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REACHING CONTRACTORS WITH INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS…

7th January 2015

 

These days, within large organisations, contractors are beginning to outweigh employees – we’ve come across instances of 7:1 being the ratio of contractors to employees. And for internal communicators this poses some problems.
 
• Many contractors won’t be working onsite (Therefore not exposed to communication materials and face-to-face communications).
 
• Many contractors won’t have (aren’t given) access to the company intranet.
 
• Nor do they have (aren’t given) an official company email address.
 
• And even if they did have a company email, many organisations have strict policies in place that do not allow company wide (employees & contractors) email blasts.
 
 
Clearly, communicating effectively with contractors is not easy, but not doing so is a huge missed opportunity. Especially so for campaigns such as information risk management, as arguably this audience poses the greatest threat to lost/stolen information due to the type of behavior they demonstrate (off site working, extensive use of portable drives, etc).
 
 

Possible solutions:

 

1. Identify lines of existing communications.

Firstly, and somewhat of a no brainer, identify the lines of communication that exist between the organisation and the contractors. This will act as a sort of communications audit, if you like. This is particularly beneficial when planning larger internal communication campaigns, as results will help inform the campaign strategy.
 
 

2.Use of external social networks.

If you don’t have access to your audience (contractors) go to where you can find them – Public social networks. But don’t worry; you can take advantage of private groups.
 
You could approach Facebook, given that it’s the largest social network. Set up a private group, that is invite only, so that only approved people can join. Within the group you can share documents and videos that can be accessed directly in Facebook, and group members will be notified when new conversations are taking place. However, your target audience will have to find the group or be notified of it.
 
But for some organisations Facebook may not be deemed the best fit. For more corporate organisations, Linkedin could be more appropriate – It is the social network for professionals… Again, like Facebook, a private group can be set up, to which only approved people can join. And people see LinkedIn as work related, so are more likely to participate in work conversations, as it helps with how they want to be perceived on the platform – Attractive to employers.
 
Also within LinkedIn, an organisation can promote (advertise) a group to a very targeted audience. For instance anyone with ‘COMPANYX’ in their profile as their employer can be reached and invited to join. And nearly everyone has email alerts set up as to when new discussions are taking place in one of their groups, meaning they’re unlikely to miss anything.
 
Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll have existing company groups to get involved with, where you can take advantage of brand ambassadors who take it upon themselves to engage others in discussions.
 
 

3. External video-sharing platforms.

A video may be an important element of an internal communications campaign, but given that it resides solely on a company intranet, you are missing the opportunity of contractors viewing it. You could house the video on a public video sharing site, such as YouTube or Vimeo, and make the video password protected. That way, those that do not have access to the company intranet can still view the video (with the correct password of course).
 
 

4. Create a mobile app.

Quite a few organisations have apps for contractors and suppliers that simply provide users with information on compliance issues and best practice. An app could go beyond this static experience and become far more engaging, offering users greater levels of interactivity. Internal communicators can push latest internal communication campaigns through the app, and hold further conversations around the key messages. An example of this type of app can be seen here…
 
Organisations still worry that any member of the public could install their private app. There are a number of ways around this, on a simple level a user will be required to enter an authentication code in order for the app to be downloaded onto their device. And if the device was ever lost/stolen, the app could be wiped remotely from the device.
 
Mobile should be a key area of focus for all internal communicators.
 
 

5. Focus on management.

The contractors will have to report into (have communications with) some form of management in the organisation. It is crucial that internal communicators equip managers/leaders with the appropriate tools to disseminate information to the contractors – For example, by advising them of the group on LinkedIn, the video on Vimeo, or the new app that’s available to download, managers/leaders can become a very effective internal communication channel to use to reach contractors.
 
 

6. The silver bullet.

Finally, even though there’s no silver bullet available (sorry!), perhaps the closest thing to it is simply for an organisation to supply contractors with a company email (or other form of unique identifier). Not just so that they can be directly emailed, but attaching a company email to a contractor will help prove to the organisation who the contractor is and will ease access to the private apps and external social media groups that we mentioned earlier. And by using email, organisations can more efficiently and effectively employ other services, such as Newsweaver, to reach the contractors on that other important thing that we mentioned earlier – their smartphone.
 
Plus with a company email, organisations can also take advantage of allowing contractors to use an internal social network, such as Yammer, of which many organisations have in place, but all too often fail to effectively support, resulting in poor/slow adoption. Internal communicators can engage with contractors on the internal social network and in turn contractors can feel a bigger part of the company, and improve the way they work through improved collaboration.
 
 

Conclusion

As we outlined earlier, contractors are becoming an ever more important part of an organisations workforce, and so it’s an audience that needs serious attention paid to it. And hopefully, what has become clear is that organisations should be focussing on a mobile strategy in order to reach this difficult audience. Nearly all will have access to a smartphone and with internet connection ubiquitous, the audience can engage with an organisation through internal social networks, mobile apps, external social networks, and other sharing sites.
 
We hope this has given you some food for thought for when/if you encounter the problem of reaching contractors with internal communications.
 
 
Until next time
 
Rima
 

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