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For many multinationals, internal communication is split between the office workers and those on the factory floor. Plant and field workers have some of the hardest jobs and provide core value for the company. Yet this group shows low engagement and out of touch with the organization. Who are these workers, and what do they need? Learn the secret weapon to inform, engage and connect this group.

Leadership, Fiona Passantino, late February 2023

Our schizophrenic internal communication

Deskless workers make up 80% of the total global workforce. They work in factories, shops and greenhouses. They drive delivery vans and keep supply chains running in the field. They are in direct contact with the customers, handle the products every day, and have a deep understanding of operations.

But only about 25% of these workers are engaged; about eight points lower than the average desk worker[i]. Up to 74% feel they’re missing out on company news[ii].

For large multinationals, internal communication is split between the office workers and those on the factory floor. While the desk-bound bathe in a running stream of emails, texts, newsletters, townhalls, webcasts and socials, factory workers often have to contend with outdated, inadequate printed material or inconvenient digital mailers.

It’s easy for CEOs to speak to the office worker. They can mainline their strategic documents straight into the stream with no translation or simplification, maxing out on company jargon, charts and graphs. But when it comes to the factory floor, 82% of high-level managers find communication difficult[iii].

Factory comms strike an unwieldy mix of overly simplistic, condescending copy mixed with complex and abstract information that neither informs nor inspires those operating heavy machinery. Wall posters fall short on detail and are quickly obsolete, while regular digital newsletters requiring a desktop to access, go ignored.

Who are the “deskless”?

Connecting with manufacturing workers has always been a challenge for desk-bound internal communications teams. Step one is getting a clear picture of the target.

Every organization has a different factory worker profile, but here is a glimpse of a few US averages.

  • 70% male
    While women make up nearly half of the workforce (47.5%), they remain largely underrepresented in manufacturing jobs[iv].
  • 71% did not finish college
    A higher percentage of women working in manufacturing have a bachelor’s degree or higher (28.1%) compared with their male colleagues (26.5%)[v].
  • 97% have a smartphone[vi].
    While most do not have access to a computer during the day, nearly all have a phone. And that’s a great place to start.

Factory employees are busy and often work long, 10-hour shifts at unusual times of day. They don’t have time for long, newsy emails. They work with their hands, so logging into a desktop to check the intranet is not practical.


The Secret Weapon: the internal comms podcast

In 2020, about 100 million people per month listened to a podcast; this grew to 125 million in 2022[vii]. Podcast consumption is growing by 16% a year, to where it’s now reaching more than half of the US population for news, stories and opinion[viii].

Podcasts are an intensely H2H (Human2Human) communication platform. The voice is both intimate and engaging. It holds our attention longer, and we absorb the details. Some 81% of us remember auditory information more accurately over time than text-based[ix].

Podcasts are convenient. Listeners can tune in at any time, and combine it with repetitive jobs such as driving, loading, cleaning or line work. Hands remain free for the work, and with no screen to watch, the experience is eyes-free too.

Podcasts enable authenticity. With a host who might be a member of the factory team, frontliners and CEO alike can be interviewed. Listeners can easily respond and interact with the production team to give instant feedback. Just 20 minutes a week is enough to bring workers up to speed with a roundup of all the news fit for purpose and a few special feature stories for balance.

This idea is catching on in the business world. PwC, Shopify, and American Airlines are all examples of large, international companies embracing the podcast for internal communication.

Welcome to the team; your onboarding package contains a branded set of earbuds with your company phone so you never miss out on what you need to know.

No time to read? Just watch.

No time to read? Just listen.

Reaching the Factory Floor

For many multinationals, internal communication is split between the office and deskless workers. Plant and field workers have some of the hardest jobs and provide core value for the company. Yet this group shows low engagement and often feels out of touch with the organization. Who are these workers, and what do they need? Learn about the secret weapon to inform, engage and connect this group. 

LISTEN on Spotify

LISTEN on Apple

Fiona Passantino is a professional speaker, trainer and coach, helping leaders and teams understand and integrate AI. The goal is to empower and equip the non-technical professional with knowledge and tools for the transformation ahead. Fiona is a UK Business Book Award-winning author of ⁠Comic Books for Executives⁠ and the author of the upcoming title “AI-Powered”.


[i] Swift (2017) “5 Keys to Boosting Workplace Culture in Manufacturing” Gallup Business Journal. Accessed February 24, 2023. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/218549/keys-boosting-workplace-culture-manufacturing.aspx?g_source=mn2-us

[ii] Osborne (2022) “The Value of An Internal Communication Podcast: Why your brand should consider using an internal communication podcast to boost employee retention and engagement”. Quill; podcasting. Accessed on February 24, 2023. https://www.quillpodcasting.com/blog-posts/internal-communication

[iii] Ardill (2022) “Internal Comms for Manufacturing – The Ultimate Guide” Workvivo. Accessed February 24, 2023. https://www.workvivo.com/blog/internal-comms-for-manufacturing-ultimate-guide/

[iv] Swift (2017) “5 Keys to Boosting Workplace Culture in Manufacturing” Gallup Business Journal. Accessed February 24, 2023. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/218549/keys-boosting-workplace-culture-manufacturing.aspx?g_source=mn2-us

[v] Swift (2017) “5 Keys to Boosting Workplace Culture in Manufacturing” Gallup Business Journal. Accessed February 24, 2023. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/218549/keys-boosting-workplace-culture-manufacturing.aspx?g_source=mn2-us

[vi] Pew Research Center (2021) “Mobile Fact Sheet”, Pew Research Center. Accessed on February 24, 2023. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/

[vii] Adgate (2021) “As Podcasts Continue To Grow In Popularity, Ad Dollars” Forbes Magazine. Accessed February 24, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradadgate/2021/02/11/podcasting-has-become-a-big-business/?sh=291f6ecc2cfb

[viii] Osborne (2022) “The Value of An Internal Communication Podcast: Why your brand should consider using an internal communication podcast to boost employee retention and engagement”. Quill; podcasting. Accessed on February 24, 2023. https://www.quillpodcasting.com/blog-posts/internal-communication

[ix] Osborne (2022) “The Value of An Internal Communication Podcast: Why your brand should consider using an internal communication podcast to boost employee retention and engagement”. Quill; podcasting. Accessed on February 24, 2023. https://www.quillpodcasting.com/blog-posts/internal-communication