Employee Engagement

How to improve internal communications with your hourly workers

By JD Farrugia

Jun. 5, 2023


  • Two-way communication is the most effective form of communication. 

  • Achieve bottom-up communication with consistent shift feedback.

  • Communicate from the top down by keeping employee profiles in a single system for announcements, scheduling, and performance reviews

Internal communication is crucial in any organization. It ensures an aligned company culture, boosts employee engagement, and ultimately creates a better product or service for the customer. 

With shift workers, internal communication becomes more complex – which means you need to make it more straightforward. Frontline staff often have different schedules, work in different locations, and may not have regular access to company email or other communication channels. Without a clear plan for internal communications, that often translates to miscommunication, staff shortages, and low morale.

Effective internal communication in such companies keeps employees informed, engaged, and feeling like they are part of the team. But true and effective communication is a two-way street. Leadership must communicate business goals, direction, and updates to employees, but they must also remain informed about what is happening on the ground. 

Technology, specifically workforce management software, plays a big role in facilitating internal communications with hourly employees thanks to features like automated scheduling, shift feedback, and employee apps. With these tools, you’ll streamline your staffing, get relevant feedback, and eliminate miscommunication with your shift workers.

1. Streamline last-minute staffing changes

Any human resource professional will agree that one of the biggest issues they face is employee absenteeism — particularly unscheduled absences or no-call, no-shows. Employees that are regularly absent wreak havoc on productivity as the burden of their work falls onto their team members, creating employee burnout

Frontline and shift-based industries like healthcare and accommodation tend to have higher absence rates when compared to their non-shift counterparts, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An effective internal communications strategy takes last-minute call-outs and no-shows into consideration. Managers must communicate to the staff that a shift requires coverage, and they need a way to share information on when and where that shift is. 

Additionally, employees need the flexibility to request a replacement or swap shifts with coworkers easily. This gives them the freedom and opportunity to take care of any personal or family issues when they pop up. This is vital to help employees achieve a better work-life balance

Create predictable schedules with employee scheduling software

Employee scheduling software makes it possible to create reliable and predictable work schedules, helping employees achieve a better work-life balance. 

Predictive scheduling 

Predictive scheduling ses labor forecasting to help business leaders preempt increases and decreases in labor demand; this helps scheduling managers avoid over and under-staffing specific shifts. With properly planned schedules, fewer instances of overtime and last minute replacements occur – this is better for overall employee happiness. 

In some states and cities, companies are required to follow predictive scheduling laws that make scheduling more transparent and fair for hourly staff. These laws include measures such as:

  • A communication system that notifies employees of schedule changes well in advance
  • Sufficient rest between shifts
  • Removing the practice of “clopening” — when the same employee closes up at night and re-opens the next morning

Collaborative scheduling 

Collaborative scheduling creates an employee communication system where they have more say in which shifts to work, as well as the ability to request shift swaps. You can also implement a shift bids system. Here, the manager puts out a list of the shifts that need to be filled, and employees bid for the ones they want. The manager has the final say on who gets what shift. 

Take a healthcare organization that operates several departments within a hospital as an example. One day, the emergency department experiences an unexpected surge in patient volume, requiring additional staff to be called in to manage the workload. With automated scheduling in place, the availability of additional shifts is easily communicated to the staff, and the slots are filled quickly. 

2. Collect bottom-up, internal communication after every shift

Communication is the key to effective scheduling. Human resources professionals need to gather information from staff on the frontline to better understand how they can improve schedules and the employee experience.

A simple post-shift check-in with your hourly workforce gives everyone the opportunity to be heard and is great for engaging employees.  

Get insight into employee satisfaction with shift feedback tools

With employee engagement software, you can collect shift feedback using techniques such as a simple survey via your intranet, text message, or your employee app. Workers are prompted for feedback via automatic notifications on their mobile devices right after they complete their shifts. 

These surveys ask employees questions like:

  • Were you able to take your designated breaks?
  • Did you understand what was expected of you for this shift?
  • Did you have the right tools and resources you needed for this shift?
  • Were there any challenges or issues during this shift?

These questions help you take a satisfaction and well-being temperature check while also identifying any issues that need addressing. 

Let’s go back to our hospital staffing scenario. The human resources team of the emergency department collects feedback after every shift. Through this feedback, they may notice that the nurses’ team feels ill-equipped to deal with difficult patients or situations. 

Based on this feedback, the human resources team can develop and implement targeted resources to help nurses handle difficult situations more effectively. This could include providing access to additional training or coaching on de-escalation techniques, offering support from social workers or mental health professionals, or developing policies and protocols for dealing with challenging situations.

Every now and then, consider one-on-one meetings between employees and management. These are more personal and are probably better platforms to discuss more sensitive issues like burnout or any friction between coworkers. 

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3. Facilitate top-down communication in real-time

Communication from managers to employees is just as important for improving internal communications within an organization. Managers often need to make announcements, send company updates, or share important information with their teams. To avoid confusion and ensure that information reaches everyone, it needs to be shared in a single place and in real-time.

Reduce confusion with employee communications software

A single space for top-down communications, like the company intranet or an employee communications app, helps reduce confusion as to where employees need to look to get the most updated information. Real-time communication is important, particularly for shift reminders, requests for shift coverage, or company announcements. If using employee apps, this is made much easier with the help of push notifications. 

An employee app is already used by shift workers to do things like clock in and update schedules, which makes it the natural space for top-down communication to occur — particularly since shift-based workers rarely have corporate email accounts. 

In our hypothetical hospital, the management team may need to inform employees about a change in scheduling policy or a new training opportunity. Rather than relying on email or in-person meetings, HR and management can use the employee app to send a push notification directly to employees’ phones, ensuring that all staff members receive the information in a timely and efficient manner.

Effective internal communication is two-way communication

Like in any relationship, truly effective communication is a two-way street, and this needs to be kept in mind when developing and implementing your internal communications strategy. Your workforce management software needs to handle top-down as well as bottom-up communication. This facilitates a better employee experience and harnesses a productive work environment. 

Workforce.com provides HR professionals with all the tools they need to achieve this, from automated employee scheduling to labor forecasting and shift feedback functionality. 

Get started with Workforce.com today.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with Workforce.com.