Reaching non-office colleagues; employee engagement

How do you reach non-office colleagues?

Reaching non-office colleagues; employee engagement

By Kristina Malther, Managing Director, Open CPT (April 2019).

What motivates office and non-office colleagues?

Why do people go to work? What makes them happy? Why do they stay? These are questions that we ask ourselves as internal communicators.

And we sometimes assume that there is a difference between our office and non-office colleagues.

But, we’re wrong if we think that the pay check is all that matters once you get out of the headquarter. Based on both the latest research and our experience from working with non-office workers across the globe, production workers also care whether they work for a successful company; technicians, who are always on the road, also want to feel part of a team; and the cashier in the supermarket also wants to know about the company values.

But for a lot of large organisations, reaching non-office colleagues – be that in production, frontline or mobile employees – is still a major challenge.

Infrastructure is a challenge

Reaching our colleagues outside of the office is not easy – we are often challenged by lack of infrastructure.

How do we reach the guy in the cold food production line where there are no computers or info screens? Or the nurse on the ward who is busy with patients all day? How do we manage multiple platforms, data costs and security?

Building the right infrastructure is essential and that may very well require a multi-platform approach as well as both digital and human channels.

Engaging employees

How well do you actually know your non-office colleagues?

But we are also challenged by lack of knowledge of the people who are not right next to us. We don’t really know what interests the guy in production or what channels works for him.

We presume, we simplify and we often don’t prioritise getting this insight.

Disengagement is a risk for business

And at the same time we know that we need to do something about this. We know that we are operating in a world where word of mouth, and therefore employee advocacy, is more important than ever.  And we know that crucial and sometimes elusive customer experience is mostly delivered by our non-office colleagues.

So its time to do something about it!

Engaging employees
In the 2019 Gatehouse State of The Sector survey on internal communications, 42% of internal communicators stated hard-to-reach employees as a barrier to success
5 steps on the journey to reach your non-office colleagues:

1. Start with ‘why’ – and be specific

Start by asking yourself: why do we need to reach non-office workers? Because if you don’t ask the question, someone else will – and then we need to have a good answer prepared. In many organisations, reaching non-office colleagues is still perceived as an unnecessary luxury.

Depending on your organisation and the types of non-office workers you need to reach, the ‘why’ could be about engagement and retention, or it could be part of a much bigger journey such as the digitisation of the production.

After a clear ‘why’ has been established, you can start defining your business case and return on investment.

Engaging employees

2. Remember that your non-office colleagues are not the same

They could be production workers, drivers, service technicians, sales, specialists, retail staff, etc. And the word non-office might be about the only thing some of these people have in common.

A production facility culture in China and a production facility culture in South Africa might be very different.

Differentiate and target your approach.

3. Get to know them better

  1. It seems obvious, but yet it is something that internal communicators often forget: go out and talk to people. Ask, listen and see what they do. Keep an open mind, you might be surprised.
  2. Get quantitative insights to match. Make a friend in HR/IT who can help you process available employee data.
  3. Create personas to help you bring the non-office people back into the office.

Engaging employees

4. Tailor your communication

Once you know your non-office colleagues better, you also know what is relevant to them. As a rule of thumb, we’ve found two things that work:

  • A glocal approach, with a heavier balance on local than global. Remember that what seems interesting and relevant in HQ, often is lower on the agenda further away.
  • Two-way communication; it’s not just about broadcasting, but also about establishing a line back. Ask for feedback and input and make feedback channels available.
  • And be ready to simplify when you’re reaching out to the non-connected. In this case; less is more. Go bite-sized. Go visual.

5. Build the infrastructure

These days it is often about a multi-channel approach, which could include:

  • Mobile messaging using a platform with limited data cost
  • Ensuring that your intranet is responsive for mobiles and tablets
  • Creating human networks, e.g. up-skilling team leads and supervisors to communicate and providing them with easy formats to communicate from

Start with a pilot – it’s the best way to test it out

Embarking on a project to reach all non-office colleagues in a large organisation can be daunting. Will it work? What is the cost? How do we make it operational?

That’s why starting with a pilot in a particular area of the business is often a valuable start. Here you can test approaches and channels, as well as get a better impression of what it will require in terms of day-to-day operations, cost etc.

Good luck! At the end of the day, it’s not about whether you should reach your non-office colleagues – but how and when.


Taariq Latiff

On the Mic: Taariq Latiff

Taariq Latiff

On the Mic: Taariq Latiff from Open CPT

We recently asked Taariq Latiff, BTech Product Designer and Creative Director at Open CPT, to share some insight into his life as a designer and creative in the world of internal communication.

By Aneeqah Samsodien, Communication and Brand Specialist (March 2019).

How did your career in design start?

I was commissioned to create a logo for a hair nourishing product by my first client during the third year of my studies, which then grew into brochures and packaging. I went into depression when I started my first job after studying,  designing POS units for the makeup industry. There wasn’t much room for creativity and I resigned after just three months. I vowed that I would never again work for someone or a business where I was not growing creatively. I picked up some clients, started freelancing, and gradually grew into an independent creative studio.

How did you end up at Open, specialists in internal communication?

I went for an interview at Open after a friend referred me to see what it was about. The more I heard about internal communication, the more I felt that this is the type of thing I’ve been looking for, but didn’t know existed.

What is the purpose of creating meaningful design when communicating to employees?

Design is essential when you’re communicating with employees. It’s about using a modern approach to communicate stories simply and visually across different contexts and using different materials. We are visual beings that respond to visual communication, and this should be reflected in modern-day internal communication as well.

What do you like most about working for Open?

It’s always challenging. It keeps me on my toes and I am constantly learning new techniques. The system we work within is also really great as it gives me the ability to adapt and grow. I work with really amazing designers and strategists abroad, who are specialists of their craft and always have different ways of approaching a problem. I have access to a wealth of information that wouldn’t typically be readily available due to my location.

Where would you say your specialty lies?

I love conceptualising and having a broad understanding of materials, manufacturing processes and systems, making me a good problem solver.

What are some of the first childhood memories that made you realise you had a knack for design?

From a young age, I would spend a lot of time watching my mom – a signwriter and a real perfectionist – paint signage, posters and banners. Our dining room would always be filled with poster paper and paint brushes and I’d always play with the scraps. I would find cartoon characters I really liked and would spend hours trying to redraw them until I got the correct proportions.

In primary school, I was tasked to create a show-and-tell project of what my dream job is. I used our computer and, in Microsoft Word, I designed my own chocolate bar wrappers (I’ve always loved chocolate). I even created unique names for each of the imaginary chocolate bars. That’s pretty much how my design journey started.

As a designer, name one project you have always envisioned that you would like to achieve in your lifetime. 

I’ve been blessed – I have worked on and created most of the projects I’ve conceptualised and wanted to try thus far. I’d meet a client and they’d describe the product they would want and it ends up being something I had already thought about. Most of my dream projects have been given to me and the best thing is, I got paid to do it.

If we’re talking about personal projects, I would love to design food products or create my own perfume brand.

What are some of the creative challenges you face regularly and how do you remedy them?

I love working on multiple tasks at once; that’s how I’ve been operating from a young age. At Open, using time effectively is vital to everyday life. I get a variety of tasks to manage, but there is usually one big task or project that grounds me.

Why do you do what you do, and could you see yourself doing anything else?

Frustration fuelled my desire to become a designer. When I saw poor signage, visual communication products and architecture, I noticed gaps where people weren’t paying attention to the design and how it could be improved.

If I weren’t a product designer, I would probably be an artist or a chef. I would also like to design a hydroponic garden in my backyard one day (I love plants).

On the Mic is a series of blog posts that invite internal communication professionals to share their take on employee communication, their view on trends within the field and what rocks their boat. Feel free to send us tips on who should be ‘On the Mic’ next.