Have you heard the word “jobpocalypse?” It’s how some experts are now describing the war for talent, the Great Resignation… all the employee retention-related challenges facing many businesses right now. But, when we first read that new term, it really struck us. The name alone implies the dire – and enduring – situation many businesses find themselves in right now. They’re looking for new ways to tackle the ongoing issue of attracting and keeping talent, because it clearly isn’t going away anytime soon.
While Tschida Communications works across a myriad of industries, we’ve recently seen an uptick in communication needs from the manufacturing industry, specifically around internal communication. These companies are wisely recognizing the need to engage and communicate with their employees like never before to combat the effects the “jobpocalypse” is having on their businesses. (Note: While most manufacturing organizations have had some form of internal communications over the years, it’s often been HR-driven. This is about taking a broader, more strategic approach to the content shared with employees, and the ways that content should be delivered.)
In this 3-part series, we’ll share observations and best practices that other manufacturing companies can use to communicate with their notoriously hard-to-reach front-line employees, based on our work with organizations in that industry.
In part 1 below, we’ll start with industry-specific reasons for starting to communicate with employees. In part 2, we’ll share how to get feedback from employees and leaders on what they want to know and how they want to receive information. In part 3, we’ll explain how to create a communications roadmap that balances quick wins with longer-term investments in new channels and content that truly engages your teams.
Our team has already written about signs to watch for that indicate your organization might need an internal communications strategy – all of which are also relevant for manufacturers. But, as we’ve been working with these companies, our team has observed some additional, unique triggers for manufacturers to prioritize internal communications for the first time:
Scaling that “family feel”
The manufacturing organizations we’ve worked with to date are family owned, and their leaders grew up in the business. In fact, it’s one of our favorite things about working with these companies – hearing stories from the CEO of how their first high school job was mopping the shop floors, etc. When a leader has that kind of tenure, they also have deep know ledge of the people who work at the company. In many cases, they not only know their names, but they know their entire family and details about their lives.
Many manufacturing leaders recognize the need for more intentional internal communication when they look around and realize their company has outgrown their ability to continue knowing everyone’s story. They want to preserve that “family feel” and tight-knit culture even as their team continues to expand. Internal communication is a great way to do this – rather than catching some employees at the watercooler, it creates a platform for the CEO to reach every employee with timely messages and team recognition.
Evolving culture to compete
Not surprisingly given the above, when our team talks to frontline manufacturing employees about culture and communication at their organization, they use words like “family,” “small town,” “home,” “fun,” “nice” and “friendly.” Meanwhile, the leaders at those companies use words like, “growth,” “fast-paced,” “innovation,” “accountability” and “forward-thinking” for where they’re taking the company.
It’s always fascinating to show our clients the difference between what employees and leaders say, because it highlights another important reason to communicate intentionally with employees – to bring them along on the cultural change that needs to happen for their company to remain relevant and competitive in the future. There’s a tension between the company’s desire to maintain the “feel good” aspects of their culture while infusing more accountability and an orientation toward performance. Internal communication helps ease that tension by explaining the rationale for cultural changes, what’s in it for employees to evolve with the company, and by showing – not just telling – what good looks like through stories that showcase desired behaviors and recognize employees.
Mitigating safety incidents
Manufacturers are laser-focused on safety. When they observe an upward trend in safety-related incidents, communication can play a role in preventing future issues. In addition to ensuring employees have the information they need – in a language they understand – to do their jobs safely, there’s typically an opportunity to help managers lead more effectively through clear communication.
Even as our clients create internal communications strategies and functions for the first time, we continually remind their managers that they are the company’s primary internal communicators. A big part of our job is to provide managers with communication tools and resources that help them lead their teams even more effectively.
If any of these dynamics are happening in your business, stay tuned for part 2 in this series, where we’ll show you how to start by asking for feedback from employees and leaders on what they want to know and how they want to receive information. If you’re ready to get started communicating more intentionally with your manufacturing employees, get in touch! We’d love to guide you through the process we’ve developed with our other industry clients and get you on your way to engaging and retaining your employees!