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The View from 30 Feet

Look Who’s Talking: Advancing Employee Communication with Falcon Plastics

by Lara Copeland, contributing editor

Plastics Business

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

Creating a culture of communication is paramount to the success of any relationship, including those fostered within a business operation. As the famous playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” When employees are not made aware of news, events or expectations, business is difficult to conduct. Regular and effective communication – in a variety of formats and across the entire organization – is imperative.

Sharing business information with its employees was of the utmost importance for Brookings, South Dakota-based molder Falcon Plastics. “The more our employees know and understand our business and what is going on, the better off we are as a team,” explained Danielle Loban, human resources manager for Premier Source, a Falcon Plastics company. With four facilities spread across South Dakota and to the south in Tennessee, Falcon has established several approaches to connect with its employees. “Having a 24/7 operation with three different shifts and four different facilities drives the importance of making sure we have multiple platforms for communication,” she added.

Falcon considered the diversity of its staff population when it decided among the available platforms for interacting with employees. For instance, from a generational standpoint, Falcon has a mixed group, and it is necessary to be able to reach each one of them.

“It became critical for us to have a variety of channels to communicate through,” Loban explained. As a result, Falcon implemented the use of social media and daily messaging, as well as weekly and monthly newsletters. These modes serve specific purposes in relaying information to employees, even targeting one or more groups of people.

“Falcon gives employees the option of choosing how they want to receive messaging: text message, email, voicemail,” Loban confirmed. Social media – specifically Facebook – has aided the company, serving as a tool to interact not only with employees, but also with customers and the community as a whole.

“Facebook drives a fun way to communicate and interact with employees and pushes friendly competition between facilities,” she stated. For a company that has multiple locations, Falcon believes it is important to show pictures and share what is happening at each facility. “This lets employees know we are all one big Falcon Family.”

Green Shades, a program for employee services, such as paystubs, profile changes, HR documents and more, is utilized by Falcon as a means to get messages to a large population in real time – something that Loban says employees appreciate. In fact, “the millennials prefer Green Shades for all forms of communication, more so than any other generation,” she noted. With a mobile app available for iPhone and Android, it is simple for employees to view pay stubs, clock in and out and submit expense reports. Additionally, “it has saved the company time for folding, stuffing and distributing paychecks; money for printing and paper; and it saves us the time it takes for supervisors to pass out paychecks,” she noted.

The ability to engage with an entire organization often separates successful from less effective companies. At Falcon, newsletters assist the company in maintaining a culture focused on connectedness. A weekly newsletter is put together by an administrative assistant or human resource representative at the plant level. It is typically one page in length and sent to staff via email.

Furthermore, a corporate administrative assistant collects information from each plant and puts together the monthly newsletter. It is two pages and includes an insert that usually features a safety quiz that employees can fill out and turn in for a chance to win $5 from Falcon’s monthly drawing. Special announcements, such as birthdays, anniversaries, babies, weddings, new hires, new products, safety quiz winners and perfect attendance winners are included, in addition to a note from the president and plant-level news. Additionally, Loban explained, “our newsletters allow for any employee to provide stories or happenings, which is a unique offering for Falcon Plastics.” She further clarified, “Employees maintain higher levels of connectivity and understanding with not only their facility, but companywide.”

Falcon’s primary focus for communication is to allow for the flow of ideas among the four facilities. To support this endeavor, the company will soon be implementing digital displays at each plant. Screens will be placed in each break room and front office where personalized welcome signs will greet guests. Additional announcements – such as company-wide events, implemented employee suggestions, key metrics, and safety and quality information – also will be included.

“This will take communication to the next level for us because the information will be real-time and easily seen by all employees, and it will be a great tool for sharing best practices between the facilities and driving efficiencies on the plant floors,” Production Manager Jenn Bender relayed.

Falcon's employees value the wide selection of communication formats they have been offered. Moreover, each mode is practical and simplifies logistics, saving time and money. Each also is effective in communicating emergency situations – for instance, when facilities must close due to inclement weather, the company sends a text message to employees. Heather Quail, purchasing manager, said that though she prefers receiving messages through Green Shades and texts, she thinks “it’s nice that we have many platforms to reach all generations.”