I recently talked with my colleague Ryson Walden about the concept that one employee communication solution has the ability to benefit many industries and it inspired me to give some insight into how the hourly employee views corporate communications.
Regardless of the company, over the past 20 years, I have heard the phrase ‘puzzle palace’ when hourly/line workers refer to the corporate structure and communications protocols. You might not have heard the term puzzle palace, but your hourly employees know what it means and use it in reference to corporate.
We aren’t talking about James Bamford’s book here, but the underlying reality of the title “Puzzle Palace” links back to the anonymity that exists within companies, from the almighty corporate leader ‘down to’ the actual worker.
I know of the pervasiveness of this term and view it through my corporate experiences. I was accepted by the hourly workforce and given insight into their views and inner circles because I genuinely wanted to help them. I was deliberate and direct: no smoke and mirrors, we are going to take action. This is about you.
Here are some specific examples of the conundrum of the “puzzle palace” that employees see. Directives like this lead to frustration, not productivity, and stem from unclear communications:
- “We hourly workers need X but you gave us this? This is not what we need. What do we do with this?”
- “We are busy doing real work and you want us to do X?” X can be a plethora of things that hourly employees aren’t going to see as necessary: daily huddles, monotonous surveys, check sheets disguised as safety precautions (along with the old unfulfilled maintenance requests). Essentially, these are actions not grounded in reality.
- “This new ‘time-saving project’ costs us extra hours to complete.” These are contradictions, particularly in industries with high turnover where hourly employees don’t look at the job as long term.
- “This customer satisfaction claim makes customers upset and creates rebates. If we just didn’t say it they would be more satisfied. Why are we doing this?”
- “The company spends a lot of money advertising to customers and telling them what our product does, but nobody tells the actual employees who sell. Why can’t we focus on better training?” Employees are put in awkward positions when their potential customers know more about a product than they do.
As UrbanDictionary says: ‘You can submit your request but good luck finding it once it goes to the Puzzle Palace.’
These disconnects build up, creating a culture where field employee lives in a constant state of confusion. Employees can’t understand how corporate continues to screw things up for the people servicing the real customers.
So, how can corporate leaders, show employees the long-term goals and objectives of their directives without creating an environment filled with aimless and unnecessary work?
Let’s talk about two approaches:
- Top-Down Corporate Communications
This is a common approach that has existed for decades. The company is constantly pushing content: vision statements, monthly newsletters, company updates, open-door policies, name badge inserts, quarterly meeting info. Corporate finds a way to push the message down from the top, yet this strategy leaves a lot to be desired. What gets digested and how do you know? What is the impact/cost of communication and miscommunication? How do you measure success? Top-down communication is how the puzzle palace began.
- Structured Connections
Structured connections present a new approach to communications — a way to communicate to targeted groups with messages that are applicable to them in real-time. Personalization increases engagement. Structured connections dismantle the puzzle palace and keep communications direct and relevant.
Over the last six months since joining Red e App, I have been able to see the benefits and ROI for corporations in multiple industries that have taken the approach of Structured Connections. These companies are implementing a communication structure leveraging the mobile phones that nearly every person on the planet already uses daily to stay connected.
We aren’t here to judge. We are here to help. There is a new way to communicate- we don’t have to continue to do it the same way we have done it for the last 100 years. In your next leadership meeting, start a discussion about how connected (or disconnected) you are to the most valuable asset of your company: your non-desk workers.
Do your non-desk workers know what you are working on? Do they talk about your company’s puzzle palace or are they aligned with your mission?
I still remember the look on many of my coworkers’ faces when they realized I wasn’t there to judge or grade them but to learn from them and support them. I liked earning the title of ‘support center’. I certainly could have changed this mindset for many more coworkers with the Red e App platform.