Jenni Field

Protecting the Third Space

Founder and director of Redefining Communications, Jenni Field shares her advice for improving communication with deskless workers.

We’re emerging from an incredibly difficult time for frontline workers. Many have moved jobs or experienced periods of furlough.

A crisis will always escalate an existing trend and we’ve seen key communication issues that were already bubbling away, rise to the top of the agenda for organisations with frontline workers.

Success starts with line managers

As we navigate our way out of the pandemic, internal communicators must focus on improving the employee experience for this audience.

To do this, our time and investment must focus on the line manager; we need to strengthen their communication skills to ensure information is delivered effectively.

If they are both empowered and autonomous, they’ll be better equipped to deal with change and engage teams.

The Remotely interested? research I carried out pre-COVID into diskless workers highlighted that providing line managers with relevant information is the first step to unlocking good communication.

Lack of relevance just adds noise. As always, we need to make sure we provide the information they need to do their job well and easy ways to stay connected.

Internal communicators tend to fill the third space with screens.

Both line managers and leaders play a crucial role in creating a sense of belonging. On-boarding frontline workers can be a challenge and we’ll need to coach managers and leaders about building trust.

I’ve also been talking about re-onboarding people as we move out of the pandemic and there’s merit in exploring this for frontline workers.

Alongside this comes the need for equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging; we’re increasingly polarized, so this is a challenging issue. How we treat people has a huge impact.

Protect the Third Space

We must reach this audience in a way that doesn’t invade the “third space” – places frontline workers convene. We often put intrusive screens or newsletters in the third space, when it should be a place to unwind and connect.

The frontline audience is traditionally time poor, so we need to think differently about the ways we engage them in corporate content. You’re competing for space, so you need personalised content to make the experience relevant.

I’ve found culture can be incredibly localised, so understanding this is one of the biggest investments communicators need to make.

Creativity will cut through the noise. It may be that we lean towards user-generated content; sharing authentic stories, photos or videos direct from frontline workers.

In this way the comms team becomes the curator and creator of content. Either way, investing in fewer channels and managing them effectively boosts engagement.