As lockdown measures start to ease across Europe, manufacturers are having to be extremely agile and adapt quickly as the landscape continues to change. It is imperative that they maintain open communication with their workforce

Having radically changed operations and processes in the face of a global pandemic only a few months ago, manufacturing organizations are having to adapt again to return to a new kind of normal. At a recent SocialChorus webinar focused on manufacturing communications, Nicole Alvino, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at SocialChorus discussed issues such as creating new products for the good of society as well as mobilizing an entire manufacturing organization to respond in a safe, productive way with Brett Lutz from global food processing business ADM and Christine Miller from Dow Chemical.

Here, Nicole explains how manufacturers need to communicate with their workforce in a transparent, clear way to help a safe and productive return to normal.

Both communications experts talked about their preparation for this next phase of this crisis ranging from communicating new safety protocols, to re-onboarding furloughed workers and supporting the return of employees working from home. During the first week of lockdown, both Brett and Christine came to the realization that, when it came to communicating to their staff, partners and customers about the crisis and its ramifications, their previous notions of high production, perfect content was falling by the wayside in favor of more real-time video communication filmed on a mobile phone. The need to reach everyone and align them around the right messages was the most critical thing while in crisis mode. By adapting and taking this approach, ADM’s CEO now creates direct communications through SocialChorus to help maintain a high level of trust through authenticity that they have worked so hard to build.

Like many manufacturing organizations, for ADM and Dow, this next phase means that businesses need to continue communicating as they introduce a new way of work and a new way of returning to the workplace.

Building on the reality of the level of stress of their workforces, both Brett and Christine agreed that it was important to acknowledge that it is normal for people to not feel normal. Each person has their own challenges, whether in the workplace, in their homes, or in their communities. Therefore, the role of communications must be to help people in both small and large ways. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved. Not only will workers expect information that they trust to help them return to work safely. They’ll be looking for a single source of truth for safety guidelines and new policies, while also seeking day-to-day information like site-specific scheduling, real-time updates and reminders of re-onboarding tasks.

Christine stressed that it’s important for leaders to alleviate concerns about employee safety, reassuring their teams that we’re not rushing back. Manufacturers need to continue being open and honest with their workforces so they can be proud of what their organization is doing for the greater good. That also means an increase in both recognition and wellness programs, as well as a focus on enabling leaders to communicate more with their teams.

What we learned from our conversation was that manufacturing companies need to ensure that their critical Covid-19 information is reaching all of their people, and to verify how their workforce is responding, all while providing a real-time feedback loop to address concerns and promote compliance.

Returning to work is far from simple. The challenges and complexities will vary from business to business, but the following seven steps should help in mobilizing and preparing for both a safe and productive return to work:

1) Prepare groups for different locations and roles
From management to the front line, every worker will need personalized information to adapt to this new way of working. Your organization must be able to target the right message to the right employees. You can do this by:

  • Synchronizing your communications platform with your HR, and match with behavior data to create dynamic distribution groups that continuously update as employee data changes
  • Create manager-only groups based on seniority level or job title. This will enable you to use targeted content emails and targeted notifications to deliver specific back-to-work details and leadership guidance.

2) Build a task force to communicate your return details
To provide an up-to-date, localized, reliable source of truth during your return to the workplace, you must empower local health and safety decision makers to send communications to employees at their location.

  • The communications, HR and Risk & Safety teams should share responsibility for organization-wide communications.
  • Site-specific Risk & Safety decision makers should communicate local policies, procedures and scheduling to workers at their location.
  • Risk & Safety teams will need to convey manager-level information, such as decision trees, directly to those with senior titles.

3) Target each location with local information
Regulations and protocols can vary by city, county, state and country. Employees need site-specific guidelines for workplace safety, and you need to ensure they receive and put them into practice.

    • Confirm receipt of key site-specific content like shift schedules and track the reach of these communications across employee groups.
    • Develop unique alerts for new safe workplace guidelines, and gauge employee sentiment around them with polls.

Create real-time FAQs based on employee questions and offer easy-to- consume micro-learnings on safe workplace guidelines

4) Establish feedback loops and real-time FAQs
To maintain employee trust, give workers a way to voice concerns as they occur. Enable communicators, Risk & Safety teams and local leaders to address those concerns in real time.

  • Encourage employees to submit questions or comments in your targeted channels.
  • Get your local Risk sand Safety staff respond in real time to answer questions.
  • Empower local managers to address issues, provide a single source of truth to give management answers, and promote idea sharing among managers.

5) Drive compliance with automatic reminders
Employees may not review or act on information the first time they receive it. You need a way to ensure they mobilize around compliance and follow procedure.

  • Confirm that employees have received information by sending them push notifications that require confirmation.
  • Test their understanding of critical information with brief surveys.
  • Send automated reminders around key micro-learnings to encourage review and retention of content.

6) Track reach and measure sentiment
Verify that your critical safety and change management messaging is having the impact you need. Track the reach of those communications and learn how employees are responding to your key initiatives.

  • Measure global engagement with your return-to-work communications to verify reach.
  • Drill down into your data; sort by site location, management level and specific initiatives to view impact.
  • Run pulse polls to further understand workforce sentiment beyond metrics.

7) Monitor and maintain employee health & wellbeing
Lack of physical and mental wellness is a barrier to both safety and productivity—now more than ever. From temperature checks to opportunities to disconnect, make sure you’re offering the right support.

  • Ensure completion of health requirements by giving employees easy access to health check platforms and tracking completion rates.
  • Check in with employees and measure wellness with polls targeted to locations or departments of concern. Have resources available to follow up with employees who feel unwell or are struggling.
  • Create automated reminder campaigns for patients in self-isolation due to Covid-19. Notify them to log into your health check platform to update their recovery status.

There’s no doubt we’re not out of the woods yet but Covid-19 has been a catalyst for removing barriers and driving greater trust and transparency across manufacturing organizations around the world. If every manufacturer can take this kind of employee-centric approach and carry it forward, we’ll be well on our way to much safer and productive workplaces now and in the future.

Nicole Alvino
Nicole Alvino is Cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer at SocialChorus, the leading workforce communications platform that enables organizations to accelerate and accomplish their business initiatives by reaching, aligning, and mobilizing every worker. We believe a mobilized enterprise is one in which companies can react quickly to change, aligning their workers, and giving them the right information, at the right time, in the right place, to achieve their business objectives. Communicators and leaders can focus on the message, while the platform ensures the content is acted on in a measurable way. SocialChorus helps the world’s largest global companies transform the way they communicate with millions of employees every day.
www.socialchorus.com