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how to reach plant employees

November 8, 2010

in communication,social media,wellness

i’m a member of the council of communication management (CCM), a professional community of roughly 350 senior communication professionals. one of the ways we learn from one another is through your basic listserv. it’s not slick, but it’s a rapid-response feedback mechanism and advice column, and one of the organization’s most meaningful benefits.

the other day, this question from a CCM member hit my inbox:

“I’m interested in learning about any best practices for helping plant managers communicate with their ‘non-wired’ employees (managers who are in a manufacturing setting and have employees without access to their own computer). If you’ve heard of any tips, tools, ideas that help the plant managers (and the employees) communicate more effectively, I’d so appreciate hearing from you and hearing about best practices.”

i quickly jotted down (if one can jot in email) my experience in an email response. after hitting send, i figured it was something others might also be dealing with, so i’ve copied my response here:

i work with a manufacturing client with many non-wired employees, at least at work. though the client does offer kiosks in their facilities, many of these employees lack the time, capability or interest in using them. we’re trying to reach these employees to encourage healthier behaviors. we’ve gone about doing so in a few ways:

1.  computer learning cards. we created these to help employees learn to help themselves. these were placed at every kiosk and were highly visual, making the learning process less cumbersome, intimidating and reliant on their getting on the computer first.

2.  shift break talking points. we have recruited volunteer wellness champions at every facility and for every shift. we’ve equipped them with exercises and talking points that make it possible to quickly cover different aspects and benefits of the wellness program. each exercise requires employees to get online so they can gain more comfort and have help on hand. and every exercise has an accompanying employee handout so employees remember what they learned.

3.  plant manager e-newsletters. we deliver quarterly e-newsletters that equip plant managers—and remind them—to cover important information we want to get to the non-wired employees. these e-newsletters also give the plant managers tips about how to help their non-wired employees gain greater comfort online. at this particular client, their benefits budget can be offset by their location’s level of participation in the wellness program. as a result, we’ve seen much more active interest on their behalf. plant managers have taken what we’ve delivered centrally and expanded upon it locally. to give them recognition and to share their advice, we capture their tips in a section called “from the front lines.” we supplement this in a plant manager forum where they can also talk one to many. the e-newsletter’s been particularly successful; in a recent survey, plant managers told us they want these more frequently.

4.  wellness champions e-newsletters. we’ve created a different monthly e-newsletter specific to the volunteer wellness champions and local HR. these also offer monthly reminders, tips and links to important information and resources. as with the plant manager forum, we offer the champions and HR a forum for their issues, needs and opinions. they’ve discussed everything from increasing participation to including third-shift workers.

5.  social media. as i mentioned, many of these employees actually are wired, they just lack interest. so, we’ve tried to make things more interesting and employee-centric. we use blogs, podcasts, twitter, forums and other social means to open the communication channels and gear the information around what employees want to know.

what about you? how are you reaching hard-to-reach employees?


Leave a Comment

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

John November 9, 2010 at 11:06 am

Here at Avvio we’re often asked to come up with ideas for hard to reach employees. This has included communicating to guys stuck on a gas rig in the North Sea. However – you might find this interesting. http://tinyurl.com/39h6peb It’s how we solved the problem for Sky engineers and not ones to blow our own trumpet – it works rather well.


fran November 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

john, thanks for sharing what you’re doing at sky. on-the-road (or on the rig) employees are definitely another hard-to-reach audience, for different reasons. i like the headlines feature to make sure no important news gets lost.



Drew Hawkins November 9, 2010 at 11:18 am

This is a great relevant write-up. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in reaching out the wired glued-to-their-monitor employees that the non-wired ones lose attention. Social media is a great one. Those employees are probably active at home online in some capacity. The social channels are a good way to spread a message.


fran November 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm

hey, drew! i approach it from the perspective of where are they, not where do we want them to go. i’m not inclined to be sisyphus.



Scott Asai November 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

There’s also some great collaboration tools online that you can work on virtually at the same time.


Lou Brault January 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Dear CCM Member

I’m not sure if this was an oversight in your list but using a digital signage network is a good way to reach non-wired employees. Besides being very dynamic, digital signage is available 24/7 and it lets you change the messages in response to urgent matters that have to be communcated. I would be interested in your feedback.

cheers, Lou Brault – MediaTile


fran January 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm

lou — yes, that was an oversight. i have clients who use digital signage and less sophisticated versions of your product in their plants, in particular. thanks for adding it to the list.



Melek November 14, 2015 at 7:43 am

If they are going to flower, it will be in August. Mine awyals bloomed in August. That is an interesting tip about snapping off the runners. If I had one now, I would try it … but I don’t because it is too dry in Phoenix for Episcias to be happy.


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