Today a Modern Workforce relies on effective communication as much if not more so than having the correct parts and tools. However when we think of communications we often push that topic over to the technical team and expect that better radios or higher bandwidth is what is needed to improve communications ? We couldn’t be further from the truth !
When we consider the modern workforce more broadly we quickly see that communications comes in many forms. There are the obvious spoken modes arriving in person, via radio or phone. Planner act as communicators and take engineering data on drawings and sketches then translate those medias into job instructions. Additionally there are process touch points that move the task from its inception through completion.
Let’s break down each of these a bit more and truly see how important communications are to the modern worker.
Spoken communications start at the point the need is identified, was the problem clearly and correctly stated ? Did the author capture the assets involved or perhaps the address to orient and identify the troubled parts. Was there a recommended party to assign the work to or perhaps a clearly captured extent of condition that would help set the priority for the job ? Beyond the start point, what sort of communications occurred prior to the starting of the work, was there a pre-job safety briefing or an execution plan discussed and documented ?
When it comes to the translation of media into written instructions we find that pictures that are made available for the field worker can be highly effective means of communication. Recall that childhood game where one person told a short phrase to a second and so on down the line to the last person who repeated out loud the phrase? How well did that work out ? ! So it follows with converting media into a written communication. The detail of complex drawings or engineering materials can often be internalized by the back office engineer though their assimilation of the information and then not passed along via the written communications in the job package. Better yet to include the drawing or video into the work package for first hand use in the field.
Process cues and status points are forms of communications that often are broken in a best of breed deployments. When exclaiming a process diagram it is important to understand not only the job steps but also the status points that occur during normal and abnormal executions. Take a case where the worker is sent to disconnect a customer service for non payment. If the design is such that the workers mobile device receives the order to disconnect and then never is updated again a very angry customer can find their service disconnected even though they paid that very morning whilst the worker was in route. Of course the worker could call in prior to performing the work, but doesn’t that seem to be a bit stone age ? The continuous end to end process integration and status updates are a key form of communication in this scenario.
Before we leave the process and status scenarios, consider the use of status information that the modern workforce can provide to the balance of the enterprise. When the job is picked up, the status changes and so on as the worker is in route, on site, on hold, complete. Each of these status points when effectively communicated to the back office enterprise becomes a beacon of information that has tremendous value to be shared. The customer can now receive a communication letting them know that the worker is in route to their home, or that the job is completed and they can restart their appliances.
In the end communications comes in many forms and is key to the most effective workforce. We often minimize the data forms and instead try to compensate with spoken or written forms. To achieve the best results we should look to all forms and maximize each using modern technologies as each plays a different role in our success.
I will speak about this topic in my microforum Workforce on the Move – Enterprise Mobility from SAP in All Aspects of Daily Work on Wednesday, April 13th from 13:40 – 13:55.