Employee Engagement

Guide to Deskless Worker Communication and Engagement

By Mariya Postelnyak


Deskless employees don’t have the same needs and concerns as office staff. To attract and retain frontline staff, you’ll need a tailored deskless worker communication and engagement strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on what we already knew: that daily life revolves around frontline workers. 

At the same time, the pandemic drew our attention to just how much organizations can overlook this group of workers. 

Unsafe work conditions, poor employee experience and general mismanagement saw turnover rates deskless workers reach 46% in 2021. 

To avoid losing valuable employees, organizations need to improve deskless worker communication and engagement. In this post, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of deskless worker engagement to help you build stronger teams and increase employee retention.

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What Is a Deskless Worker?

As the term implies, deskless workers are simply employees who don’t work at a desk. Most commonly, they include supply chain and logistics workers, construction workers, retail staff, food delivery workers, nurses, and doctors. 

The term “deskless worker” is often used interchangeably with “frontline worker” as both refer to employees working in the front lines of an industry. 

What is a deskless workforce?

Many organizations have dozens of deskless employees dispersed across multiple departments and industries. This adds up to a deskless workforce with unique experiences and demands. 

A classic example of an organization with a large deskless workforce is Amazon. It has over 876,000 warehouse employees in addition to delivery personnel, various logistics workers, and office workers. 

Many employees across a deskless workforce never intersect. But it’s important for them to share a collective goal and understanding about their brand. Otherwise, employee engagement and retention might plummet and your employee engagement model will suffer. 

Such was the case with Amazon who saw a 150% annual turnover rate in 2019. While huge companies might be able to afford the cost of employee disengagement (approximately 18% of a disengaged worker’s salary), for small businesses, this can spell disaster. 

What is Employee Communication?

Employee communication is the exchange of information and ideas across the workplace. But there are many different avenues this type of communication might take. 

In the age of digital internal communication, options are ample: interactive emails, instant messaging, employee apps, and employee SMS notifications are just a few common mediums. 

The key, of course, is to develop a deskless worker communication strategy that fits your workplace culture, communication goals, and working style. Check out our internal communications plan template to see how you can build out a strategy suited to your organizational needs. 

Why Is Employee Communication Important?

Internal communication is important because employees need timely and accurate information in order to succeed at their jobs. When employees are well-informed, they feel confident and empowered. 

Smooth and seamless information delivery means that staff don’t need to waste hours searching for information. The result: a better employee experience and more time to invest efforts elsewhere in the company.

Supporting a colleague, brainstorming new ideas, or giving clients extra support are all areas where engaged employees might allocate their extra time. 

Meanwhile, miscommunication in the workplace can have disastrous effects. Failing to deliver timely safety information to factory workers, for instance, can lead to injuries or worse. 

For businesses to operate effectively and ensure the safety of their frontline workers, investing in employee communication is a must. 

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What Are the Benefits of Effective Deskless Employee Communication?

There are countless benefits to effective employee communication. Here are just a few of the top ones to keep in mind:

What Is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is the degree to which employees feel connected to your organization and committed to their work. Engaged employees regularly go the extra mile, support colleagues, and advocate for their organization. 

Importantly, these deeds are not owed but earned, and organizations with high employee engagement rates make proactive efforts to ensure this. 

Looking to improve your workplace engagement strategy? Check out our employee engagement tips and best practices to boost employee engagement in your organization. 

Why Is Engaging and Communicating With a Deskless Workforce Different?

Engaging deskless employees requires a slightly different approach from engaging office employees. Here are just a few unique factors to consider when communicating with, and engaging deskless employees:

1. They have a different schedule

Deskless employees work at odd hours and might need information at different times than office employees. 

Your company-wide email might not reach employees when they need it most. So using an email tracking tool like ContactMonkey to tap into deskless employee engagement rates can be helpful. 

2. Deskless workers may feel more disconnected

Large organizations may have dozens of frontline workers in industries from retail to hospitality working around the globe. It’s little surprise that these individuals might not find a lot of common ground or feel connected. 

Distributed workers are at risk of disengagement unless organizations take proactive steps to measure and increase frontline employee engagement through events, professional development initiatives, digital tools, and other meaningful initiatives. 

3. More demand for real-time communication

Manufacturing facilities, retail, and foodservice industries experience continuous operating updates. The nature of their jobs demands that deskless workers be agile and adaptable. 

Employees need quick, up-to-the-minute information not only to ensure that they can do their job but also to ensure their safety. Real-time communication tools like employee SMSenable frontline staff to get valuable information whenever, and wherever.

4. A lack of community

Different schedules, time zones, and priorities make it difficult for deskless employees to gain a sense of belonging in their workplace community. So how do you help deskless employees feel like they’re working towards a common goal with the rest of their colleagues? 

That starts with strong leadership communications and captivating internal storytelling that inspires and motivates employees.

How Do Deskless Employees Communicate?

Deskless workers communicate quickly and on the go. Routine back-and-forth communication among deskless workers relies on instant messaging. However, email and intranet communications are the go-to for company-wide news and general information. 

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In light of this, HR professionals and internal communicators need to strategize and tap into frontline worker engagement trends. 

They need to deliver information to deskless workers when and how they need it, which requires clever tools and thoughtful communication. 

The best way to ensure that key resources reach deskless workers?

Use email and SMS together. ContactMonkey’s all-in-one internal communications software lets you send email and SMS from a single user interface. So you never have to jump back and forth from different apps and slow down your communications process.

Screenshot of ContactMonkey's SMS sending dashboard for SMS employee communications.

By integrating email and SMS capabilities, you can expand the reach and impact of your communications and provide round-the-clock deskless worker support.

If you have a only portion of your employees who work deskless, you can use custom email lists to send information to employees who rely on email for internal communication and exclude those who require SMS communications. Custom email lists help you drive email engagement while eliminating the number of irrelevant emails your employees receive.

Using ContactMonkey’s List Management feature, you can create custom email lists—without IT—so you can better target your internal communications. Custom email lists created with ContactMonkey integrate with your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) like Workday and ADP, as well as Azure Active Directory, so they’ll update automatically as employees join and leave your organization.

Deskless Workforce Communication Tools and Technology

Despite being away from the computer, deskless workers still need to have a solid line of communication with your company. 

Organizational news, policy documents, and other resources should be within instant reach. This can be achieved with tools like:

  1. Employee SMS: 90% of texts are opened within five minutes. SMS internal communication is great for delivering urgent updates to employees without corporate emails. 
  2. HTML newsletters: mobile-responsive HTML email templates allow you to incorporate text, links, documents, and even videos and links in a single email. This way, frontline employees can get their weekly dose of company news from a one-stop-shop.
  3. Email tracking: not only does email tracking help you see how deskless employees are engaging with your communications, but it also lets you ensure emergency alerts reach employees on time. 
  4. Pulse surveys: these short employee surveys are a must-have for checking in on how your deskless workers are doing⁠—what concerns they have and what support they might need. Good or bad, employee feedback will enable you to continuously improve digital employee experience. 

ContactMonkey’s software combines all these essential deskless employee engagement tools in one system. See how it works for yourself—set up your free trial today!

How to Create and Implement an Effective Deskless Workforce Strategy

Now that we’ve looked at the ins and outs of employee engagement, it’s time to start building out your frontline employee engagement strategy. Below, we’ve listed the key steps to follow and best practices for each stage of the process. 

Step 1: Audit your existing internal communications performance

An internal communication audit determines how effectively you’re communicating with employees. 

Ideally, it should answer questions like:

  • Are your teams aligned?
  • Are you delivering the information employees need?
  • How well do employees understand your brand goals?
  • Are you reaching employees in the most convenient manner?
  • How many employees regularly engage with your communications?

With an easy-to-use analytics dashboard, ContactMonkey lets you easily tap into measurable data across multiple engagement metrics, including:

If you need to adhere to internal or external regulations around email privacy, you can gather email metrics using ContactMonkey’s anonymous email tracking while maintaining your employees privacy.

Step 2: Harness your employer band

A primary driving force of employee engagement is confidence in the company mission and trust in leadership. That’s where a strong employer brand and clear company values come into play.

When deskless employees feel like they play an integral part of your brand goals, they’ll feel like they belong to a community. 

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By reflecting on your brand identity and strengths, you’ll have a better idea of what core values you want to underscore across your deskless worker communications. 

For instance, if a key element of your employer brand is peer-to-peer recognition, you might start a newsletter dedicated to employee milestones.

In addition, you may encourage employees to participate in rewards programs or contests that bring colleagues together and encourage team appreciation

The best part: employees don’t have to be in the office to take part in these virtual initiatives. Check out our full list of frontline employee engagement ideas for more inspiration. 

Step 3: Create a deskless employee communications plan

Providing deskless employees with the necessary information as well offering platforms to voice their thoughts takes a thoughtful approach. A dedicated deskless employee communications plan can help communicators become more intentional about frontline employee engagement. 

Your deskless worker communications plan should include the following components:

  1. Summary of your internal communications audit: an analysis of how your business is doing at the moment will put you in an informed position to make improvements. 
  2. Your internal communications goals: this includes concrete metrics like internal email open rates you aspire to reach, click-through rates on key links, SMS response rates, or Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).
  3. Your target audience: clearly outline what groups of workers you intend to reach with this plan. This might include retail staff, transportation workers, truck drivers, and so on.  
  4. Key messages: this includes all the topic categories you’ll need to cover, such as, policies and procedures, deskless workforce training, compensation and benefits, events and activities, etc. 
  5. Internal communications channels: this is an outline of the internal communications platforms, strategies, and tools you’ll need to execute your plan. They should reflect the results of your internal communications audit and take into account the preferred communications channels among your deskless workers.
  6. When to deliver internal communications: reflecting on your internal communications audit, determine the best times to send your communications. Use ContactMonkey’s campaign comparison tool to assess when your audience is most engaged and schedule your communications accordingly. 
  7. Internal communications benchmarks: use our internal communications benchmark report to set concrete KPIs for your communications plan. These will help you understand how you’re doing and when you’re on the right track. 

Want to quickly build out your own deskless worker engagement and communications strategy? Download and customize our free internal communications plan

Step 4: Measure success

The most important step in any deskless worker engagement strategy is continuously measuring performance. Once you’ve developed your goals and benchmarks, keep measuring employee engagement to see what’s working and what’s not. 

In addition to conducting regular internal communications audits, you might also:

Screenshot of anonymous employee feedback box inserted into an email using ContactMonkey's email template builder.

By continuously monitoring employee engagement, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s really boosting employee morale in your organization. A solid grasp on employee engagement drivers will help you start making more meaningful and lasting improvements.  

Not sure what questions to ask on your employee surveys? Try using ContactMonkey’s OpenAI ChatGPT integration to create unique survey questions. Simply write a prompt describing what you’d like to learn, grab the generated questions that fit your need, and edit them for your audience.

Boost Deskless Workforce Productivity and Engagement With ContactMonkey

Well-informed deskless employees are more confident and engaged in their roles. They know where to access the information they need, who to talk to for support, and where they can express concerns. 

More importantly, they understand the organizational direction and know how their work ties into overarching brand goals. In sum: better deskless workforce communication leads to greater deskless worker engagement. 

ContactMonkey’s employee engagement platform for deskless workers is tailored to the challenges of dispersed teams. See how ContactMonkey can help frontline employees stay informed, connected, and engaged from just about anywhere. Book your free trial today.