Deskless workers can feel notoriously difficult to communicate with.
Of course, this has nothing to do with them as employees. It’s got everything to do with the nature of their work—they don’t spend their days in a typical office environment, connected to the internet and your company’s normal digital communication channels. Instead, they’re out driving trucks, operating machines, or stocking shelves, making them naturally a bit harder to get in touch with.
Given that deskless workers make up 80% of the entire global workforce, this difficulty in communication presents a significant and difficult challenge for employers.
How can you operate in a way that ensures your deskless workers—who impact your bottom line as much as anyone—aren’t overlooked or under-communicated with?
Mellini Monique, founder of Vocal Culture Garden, believes there are several barriers that leaders need to overcome to communicate well with deskless workers. The first, she suggests, is fear.
Communication is scary
Communication is scary, she says, because it requires sharing pieces of yourself with others. “You put yourself out there and can be accepted or rejected, and that can be really hard,” she recently told Anthill.
Part of the reason for this is that in today’s world, communication through certain channels—and there are countless of them—can effectively live forever. An email, a text, or a social media post has a sense of permanence to it that’s different from saying something out loud. On top of this, Monique also points out that there are tools today that allow people to alter your communication, while still sounding like you.
These two points create a lot of hesitancy in communication. The good news—which we’ll dive into below—is that leaders can proactively work to overcome this barrier.
Communication is not always taken seriously
If you want to communicate well with deskless workers, you need to treat that communication seriously. According to Monique, leaders have done a poor job of this historically.
When you get to work to find out your shift was canceled, or you’re on the retail floor when you find out pricing has changed, or you’re on the restaurant floor running around like crazy but feeling disconnected from the overall purpose, it’s easy to be embarrassed in front of customers and coworkers alike.
MELLINI MONIQUE, FOUNDER, VOCAL CULTURE GARDEN
This embarrassment can make employees feel alienated and uncomfortable, ultimately leading to their discouragement and departure from your team. While details like a schedule change might seem relatively small to a manager or senior leader, these things can have huge impacts on employees, both monetarily and emotionally.
By taking communication seriously and prioritizing keeping employees in the loop, leaders can help mitigate these awkward and painful situations.
Lack of communication conveys lack of dignity
For various reasons, Monique says, deskless workers have often been looked down on as being less skilled or important to an organization’s success. Though largely unspoken, this belief is common, even though deskless workers are often the front line for customers.
Frankly, deskless workers just don’t get the same level of respect as their desk-based counterparts.
Monique urges transparency about this reality: “80% of the global workforce is deskless, and these are people who deserve the dignity and consideration of robust, proper communication.”
Breaking down barriers to communicate with the deskless workforce
With big challenges like these, how can workplace leaders open up lines of communication with deskless workers?
Monique doesn’t believe there’s a silver bullet or a quick fix, but there are concrete steps leaders can take to consistently improve their communication habits.
Cultivate a mindset shift
The fundamental thing needed is a change in perspective. No employee deserves to be looked down on, regardless of experience, tenure, or salary level.
“Deskless workers are viewed as a commodity,” says Monique. “Managers, supervisors, and leaders need to understand their importance to the bottom line and their right to dignity and heart-centered communication.”
What is heart-centered communication?
It’s communication that acknowledges the humanity in the person you’re talking to. While some leaders might shy away from the term because they think it sounds fluffy or trivial, Monique asserts that heart-centered communication belongs in the workplace:
Heart-centered communication makes sure we are communicating clearly and have the right tone. It ensures that our timing is right and our message is consistent and accurate. This takes training and skill to achieve, but it’s how we maximize energy, productivity, and ultimately our bottom line.
MELLINI MONIQUE, FOUNDER, VOCAL CULTURE GARDEN
The shift from viewing deskless workers as commodities to viewing them as dignified people is the first building block in better communication.
Fear makes good communication difficult, so leaders should work to build trust every chance they get. Trust is like a muscle that needs consistent use to stay strong, and studies have shown that high-trust companies reap huge benefits.
Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be difficult. Trust is usually built in the small things. Monique suggests several examples:
- Check in person-to-person. This shows that you care and provides opportunities for interpersonal connection that are at the core of trusting relationships.
- Keep communication lines open. Whether by having team huddles every day or greeting employees as they arrive, be a constant presence that team members are familiar with.
- Make private communication with you easy. Share your email and phone number, and be clear that your door is open and no harm will be caused by honest communication.
- Build rapport. Ask good questions and remember small details that you can bring up later, like someone getting a new dog or moving to a new house. If you’ve got a large team, keeping simple notes is often a good strategy. In short, be kind.
Trust is easily lost but not easily gained, Monique says—so be patient and do the work. It’ll pay off in a big way.
Although the deskless workforce makes up most of the global workforce, it’s only gotten a sliver of the investment in technology that the desk-based workforce has. But according to Monique, the reality is that—especially for large companies—good communication with deskless workers requires good tech.
Th right tech will help you get in touch with your team, but it’ll also boost engagement and productivity, ultimately improving your bottom line.
Finding the right tech to communicate with your deskless workers might sound like a big job, it doesn’t have to be. Anthill allows two-way communication with your team through text messaging, and most companies can have Anthill up and running within seven days.
Book a demo today to see if it’s the right fit for you!