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Posts tagged ‘bob clements’

Celebrate Better Business Communication Day with your Hourly Workers

video on timeclockToday’s guest post is courtesy of Workforce Institute board member Bob Clements.  Bob is Senior Principal at Axsium Group, a leading workforce management consulting firm. In the post below, he shares ideas about how workforce management technology capabilities can enhance the effectiveness of communications with your frontline workers – especially those who aren’t at a computer all day.  Pictured here is one example that Bob cites below – using a time clock to deliver instructional information to employees who don’t work on laptops.

Today, January 26, 2015, is Better Business Communication Day.  I have to admit that I did not have this holiday in my calendar.  It seems the world is full of made-up holidays like “International Day of Awesomeness” (March 10), National Leave the Office Earlier Day” (June 2), “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” (September 19) and National Christmas Ugly Sweater Day (December 11).  Like you, I ignore most of them, but Better Business Communication Day caught my attention.

We could all do a better job with our business communication: less email (and email that is more to the point), fewer meetings (and meetings that are more to the point), and more real-time interpersonal communication (i.e., conversation) with colleagues.  One area that really needs help is communication with hourly workers.

Don’t get me wrong.  A lot has been written about effective business communication.  Organizations spend tremendous energy crafting messages that will resonate with their workers, especially when it is a big topic, and when organizations have big topics to share, they spend big bucks on brochures, websites, videos and more to spread the word.

But, what about the little messages?  What about the day-to-day messages that make your hourly workers feel connected to the organization, its leadership, and its direction?  And, how do you turn communication from one where you are talking act your workers into a conversation where your hourly workers’ voices are heard?

For many, email is not an effective tool.  It is not practical to give a retail sales associate or production line workers a work email address.  Company portals are an option but portals are not something that workers interact with regularly.  What’s needed is something that hourly workers interact with every day that helps improve their productivity rather than distract them from doing their jobs.

The good news is such a thing exists and you probably already have it in your organization.  It is the time clock and the workforce management (WFM) software that drives it.  Every day, your workers need to clock in and out. Modern time clocks can do much more than simply capture time.  Many are capable of delivering messages to workers, ensuring they get read, and some support two-way communication.  But, the time clock is just one aspect of your WFM system that can improve communication with hourly workers.

Many WFM systems include messaging or communication capabilities that act like email but without the cost of additional email licenses and the trouble of providing email clients.  Like email, leaders can send messages to groups of hourly workers while individuals can send notes to with ideas, questions and observations. Unlike email, rules and workflow can control replies, notifications, etc. to keep such communication from being overwhelming.

Another WFM module, Task Management, gives organizations powerful ways to communication tasks that need to be completed at remote locations.  These tasks can include detailed instructions including drawings, photos and video that show exactly what needs to be done.  Workers have the ability to provide feedback in the form of written communication or surveys about the task, any problems that they had completing it, and suggestions for ways to do it better in the future.

Tasks managed via a Task Management system can be instructive like “setup a display” or it can prompt workers to complete a survey or take a training course.

A hot new idea in WFM is social collaboration.  With social collaboration, workers log into the WFM system via a browser, tablet or mobile device and are given a Facebook-like newsfeed of conversations happening between others around the organization.  They can participate in these discussion or start their own.  Social collaboration is a powerful means to solve problems, share best practices and develop relationships between employees in geographically dispersed locations.

So, join me in celebrating Better Business Communication Day.  Use your WFM system as a channel to improve communications with your hourly workforce.

Going Global? Get a Translator

Today’s guest post is from our board member, Bob Clements and addresses the wisdom of engaging local expertise in the design and implementation of global workforce management systems.

In 1981, President Carter toured Japan and China shortly after leaving the White House.  During this tour, he was asked to speak at a small college in Japan.  Everybody at the college – professors, students and the students’ parents – was nervous when he arrived for his speech.  President Carter decided to put the audience at ease with a joke to start his speech.  He knew the joke wasn’t his funniest, but it was short which he felt was important when translating from English to Japanese.

When his speech started, he told his joke and waited for the translation.  To his surprise, the audience roared with laughter. People were literally falling out of their chairs, as the story goes.  President Carter said that it was the best response that he had ever had to a joke in his life.

After the speech, the President asked the translator how he told the joke, because while the joke was amusing, he was surprised by the reaction.  At first, the translator dodged the question, but finally, he admitted that he did not translate the joke.  Instead, he said to the audience, “President Carter just told a funny story.  Everyone must laugh.”  And they did.

When President Carter recalls this story, he quips how good it is to be the President.  However, when I hear the story, I see how important a good translator is.  In this case, the President’s translator did more than regurgitate language.  He translated culture and social norms.  He knew that the Japanese audience would not understand President Carter’s joke.  He also knew the Japanese would be polite and laugh if asked.  And they did.

In my job, it seems like every company I speak with, regardless of where they are headquartered, is talking about taking their workforce management system and/or processes into one or more new countries.  This may be driven by a strategic initiative to open operations in a new country, the result of an acquisition, or a desire to streamline operations and standardize on a single system or set of processes.

Regardless of what is driving the initiative, I’m always surprised by the lack of knowledge and awareness – dare I say, naiveté – most organizations have when it comes to making a global deployment successful.  Even organizations that have deployed systems and processes globally forget that when you start talking about workforce management – or just about any other human resource-related initiative – you are affecting the way people are scheduled and paid, and when you mess that up, people get really upset.

Making matters more challenging, the rules that govern how people are scheduled and paid can vary dramatically, not just by country, but by region, facility, department, and job.  Variation can even occur by individual.

You cannot succeed in this complex environment on your own.  You need a translator like the one President Carter had.  This isn’t just someone who can speak the language.  It’s someone who understands the culture, and the way that people at your company work in that country.  For many organizations, the translator may be a local HR representative or seasoned manager who knows the local workplace as well as the workforce and the rules that govern them.  Ideally, he or she is well known and respected by the workforce.

Your translator is a strategic part of bringing your workforce management initiative into a new country, not just some lackey there to push through a corporate initiative.  He or she should be identified and involved as part of the project team from its inception.  Early in the project, your translator helps identify cultural, legal and contractual requirements that need to be addressed.  Later in the project, he or she can be your feet on the ground to help introduce the new system or process.  He or she can be your eyes and ears to understand issues with adoption and help identify solutions to overcome such challenges.

Bob’s mention of Jimmy Carter reminds me of another one of his unintended bloopers. In a speech in Poland he said ‘I want to know the Polish people,’ which was translated into Polish as, ‘I want to have carnal knowledge of the Polish people.’

What unintended consequences have you experienced trying to do the right thing, but doing it the wrong way?