How Wabash National improved communications & empowered a dispersed manufacturing workforce
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A meaningful approach to connecting a dispersed workforce
After 34 years of innovation leadership in trailer manufacturing, Wabash National was eager to enter a new era of growth and transformation, but the company faced an obstacle: a dispersed, disconnected workforce of around 6,500 employees across more than 15 manufacturing sites. With more than 80% of employees classified as “deskless” workers, many weren’t seeing the daily communications or culture-enhancing messages designed to emphasize the company’s values, purpose and objectives.
Despite conducting in-person meetings prior to every shift, the shop floor environments are sizable and loud, making in-person, direct communication and information-sharing challenging. HR teams were also struggling to keep up with questions about benefits and policies that were overwhelming their day-to-day work. Overall, employees were misaligned on company, team and individual goals and were in need of stronger connection points.
To establish solid connections with hard-to-reach employee groups and deliver meaningful appreciation messages to employees, the team identified a mobile app as the best possible solution. Wabash National leadership partnered with Limeade to create the Wabash@Work app.
To secure the support of the company’s senior leadership, a cross-functional team of communications and manufacturing operations personnel made a careful pitch. Using the issue of employee turnover as a conversation starter, the team told managers compelling stories about meeting business goals and the negative impact of poor employee communication: when employees aren’t in the loop, even the best intentions and business plans fall short. With retention at stake, you need to take the long view. Leadership agreed, and the app’s future became a certainty.
The communications strategy
The app is designed to efficiently reach employee populations with useful, meaningful content. To support this, the solution includes channel functionality, allowing administrators to create a communications structure that works for their organization.
Wabash National opted for six app channels to start out: Manufacturing, HR, Quality, Safety, Leadership Messages, Company Announcements
To maximize effectiveness and limit workload, the team selected an employee writer for each of the company’s groups. They empowered them to post one message a day: anything from an employee shout-out to a shop floor safety alert (an especially important message for high-volume, fast-paced manufacturing facilities).
A boots-on-the-ground launch
The Wabash National app team traveled between facilities, spending time in cafeterias, breakrooms and on shop floors helping employees download, log in and get familiar with Wabash@Work. Employees were receptive and quickly warmed to the idea of a resource that could bring together the information they needed.
From the start, the Wabash National team wanted to show they care for employees. App writers used channel posts to give employees shout-outs for everyone to see and employees quickly gravitated to the kudos feature, sending each other messages of encouragement.
Wabash@Work launched strong in a phased rollout at multiple locations. Three weeks into the rollout at its first location, which happened to be the largest operation with over 3,000 employees, the app had nearly 2,000 users (over 61% of the workforce) and was averaging 900 daily views.
Today, disconnected employee populations have one place to search for information, see safety alerts, watch videos from leadership and read about the latest updates and events that impact them. And the Spanish version of the app continues to support workforce-wide communications alignment, regardless of language.
Just two weeks after launch, the app communications team logged 164 kudos, primarily peer-to-peer praise for performance.
HR teams saw an immediate improvement in the time and energy spent fielding questions from employees among three shifts. In a two-week period, HR answered 102 questions through the app, helping them track the metrics and tailor future posts to convey exactly what employees want and need to know.
“We thought the app would be a big hit with millenials, but we’re finding that employees of all generations have fallen in love with their ability to communicate with it. We post every single day and employees finally have visibility into what is going on with production and why. They’re engaged and we’re learning so much from having a direct feedback loop with everyone.”