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HR Magazine: Sending the Message

Pamela Babcock  11/1/2003
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HR Magazine, November 2003Vol. 48, No. 11

Reaching the Nonwired

So your employees aren’t online? You still can leverage technology to reach them, says Alison Davis, CEO of Davis & Co., an HR consulting firm in Glen Rock, N.J. Her company has worked with, among others, Toys “R” Us, Pep Boys, Ann Taylor and the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. -- the food retailer whose stores include A&P and Farmer Jack.

Consider offering such nonwired workers home access to the company’s intranet, Davis says, or enhanced back-room kiosks where they can tap into e-mail and HR information in private settings, perhaps with a desk in a cubicle.

Some companies use televisions and flat-screen monitors in elevators, cafeterias and other locations to draw viewers, often with a mix of corporate content and feeds from news outlets such as Reuters, Bloomberg and The Weather Channel.

“Using web-based technology, these corporate TV networks provide an inexpensive home for company headlines and videos with a quality rivaling CNN,” Davis says. They can include everything from scrolling PowerPoint displays to complex corporate news feeds.

LED technology—parading words on an electronic board, as seen in airports and bars—is another way to convey information. “Controlled by a palm-sized keyboard or PC, these digital displays are being mounted in warehouses, retail outlets, even on delivery trucks,” Davis says. With their flashing and scrolling text, they give workers “real-time stock prices, training [and] benefits news and even business-critical information like delivery schedules and inventory changes,” she says.

Next-generation LED display boards will likely feature full-color graphics that can be updated via wireless technology.

In addition, some companies are beginning to use cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and pagers to distribute news to employees via wireless messaging.

“Unfortunately, right now there’s not a lot of futuristic spending for technology in retail,” Davis says, largely because of cost. “But in the future, technology will make it easier for retailers to communicate with employees.”

Communication methods that help reach retail workers can also be useful for connecting with other typically nonwired employees, including hospitality, factory and warehouse workers; mechanics and service technicians; and employees who are often on the road, such as sales representatives and delivery drivers.

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