Sitting at my laptop in my neighborhood Starbuck’s, I felt the tension release from my body as Firefox transported me to the Internet. I had been offline for two days. As I attended to some personal business, without my computer, I was truly feeling totally out of the loop.
This got me thinking about the thousands of corporate employees who do not have online access because of the nature of their jobs: assembly line workers, mail sorters and security guards, to name a few. Yet communication to these employees is just as essential as it is to the employees glued to their computers every day. The old-fashioned grapevine — my lips to your ear — is being supplanted by the electronic grapevine, which is as swift as the speed of the internet. More formal company communiques are also going out via the intranet.
Smart employers, of course, have always fed the informal grapevine, which reached everyone in the past. But now some employees may find themselves out of the loop, as I did, without access to a constant electronic steam of information about the company. The electronic grapevine is a great way for management to understand what employees are thinking, to uncover hidden problems and to get feedback in real time.
But what about those employees who are not online? Do they feel less connected — and committed — to the company? The challenge for management is to communicate with all employees, through new technlogies, but also using old-fashioned communication channels such as letters to employees’ homes and the low-tech bulletin board. I’d be interested in hearing from readers how their companies are reaching employees without Internet access.