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Seeing the Vision is Critical to the Employee Experience

Every company has a vision, or at least they should. The issue most companies have is taking the vision from an idea to reality. Engaged employees work because they believe in what their company is doing and where it’s heading.

Although there are different silos in an organization, it’s imperative for employees to share a common goal. Everything they do needs to feed into the same objectives. Here are four ways you can focus your employees on those objectives.

  1. Make it visible. The outreach phase can include a booklet, brochure, mirror cling, paper weight, and the list goes on. One Tribe client printed their values on bags of snacks, and the employees loved them. Simply put, your vision needs to go where people will see it and see it often.
  2. If you want employees to believe the vision, top management needs to live it. Leading by example is key to getting everyone to buy in. Interview managers on how they live out the vision every day, post weekly or monthly blogs highlighting executives who employees look up to, or host town halls and Q&A sessions to gather feedback. The vision comes from the top, but the workforce believing in it is what drives it forward.
  3. Connect the day-to-day work to the vision. Communicate with employees at every level to show them how their work contributes to the greater mission. This helps with employee recognition, but it also shows how everyone is like a building block, nothing stands if even one piece is removed.
  4. Follow through with updates on the journey. Even if the information doesn’t paint the rosiest picture, employees need to know where the ship is headed. Quarterly updates provide a snapshot to compare with past performance. This is as much about keeping employees in the loop on progress as it is about showing everyone what happens when the entire company works with the vision in mind.

Whether you’re introducing a brand-new vision, or reinforcing an old one, your goals should be the same. Disseminate the information, have leadership live out the vision, connect daily work to the bigger picture and show employees how their hard work contributes to a more productive work environment.

Interested in crafting, launching or maintaining a company vision? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The intranet launch is a milestone, not the finish line

Launching a successful intranet requires effective pre- and post-launch initiatives. At Tribe, we coach clients to consider the launch of a new intranet not the finish line but one milestone in a much longer process consisting of four phases.

Phase 1: Employee input: Building traffic to a new intranet begins long before the launch. Preferably before the development even begins, employees are involved in the process. You might do a survey on what features employees need to do their jobs more easily; how they’d like to connect with those in other functional silos; what sort of collaboration space would work best for them and other related issues. Focus groups are a good idea as well, to hear employee input in more depth.

Phase 2: Pre-launch: By foreshadowing the launch, you can create excitement about what’s to come and engage an initial group of employees to be early ambassadors. Use other internal communications channel to market the coming intranet. Find a group of early adopters for beta testing or assign launch communication responsibilities to influencers throughout the company. This is the time to build a critical mass of insiders who will help create buzz about the launch.

Phase 3: Launch: You only get one chance to launch, so it’s important to do it well. Make it big news with a launch event, desk drops, elevator wraps and anything else that will get employees’ attention. Make it easy for employees to test drive the intranet with quick-start guides and in-person or online training sessions. Motivate them to visit the intranet multiple times with online scavenger hunts or contests.

Phase 4: Sustaining: This is where many companies drop the ball. An intranet is not static, or at least a good one isn’t. You need fresh, relevant content day after day after day. This is more than most internal communications departments can handle on their own, so at Tribe we recommend establishing a content manager program. By recruiting and training content managers from a range of geographic locations and functional areas, you can build an army of content generators who post on an ongoing basis. To sustain this system, build in quarterly meetings to continue engaging this team, share best practices and provide recognition for those posting the best content.

Have an intranet launch on the horizon? Tribe can help.

4 Reasons Not to Let Employee Feedback Slip Through the Cracks

What’s the danger of asking for employee feedback? Letting it fall into a black hole. If companies are spending time and money gathering information from associates, employees will want to know how their responses are being used. If leadership doesn’t complete the circle, then company culture, perceptions and morale are guaranteed to stay the same.

Below are four reasons why execs should address concerns being raised by associates: 

  1. Values employee voices. Asking and acting on feedback gives associates the chance to feel that their voices and opinions are being heard and matter. This appreciation can help cultivate a greater sense of belonging within the company.
  2. Shows willingness to change. Listening to and applying employee feedback to the organizations strategy can help motivate employees to excel in their positions and produce a better product or service for the company.
  3. Job Satisfaction. If there is an issue that’s consistently brought up by employees, it’s most likely affecting their job satisfaction. By addressing the issue, hopefully it can help create a better work environment, which can lead to employees feeling happier in their positions and wanting to stay with the organization long term.
  4. Enhanced Recruitment. By understanding how employees feel about their job, employers are able to understand the positions and better attract and keep talent that is a great fit for the organization.

Interested in analyzing your employee feedback? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The “You’ve got chocolate in my peanut butter” theory of innovation

That old Reese’s commercial makes a valid point — a brilliant new idea is often just the collision of two unlike things. The magic is in creating that sweet spot of overlap between two previously unrelated elements.

That’s why innovation in any field so often depends on the combined expertise of people from two or more different disciplines. But before that sort of collaboration can occur, you need to provide visibility across the company of different functions and areas of expertise.

Beyond visibility, the goal is to build respect across functional silos. For employees to value ideas contributed by someone from another discipline or with a different expertise, they first need to respect what others bring to the table.

We’ve seen this connection between respect and collaboration with a couple of clients recently. Each of these two companies depend on innovation and bringing new ideas to market in order to remain competitive. Both involve manufacturing and technology. Both are incredibly impressive in the way they collaborate across silos to create better solutions for customers in their industries.

When interviewing high-level engineers at both companies, they speak with great excitement about their collaborative efforts. They heap praise on the expertise of partners from other business units or functions and stress how lucky they are to be able to work with the collaborative team they’ve formed.

How does that happen? These two companies have developed their shared admiration for differing expertise organically. But if that’s not already the climate at your company, you can use communications strategies and tactics to sow the seeds of respect.

Build awareness of the work being done in other areas of the company — using whatever channels you have at your disposal. You can do this on your intranet, you can use an app, you can produce podcasts. You can publish a cultural magazine with articles that provide visibility for leading thinkers in the organization. You could even use digital signage for employee spotlights that highlight the work of various innovators.

By showcasing the talent in your company, you provide visibility into the wide range of expertise in your organization. When you can make celebrities of employees across a wide range of disciplines, you support a culture of respect. And a culture of respect helps create a work environment that fosters unexpected collaboration —  and that leads to innovation.

Interested in building a culture of innovation? Tribe can help.

 

Steve Baskin

The Value of Values

I was in a meeting last week with a leader of a global technology company who was not a fan of corporate values. We were talking about internal communications, and she said that most often, corporate values are empty words and that she’d rather focus on other things. What’s important to her is teaching her leadership how to communicate more effectively.

I couldn’t agree more on the importance of coaching leaders toward more effective communication. Regardless of how hard you attempt to align employees around the vision of the organization, if you can’t effectively communicate to employees, it will fall flat.

But, at Tribe, we believe that corporate values are extremely important. If the vision defines what the company needs to achieve to be successful, the vision instructs employees on expectations of how they should do it.

For many companies, values are indeed empty words – or at least, words that probably won’t help the company achieve their goals. Often, corporate values are distilled down to generic words that are really just table stakes or descriptive of how employees should act regardless of where they are – respect, integrity, excellence, customer-centricity. They do little to help employees understand how they could or should think differently about working within this company.

Values should reflect the DNA of the organization, but should not necessarily be defined by the organization. Like the organizational vision, leadership should define, communicate and live by company’s set of values. Leadership will have strong opinions about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior within the company. Maybe employees are asked to work hard, but are given flexibility about when and where they get their work done. Maybe there are sales goals, but it’s unacceptable to achieve those goals in a manner that undermines long-term relationships with clients. Leadership must set those expectations.

Values that aren’t true to the organization can be much worse than no values at all. Employees will immediately know if the company doesn’t live by the values that it espouses. So it’s critically important that leadership get outside of the C-suite to understand where the gaps are between the chosen value set versus the reality of the existing culture. It’s not a crime to have aspirational values – in fact values should drive us to strive further. But it’s counter-productive for a company’s values to diverge too much from reality.

Once you have a set of values that define and differentiate your culture, use them everywhere. Values should be a part of your internal communications, recruitment, on-boarding, employee development and bonus structures. Most importantly they should be communicated and demonstrated day in and day out by the leaders of the organization.

Interested in defining and communicating values? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The CEO holiday letter: 3 tips for getting employees to actually read it

The year-end letter from the CEO or another executive team member can be a great way to build engagement and make a human connection. But only if it’s done well. A two-page composition that’s one long, dry sentence after another is not going to be read word-for-word by employees, if at all. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with leadership on an employee letter or email:

  1. Don’t ghostwrite it: Or at least don’t make it sound like someone ghostwrote it. If the exec doesn’t have the time or inclination to write the piece for himself or herself, do whatever you can to channel his or her voice. What are the words and phrases this person uses frequently? If they like something, are they more likely to describe it as really cool, awesome, outstanding, fabulous or terrific? Is there a word or phrase they use frequently to reinforce an idea, like “absolutely” or “no doubt?” If you don’t have frequent contact with this particular leader, search online for videos of interviews or speaking engagements to pick up details of how they speak. Even better, get five minutes of their time to talk about what they want employees to get out of this communication.
  2. Show some personality: Tribe’s national research with employees indicates that they want a personal connection with their leadership teams. They want to feel like they know something beyond business facts about the person behind the title. Some more introverted leaders resist talking about themselves because they think it comes off as self-centered or bragging. Explain that it’s humanizing rather than hubris. If the big boss is training for a marathon or writing a detective novel on the side, that’s the kind of personal detail employees are craving.
  3. Cut roughly 20% of what you wrote: Or even 30%. Take a look at what you think is the final draft and figure out how to make it shorter. If it’s a letter, absolutely do not let it be more than one page, and try not to fill that page with ink. If it’s an email, three or four brief paragraphs is probably about as much as employees will read. Employees are much more likely to read it if it’s short and sweet.

Interested in improving your leadership communications? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

Better discovery research lead to better design

When Tribe begins a client relationship, we usually spend time in discovery before developing a strategy. Account people from Tribe go out to various client locations and interview leadership and employees, hold focus groups, do surveys. The point of that is to understand the culture and to build a strategy that’s meaningful for the company.

But it’s also really important for the creative process. It’s very important in internal communications to get a total understanding of a client before jumping straight into creative work. Design for an internal brand doesn’t ring true if you just skim the surface. It requires depth and understanding, a total immersion, a feeling like you are now a part of that company.

 The bottom line is, the better the discovery process, the better the creative. With this understanding and fresh perspective, you’ll be able to not only get a full grasp on the business. But you will help push the creative process. A thorough discovery process will allow the creative team to understand nuances of the culture that aren’t apparent at first glance. Through that discovery process you’ll get a feel for the culture, business process, the tone of the company, and the type of people who you’re communicating to.

All that is essential to develop creative that truly speaks to your employee audience. With good discovery, the designers and writers have a deeper foundation to build on, so they can create work that will feel authentic, original, and fresh.

Interested in creative work that really speaks to your culture? Tribe can help.  

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Out of sight, out of mind: Helping remote employees connect with colleagues

It’s easy to forget about all those people out there in home offices. For those whose major interaction with colleagues in the corporate office is email and the occasional conference call, engagement may not be as high we’d like. By not being physically present, they miss out on a lot of relationship building that happens as a matter of course when people show up in the same place every day for work.

Here are three tips for helping this employee populations build their visibility:

  1. Put a face to a name: In the absence of in-person interaction, mere visibility can help. Just being able to visualize a face makes people feel more connected and familiar. Encourage profile pictures on the intranet, try an occasional video call, or even use FaceTime. (Millennial employees might be more comfortable with FT than those of us in their Boomer years.)
  2. Picture their environment: To help connect team members in a department that includes remote employees, or to introduce a new work-at-home employee, have people share a photo of their office or desk. Include everyone on the team, not just the remote folks. It’s always nice to be able to picture where someone is while you’re on the phone or emailing.
  3. Look for opportunities to meet face-to-face: In Tribe research with employees nationwide on cultivating collaboration, respondents told us that even meeting someone in person one time can help them feel more comfortable sharing ideas and working together. There may not be budget to have remote employees travel to corporate on a regular basis, but try to find a reason for them to do so once in awhile, and make sure they meet everyone they can on those visits.

Interested in engaging your remote employees? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Work Smarter, Not Harder: How to Make Digital Signage Easier

Digital signage is a go-to internal communications channel, and there are plenty of reasons why. Whether your employees work in a corporate office, manufacturing plant or distribution center, digital signage gives companies of all sizes the ability to communicate consistently and interactively.

When it comes to engagement, thinking strategically and creatively will make all the difference, but it doesn’t have to be a drain on time or budget. Here are three tips to thoughtfully increase engagement through digital signage, while keeping it easy.

  1. Develop and execute an editorial calendar. Yes, it’s important to take advantage of the timeliness of communicating the latest news, but planning and creating content for evergreen messaging will keep your content fresh and engaging. Calendarizing your communications goals can help keep your messaging consistent throughout the year, driving home the ultimate goal of connecting employees’ day-to-day jobs to the vision of the company.
  2. Repurpose existing communications to drive home your message. We’re believers that all communications channels should work in concert to get the best possible reach. When the latest version of the newsletter is distributed, or an employee recognition announcement is sent out, tease it on the digital screens and drive employees to where they can learn more.
  3. Invest in a platform that makes communicating easier. There are now plenty of options available to make customizing digital signage more accessible than ever. Features range from tools as simple as setting the order and length of each slide, to more complex qualities like customized news to every location. For success in long-term engagement, be sure to select a provider with the winning combination of great technology and backend simplicity.

Interested in creating engaging content for digital signage? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Creating a fantastic recruiting experience — even for candidates you won’t hire

The employee experience begins with the recruiting process. If you want employees to understand your culture and to appreciate the values of the company, to be inspired by the vision for growth and success and to feel excited about how their roles might contribute to that vision, it’s wise to begin that differentiation with the very first touch points. Some of those touch points are your employer brand, recruiting advertising, job fair materials and the career page of your website.

But the most important touch points, the human ones, will be created by the cultural realities of how people in your company treat other people. Especially the people they decide are not qualified job candidates.

In Tribe’s national study on hiring practices, 78 percent of respondents said they would discourage others from applying to a company that had treated them with a lack of courtesy during the hiring process. Are interviewees at your company left waiting in the lobby for their appointments? Do some of their interviewers turn out to be no shows? Or are they run through a marathon of interviews without anyone bothering to ask if they’d like a cup of coffee or a water or perhaps the rest room? If you treat people interviewing poorly, you can’t fault them for assuming that the company treats employees the same way.

But exercise a little common courtesy, and the company can create brand ambassadors from candidates you don’t hire. In the same Tribe study, an even larger number — 87 percent — said that if they were rejected for a job, yet had been treated with courtesy during the process, they would be likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.

Treating candidates with courtesy includes letting them know when the company decides to take a pass on hiring them. Candidates want to know the outcome of an interview, even if it’s bad news. It’s interesting – and disheartening – to see how often companies fail to send any further communication to those interviewees they reject.

In the Tribe study, respondents said things like:

“I realize companies get many applicants to positions, but it would be appreciated if they let those not selected for a position after an interview know, rather than leaving them hanging.”

“Contact people one way or the other, instead of just ignoring them.”

“Nothing’s worse than not hearing anything at all.”

If you’re hoping to create a great employee experience, extend your cultural reach to the hiring process itself. For the job candidates you do hire, those recruiting touch points are the first steps along their employee journeys. And for those you don’t hire, a positive recruiting experience can lead to those rejected candidates encouraging other talented candidates to consider your company.

Interested in improving your recruiting efforts or hiring communications? Tribe can help.