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Internal Comms for the Automotive Industry – The Ultimate Guide

Table of Contents

Transform how you communicate and engage with your employees with the ultimate guide to internal comms for the automotive industry.

The automotive industry is facing unprecedented change. Over the next 10 years, new technologies, regulations, and consumer preferences will mean that many companies are forced to adapt their products and business models. 

These companies are also facing increased competition from relatively new kids on the block like Tesla, NIO, and other electric vehicle (EV) startups. According to Forbes, the global number of auto tech start-ups almost trebled between 2015 and 2020

At the same time, the automotive industry is facing the effects of the Great Resignation and the resulting war for talent. In one survey from this year, 62.4% of automotive employers agreed that it’s more difficult to recruit skilled staff now than before the pandemic. 

All of this means that it’s never been more crucial for companies in the automotive industry to deploy solid communications strategies that boost retention, improve engagement, and connect their employees together. 

But internal comms professionals have always had a hard time reaching employees in this industry. Most workshop or technical employees are deskless, which means they can’t easily be reached through traditional channels like legacy intranet platforms or email. 

Think about it: are your deskless employees happy and engaged at work, or searching for new jobs on their lunch break? Without a well-thought-out, carefully executed internal communications strategy, you have no way of knowing. 

What is employee internal communications? 

Employee internal communications is an umbrella term that covers all the ways that organizations communicate with their employees. This includes traditional top-down communications like corporate newsletters or emails, and more modern, worker-focused techniques like employee listening, feedback loops, and peer-to-peer recognition. 

Why is internal communications important in today’s workplace?

Without internal communications, your employees would have no idea about important policy updates or changes to legislation that affects your industry. More broadly, you would have no way of getting your brand values, mission, and strategy across to your employees – and your employees would have no way of giving you their feedback on the way your company is running. 

Simply put, internal communications are a vital part of any organization, and this is especially true in the context of the Great Resignation. As we discussed back in May, it’s getting harder and harder for employers to attract and retain top talent. These days, companies need to do more to actively engage their employees and attract new ones in a competitive market. 

A well-thought-out, targeted internal communications strategy can: 

  • Boost employee engagement and productivity: Employees are likely to be more engaged in their work if they know they’re working together towards a common goal. Plus, communications strategies that encourage employees to share their opinions help to make them feel valued, which is also a big driver of engagement. According to a Salesforce survey, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. 
  • Improve the employee experience and boost retention: When employees are engaged at work, they’re much less likely to look for another job elsewhere. A Gallup poll found that highly engaged employees were between 24% and 59% less likely to leave. 
  • Increase efficiency and solve problems more quickly: When a serious problem arises, do you want your employees to have to deal with it alone? Or to have access to a range of resources and team members who might be able to help them? An effective communications strategy connects your employees together so that they can solve problems quickly and work more efficiently.
  • Save the company money: Poor communications in the workplace can have a devastating effect on the company’s bottom line: in an SHRM study of 400 companies with over 100,000 employees, the average company reported a loss of $62.4 million per year due to inadequate communication.

Despite all of this, 60% of organizations don’t have a long-term internal communication strategy in place. Even if you do, you still might fall short if you’re not embracing modern methods of communicating with your employees. 

The fact is, the old methods just don’t cut it: comms emails often go unread, and traditional intranet platforms are often clunky, outdated, and poorly used. And these methods are even more likely to fail in the automotive industry, since many workers are deskless and might not have a company email address or digital profile.  

The challenges of reaching your automotive employees

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce 2022 report, only 22% of employees are actively engaged at work, and 44% reported feeling stressed on a day-to-day basis. Another Gallup study found that unclear communication from managers was one of the top three reasons for employee burnout. 

Burned-out employees are disengaged, unhappy, and more likely to look for work elsewhere – which means that the stakes are high. But, while communicating with your workforce is a challenge for any organization, workers in the automotive industry can be particularly difficult to reach. 

And it doesn’t help that HR teams, who often act as the link between deskless workers and their office-based leadership teams, are burning out at an alarming rate themselves, according to our research.

  • Distance: Most workers in the automotive industry don’t work from the corporate HQ. This distance automatically makes them harder to reach than your office-based colleagues, and can lead to a divided workforce made up of two separate groups with little in common. Plus, since internal comms professionals are usually based in the office themselves, their messaging is often developed from this perspective. This means that workers in auto factories, garages, or engineering labs often don’t see their experiences reflected in any communications they do receive. 
  • Activity: Automotive technicians, mechanics, and factory workers typically spend most of their day on their feet performing physical or technical tasks – not at a desk. They may not have access to a computer at all, and usually don’t have more than a few minutes to spend reading corporate communications or responding to surveys and polls. This means that they may just skip your communications altogether if you’re not making the effort to engage them. 
  • Tech: A good internal comms strategy should be founded on a solid tech platform, like an employee intranet. The trouble is, while these programs can be neatly slotted into daily workflows for information workers, this isn’t the case for your deskless employees. Many automotive employees don’t have computers, and may not even have a company email or digital profile. 

7 ways to revolutionize your internal comms for the automotive industry

Automotive companies face a unique challenge when it comes to reaching their entire workforce through internal communications. The needs of office-based information workers and those working in workshop, factory, or technical roles are vastly different – but you need to make sure your comms strategy is engaging everyone. 

Here are a few ways to optimize your communications so they not only get through to your most hard-to-reach employees, but inspire them and bring them together as well. 

1. Bring communications together in one hub 

Most organizations use a variety of methods to communicate with their employees on the factory floor. They may have a monthly newsletter that goes out by email, and rely on location managers to relay messages about changes to the industry or ad-hoc updates from the company’s leadership. 

The problem with these methods is that you have no real way of knowing whether the message has been received. For large automotive companies with locations across multiple countries, this can easily result in information silos, where employees only communicate with colleagues in their own location or even in their particular department. Plus, let’s face it: a dry, corporate email is never going to do much to inspire people. 

One solution is to set up an employee intranet to act as a hub for all of your employee communications. If you’ve used a corporate or school intranet before, don’t panic: we’ve come a long way since the clunky, web-based, and poorly used systems of the early ‘00s. Modern intranet solutions come with all sorts of features that allow you to connect your workforce together, whether they work at a desk or on the factory floor.

2. Go mobile

If you do set up a company intranet, you need to make sure everyone in your organization can access it. Otherwise, you’re just further exaggerating the divide between your office-based team and your deskless workforce. But the thing about deskless workers is that they typically don’t have desks or computers. They probably don’t have a company mobile device, and may not even have a corporate email account. 

What they do have – if they’re anything like 97% of Americans, anyway – is a smartphone. This means that you need to opt for a solution that comes with a mobile app that everyone in your organization can download on their own device, giving them access to your all-important communications from anywhere. 

You could even take a leaf out of Walmart’s book and take it one step further: they rolled out a company intranet in 2019 and gave 740,000 employees a Samsung smartphone to make sure they could access it. 

3. Segment top-down communications to maximize engagement 

Most automotive companies employ people in a lot of different roles, from marketing to engineering to creating vehicle parts on the factory floor. And, while your internal comms strategy should be designed to reach everyone, different groups of people have different interests and priorities, and not every piece of content is relevant to your entire organization. Overloading your employees with too much irrelevant content could result in them switching off and ignoring your company comms altogether. 

Important updates or company announcements should, of course, go out to the whole organization. But by segmenting your audience, you can ensure that thought-leadership content or specific technical updates only go out to the people that need to see them. This gives your communications a more personalized feel and helps employees to avoid the information overload that can come with too many communications. 

4. …But don’t let employee expertise sit in silos

While segmenting your audience provides a targeted, personalized approach to communications, it’s also important not to go too far and end up creating knowledge silos. Your employees should be able to learn from each other, regardless of their location, seniority, or role. 

Think about it: your automotive employees have a wealth of knowledge about the specific aspects of your business that they work with. If you’re not harnessing their knowledge, insights, and ideas, you could be missing out on opportunities to drive efficiency and create a more profitable operation. 

In practical terms, this means creating an internal comms environment where every employee can communicate with everyone else, without the need for a company email or corporate device. This allows them to share their tips, best practices, and knowledge – improving performance all-round. 

And again, this is likely to become even more crucial in the automotive industry as technologies change and companies look to upskill their employees to meet consumer demand. According to one survey, over 95% of automotive companies said less than 25% of their workforce was trained to work safely on electric vehicles – which will need to change over the next few years if companies want to remain competitive. 

5. Give recognition

As humans, we all like to receive recognition when we do good work. But when organizations are divided into siloed teams, employees can usually only receive praise from their direct managers or colleagues. 

Recognizing employees’ achievements publicly is a more effective way of encouraging both them and others. It also has the added benefit of shining a light on certain parts of your business that other employees may not know much about, bringing everyone closer together. 

Public recognition can also have a huge effect on employee engagement and productivity since people who feel that their work is valued are motivated to put more effort in. And it can help with retention too: 63% of those who feel recognized at work say they’re “very unlikely” to look for a new job in the next three to six months, according to one survey. 

So, how can you make employee recognition part of your communication strategy? One idea is to send out a regular email, blog post, or piece of content that your deskless employees can access on their employee app, putting the spotlight on individual and team achievements each week or month. 

Some intranet or employee communications platforms even come with this function integrated, making it even easier for your employees to give their colleagues the praise they deserve.

6. Use employee listening to understand your workforce 

An engaged workforce is a productive one, but you can’t do anything about disengagement in your workplace if you don’t know it’s happening. And workers in the automotive industry are notoriously difficult to reach with traditional methods of measuring engagement. 

Another problem is that, while the best communication strategies should be a two-way street, disengaged workers are unlikely to go out of their way to let you know how they’re feeling – so you need to make it easy for them to tell you what’s going on. 

The answer? Send out regular pulse surveys that your employees can complete in just a few minutes, and you’ll get a quick snapshot of the feeling on the ground. You can make this super simple by keeping it to just one question. For example, you could ask employees to rate how engaged they feel on a day-to-day basis on a scale of one to 10. 

Since automotive companies often have workforces that are spread out across the country or even the globe, this can be an effective way of spotting any problems that are focused in particular areas.

7. Focus on the employee experience to boost retention 

According to online learning platform AutoSwot, the UK automotive industry has an average annual attrition rate of 30%, which is double the UK average of 15%. And replacing employees is expensive: according to Gallup data, the cost could be anywhere from 0.5 to 2x the employee’s annual salary. As more and more younger employees enter the workforce, this situation is only likely to become more pronounced: studies suggest that Gen-Z employees are more likely to change jobs if their current one isn’t working for them. 

All of this means that working to improve the employee experience and minimize turnover is one of the most important functions of your internal comms strategy. That means no more stilted company updates from your senior leadership team. Instead, try to create content that brings people together and helps them to feel like part of a team. 

Consider stepping away from long pieces of content that your employees probably don’t have time to read, and opt for formats that are bite-sized, engaging, and concise. After all, things like employee shout-outs, competitions, and interesting conversations that everyone can contribute to will always do a better job of improving the employee experience than boring top-down emails highlighting the company’s latest achievements.

The must-have features for an internal communications platform

There are many parts to a good communication strategy. It needs to involve carefully crafted, well-branded content. It should also allow your entire workforce to contribute to the conversation, which requires careful planning as well. However, none of that will work if it’s not sitting on a powerful platform that’s designed to bring employees together. 

There are many different platforms out there, and they all come with their own unique features – the one you choose will depend on the specific needs of your organization. 

However, there are some key features that you shouldn’t compromise on. Here are some of the must-haves to look for when you’re choosing a platform:

  • An intuitive and familiar interface: If you want your employees to actually use the platform you choose, you need to make sure it’s easy and inviting. That means looking for solutions with an interface that’s pleasant and easy to navigate. After all, in these times of rapid change in the automotive industry, your employees don’t have time to learn the ins and outs of a whole new complicated program. 
  • A mobile app: If you want to engage your automotive employees, you need to meet them where they are – which means looking for solutions that are accessible on a smartphone. More than this, the solution you choose should be mobile-first, not just a website that’s technically accessible on a smartphone if you turn your phone on the side and wait for it to load. 
  • Push notifications: There are times when you need to get a message out to your entire organization – and know they’ve received it. This is a particular consideration in the automotive industry, where there are often vital safety updates or crisis communications that you need everyone to see. To get around this, use an app that has a push notification feature. Then, when you have a really important message to transmit, you’ll know it’s gotten to everyone. 
  • Pulse surveys and polls: Pulse surveys are a great way to keep an eye on what’s actually going on in your organization in terms of employee engagement. And polls can be used to great effect with frontline workers on the factory floor: for example, when you need feedback on a new product line, policy, or manufacturing process. Often, things seem like a great idea in head office, and it takes someone on the ground to point out an obvious problem. Any communication platform you choose should make it easy for you to send out these surveys and polls, and for your employees to respond to them. 
  • Opportunities for bottom-up and cross-functional communication: As we’ve discussed, the most effective communication doesn’t come from the top down. To really empower your automotive employees, you need a solution that allows them to communicate with each other regardless of location, discuss problems, and even connect on a social level. Bonus points if your platform has social media-like functions like comments and emoji reactions, which all help to make things more fun and engaging. 

Introducing Workvivo

Workvivo is an employee communication platform with the power to bring your whole organization together – whether they’re at their desks or working hard on the factory floor. Our platform helps your employees to communicate, share ideas, and better understand your company’s core mission and values. 

Employees from all parts of your organization can post updates, ask questions, and give shout-outs, and they’ll appear to other employees in a personalized news feed. Our employee recognition features can help you to build a culture of real-time, spontaneous peer-to-peer recognition. And you can easily send out polls and surveys that employees can respond to in just a few taps of the screen. 

And did we mention? Our platform is fully accessible through our mobile app, which means it’s the perfect tool to engage your deskless employees.

Want to learn more? Book a personalized demo to understand how Workvivo can help you supercharge communications for your automotive business.

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