Sep 15, 2022 - Economy

Companies look for new ways to reach deskless employees

Illustration of a hand with a megaphone coming out from a mobile phone screen.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eighty percent of the global workforce does not sit behind a computer.

Why it matters: Leaders in industries like agriculture, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, transportation, and construction cascade important information to employees through managers — and this game of telephone can be risky, inefficient and lead to turnover.

  • To curtail this, companies are meeting employees where they are by embracing digital forms of communication, like internal apps.

State of play: McDonald’s, Walmart, Delta and AstraZeneca use Meta’s Workplace platform to align corporate and frontline workers.

  • The platform — which operates like an internal Facebook — allows employees to connect with each other, post, and see company updates on their feed.
  • Communications can also be auto-translated into 91 languages, so corporate communicators can amplify workplace values, enhance transparency and offer real-time updates across the globe.

Meanwhile, the cascade method is still the main way Molson Coors communicates with employees — 60% of whom work in breweries.

  • According to chief communications and corporate affairs officer Adam Collins, it works for them because it leads to more interpersonal connection and feedback.
  • “We’re really thoughtful about top-down communications — who is communicating what to which groups, and where, when and how. Similarly, we’ve placed a great deal of effort on creating an environment with healthy bottom-up communication.”
  • But Molson Coors is exploring new channels, too. “Apps are among the most interesting because you can package critical information with purpose-driven messaging,” Collins says.

Yes, but: Companies that use apps like Workplace are responsible for monitoring employee activity across the platform. This can be a headache for communicators, legal and HR teams.

  • McDonald’s has faced criticism for keeping tabs on employee activism, which could become easier to monitor through these apps.
  • On the flip side, internal apps create more opportunity for workers to rally around shared concerns, as seen at Amazon.

What we’re watching: The surge of unionizing efforts could impact how deskless channels work and whether companies decide to use them.

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