company.  

As per The Deskless Workforce data, there are 2.7 billion deskless workers concentrated in different industries and 427 million alone in manufacturing globally. 

One significant challenge for many manufacturing companies is involving these employees in internal communication efforts. In many cases, the only communication frontline workers have is with their line manager and their co-workers and this lack of engagement with the company can have consequences that impact productivity. 

As per Gallup studies, disengaged employees cost businesses over $500 billion per year. Only 13% of frontline workers are engaged in their work, resulting in 18% lower productivity and 37% higher absenteeism.  

Here are five simple steps to improve communication with your manufacturing workforce. 

1. Keep Comms Short And To The Point.

Frontline workers have targets to achieve, are bound by deadlines and have more constraints on their time than their deskbound counterparts. They work on rotating shifts, work part-time only, work on specific days and are away from their screens for most of the day. Keeping communication short and to the point is one of the best ways to be heard (or read), while longer communication risks either being skimmed or ignored completely.  

2. Use Visuals To Get Your Message Out.

When time is of the essence, words may not be the best method of communication. Workers will rarely sit back to read a long article. Think about using visuals like images, short videos, infographics, podcasts to deliver your message quickly. In some manufacturing environments where workers are permitted to use personal audio devices, audio, like podcasts may be a viable way to communicate as workers can listen while they work.  

3. Empower Line Managers And Team Leaders.

Frontline workers still rely heavily on information from their line managers or team leaders. Empowering them with the right tools and training them on internal comms can create a better flow of information and engage frontline workers in conversation. One of the old-school methods is to create short briefs along with supplementary long content that the line managers can use to quickly communicate important information to frontline workers before a shift. Consider headlining this brief with bullet points or incorporating visuals as we mentioned earlier.  

4. Embrace Social Influence.

Social influence is the informal conversations that take place between employees, and the individuals who drive those organizations, either through their activity or credibility.  

Most of the communication manufacturing workers have is with their colleagues, often on the work floor. They value information, news, and updates from them as they are more attached to them on daily basis.    

“In the absence of official stories or official explanations, unofficial stories and explanations proliferate.”    
- Mike Klein 

Using social influence as another channel from an omnichannel perspective is one of the best methods to create a communication pattern in manufacturing because you have people who are on network and off-network.   

5. Choose Channels Wisely

There are plenty of communication channels to choose from today. Manufacturing companies must choose the right channels for their frontline workers. Understanding that they are bound by their shifts and have specific output targets, the right communication channel is the one that is easiest for them. If you’re expecting them to log on to a portal or intranet, you need to give them a compelling reason to do so, be hyper-conscious of their time. There’s no one-size-fits-all internal communications strategy. Manufacturing companies must adapt their strategies to align with the realities, needs and preferences of their frontline workers. Implementing the right software to deliver clear, concise and timely information that they can easily access is key to improving communication with your manufacturing workforce.

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