September 16th, 2021.
Have you ever paused and thought about the terminology we use and the connotations those terms may have? I found myself doing this recently and it’s really hit a chord. It’s made me question if some of the language we use could be preventing, or at least holding back, employee engagement. Let me explain why…
We commonly use phrases such as “deskless workers” and “remote employees”. But surely these terms go against the very definition of employee engagement?
For an employee to feel engaged they must feel part of the company. They must feel like a valued member of the team. But both these terms create separation. “Less” within ‘deskless’ suggests a lower level to their office counterparts. The term “remote” instantly makes it acceptable that these people are more distant.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve created a divide. In the 1920s the term “blue collar worker” was created to represent the jobs which were typically carried out by people who wore darker clothes to hide the dirt. Accompanying that was the “white collar worker”. Over the years, these terms took on wider meanings with “blue collar workers” often being seen as low paid jobs completed by uneducated people. A divide was born.
Today we hear these terms less and less because those labels are no longer seen as acceptable. Furthermore, they are in no ways beneficial. So why are we repeating history?
In the past, terminology that divides office-based workers from their frontline counterparts may have been necessary. Purely from a logistical point of view. Communicating with someone using a computer was very different to communication with someone on a factory production line. No doubt, albeit subconsciously, these terms favoured our office workers because they were far easier to communicate with. Sending an email or publishing an intranet article is much more straightforward than ensuring a message is disseminated through line management for example. Due to this completely different way in which we communicated with the two groups, there was a need to categorise them. Although I would still argue that we could come up with better terminology than “deskless workers”!
But today we do not need this definition.
We have internal communications software that can send (and receive) communications to every employee no matter where or when they work. Communicators can now focus on communications rather than the logistics of communications. This technological advancement means we do not need to segment employees by their access to a computer.
But to add to the argument; we now work in a world of hybrid working. The pool of “remote workers” has grown exponentially since the COVID pandemic. If we continue to define these people as a separate more ‘remote’ group, we are going to find our employee engagement taking a downturn.
With the help of internal communications software we have an opportunity to actually treat everyone the same. To create a level playing field that brings everyone together playing their part in the company goals.
I accept that internal communications software is a relatively new solution that hasn’t been adopted by every organisation yet, but I have hope. Hope that with the help of an internal communication tool and an eagerness to make hybrid working a success, we could see the end of divisive terminology.
In a decade I really hope that I look back on this blog with a smile on my face having realised that I haven’t heard the term “deskless employees” or “remote workers” for an absolute age. If I do, we’ll know that employee engagement has reached a new point in its evolution. A more sophisticated, employee centric point that in which businesses will be reaping the rewards that come hand in hand with an engaged workforce.
Bon Jovi loving, social media junkie and F1 fan. I spend most of my time thinking about the impact technology is having on our society and the world of internal communications. And my pug Winston…