How to Keep Non-Desk Employees in the Loop

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Sharing information with non-desk employees is a challenge in customer service. 

These are employees who don’t sit at a desk in front of a computer to do their job. They may not even have a set work station and often don’t have access to company email. Non-desk employees can work multiple shifts or even at multiple locations, making face-to-face communication difficult.

Here are just a few common examples of non-desk employees:

  • Cashiers
  • Servers
  • Hotel Housekeepers
  • Field Technicians
  • Parking Attendants
  • Security Guards
  • Museum Docents
  • Retail Associates

It’s critical to share vital information with these employees. Here are some ways you can do it.

Two Bedrock Communication Principles

Attention and repetition are two key principles that should guide any employee communication effort.

We are much more likely to notice things that are unusual or capture our attention in some way. Our brains then use repetition to decide what information to keep front and center.

For example, posting a notice on a bulletin board might not capture your employees’ attention or get them to remember something important. But employees will be more likely to read and retain what’s posted if they know their supervisor will randomly quiz them about it.

This means the best communication strategies have multiple means of communication. 

It often starts with conversations between employees and their direct supervisor. Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, CEO of the internal branding agency Tribe, cautions against relying solely on the manager.

“Cascading information through the managers of non-desk employees is the default communication method in many large companies, but there really needs to be some communication directly from corporate as well. Our national research suggests that non-desk employees see a lack of communication from the top as a lack of respect for their contributions.”

Communication Options for Non-Desk Employees

Keeping in mind employees need multiple means of communication, including some messaging straight from corporate, here are some ideas for different options to consider.

Company Newsletter. A professional-looking print newsletter can make a big impact when you have employees working multiple shifts in multiple locations. You can share company news, profile various employees, include messaging from executive leadership, and reinforce customer service concepts. I once edited a newsletter that went out to 4,000+ employees in five states and employees consistently told me they were excited to learn what their colleagues were doing in the parts of the company. The CEO also contributed a regular message which also made an impact.

Team Huddles. This is a short meeting that’s often less than 15 minutes long. They are also called pre-shifts, stand-ups, or tailgates because the meetings usually take place daily to brief employees on important messages and discuss any pressing issues. Here’s a guide on huddles.

Briefing Sheets. Many event-based businesses create daily briefing sheets for employees. For example, hotel managers often distribute a one-page update with information on where each meeting is located, VIP guests, and other special announcements. Associates use it as a handy job aid to give guests correct and timely information.

One-on-One Conversation. Years ago, I supervised a contact center training team that had two shifts (day and evening) in two locations. I quickly learned the best way to be an effective leader was to regularly spend time on both shifts and in both locations. While it’s important to use multiple communication methods, nothing can replace regular one-on-one communication with your direct reports.

Visual Displays. A bulletin board or poster probably won’t make an impact by itself, but it can be incredibly valuable when combined with other communication methods. One manager posted secret shopper reports on a bulletin board and then discussed the results with his team in pre-shift huddles.

Sasha is a hospitality executive who is an expert at creating impactful visual displays. She shared these suggestions for creating an impactful display board:

“Look at positioning it next to where team members visually see it daily (ex: by a time clock). The board should have color—a WOW factor but also a serious message. It should be easy to maintain and get changed up. Do not put too much information on the board so it gets lost. One month can have a focus on a specific area and change it up the next. Get your team involved.”

Technology Solutions

There are a host of mobile apps on the market such as Beekeeper and Staffbase that are designed to keep employees in the loop. Employees can install the app on a company or private smartphone and use it to access communication, training, and other resources.

Alexandra Zamolo, Beekeeper’s Content Marketing Manager, shared some of the benefits of using a mobile communications platform. 

“Beekeeper’s mobile solution allows everyone access to real-time news and updates wherever they are and gives them the ability to engage in two-way communication. This centralized digital hub gives employees instant access to countless communication channels to help employee correspondence and workflows run more efficiently, while also connecting to crucial operations tools like payroll and scheduling.”

Large retailers and other companies with remote employees often have internal contact centers to handle issues such as payroll, human resources, and IT. Giving employees an app to handle some of those tasks can save a lot of time.

A mobile app can also allow companies to respond faster during an emergency. Sina Lockley, Staffbase’s Campaign Manager, shared a story where Adams Land and Cattle used a mobile app to keep employees informed during an ice storm.

Tell Me About Your Experience

If you’ve managed non-desk employees or have been one yourself, leave a comment or drop me a line and let me know what challenges you faced and how you solved them.

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