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Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Power of Not Doing: Improve Internal Communications by Doing Less

When’s the last time you did an audit of your internal communications channels? Most large companies use a myriad of channels and continue to add more, especially with emerging technology offering new options at a steady rate. You do need a varied mix of channels, because different employees like to be consume information in different ways, but do you have too many ways you’re communicating?

In “Strategy is Deciding What Not to Do,” Tim Williams describes Steve Jobs’  decision to cancel more than 300 ongoing projects in favor of focusing on just four. “By narrowing instead of expanding, Apple started down the path to becoming the most valuable company on the planet,” he writes.

Our experience at Tribe mirrors this, although on a vastly different scale. In 2009, we made the commitment to focus only on internal communications for large brands. When prospects or current clients asked for consumer branding, a field in which we’d built our careers, we referred them to other agencies we knew would do a great job for them.

The payoff was building a deep expertise in this narrow niche of internal branding.  The more we worked with large companies on specific employee communications issues, the more we learned. We began to see the same challenges repeated across companies and industries, and were able to take what we learned solving one client’s challenges as a shortcut to solutions for the next. There’s power in choosing not to do something.

The same can be true for your company’s internal communications mix. Most internal communications departments we see are stretched mighty thin. When you added a quarterly employee magazine, did you consider retiring the weekly newsletter? Do you still print posters even though you have digital signage in all your locations? Do you maintain multiple intranet-like sites? Are you still posting stuff on Yammer even though most employees aren’t using it anymore?

Discontinuing channels that aren’t working effectively is good discipline. Not only will it allow you to focus on doing a better job at fewer things, it can improve employees’ experience of internal communications. By limiting the places they feel like they’re supposed to check, you help them process communications more efficiently and effectively.

Interested in taking stock of your portfolio of internal communications channels? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Your EVP is also your RVP: Recruiting Value Proposition

Even though we call it the Employee Value Proposition, the EVP does double duty in recruiting top talent. How do you sell the best candidates on the big picture of choosing your company? How do you position your company as an employer of choice? An attractive EVP can help you land the best candidates and keep them. If strong enough, the EVP can even help lure employees to less desirable geographical locations or help overcome higher compensation packages from competitors.

The caveat is that whatever you promise needs to be real. If recruits find their experience as new hires to be wildly different from what the EVP claimed, they won’t stick around for long.

There are lots of right answers to the EVP question. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. So stick to what’s authentic about your company and attract talented people who will also be great fits. Here are a few thoughts on areas you might stress:

  1. Meaningful work and/or an inspiring vision: Sometimes the work itself is meaningful to a candidate. To engineers, that might mean being able to play a major role in developing new technology. To an interior designer in the hospitality industry, it could mean working on the launch of a boutique hotel. Other times, an inspiring vision is what creates the meaning, even for work that supports that vision indirectly. An ace accountant might prefer to work for a company with a vision of improving lives for children  than one with the vision of being the largest real estate investor in the strip center niche.
  2. Brand prestige or industry cachet: Think of this one as the cocktail party question: Where do you work? When an employee is asked that question, is the answer one that people recognize? If your company name happens to be a household word, that counts for something. So does being in an industry that’s getting a lot of buzz, like artificial intelligence, for instance. Claiming insider status can be a point of pride that’s valuable to the EVP.
  3. A culture of autonomy or teamwork: Recognize which style is more prevalent at your company and promote it as a strength. If employees consistently say the company feels like family and they value their experiences of working as a team, then that’s a strength to reflect in your EVP. On the other hand, if the company tends to run lean, maybe one benefit of that is employees having the autonomy to take on roles that might be beyond their job descriptions. There will always be pockets of both styles in any company, but be honest about which way your culture leans.
  4. Flexibility: Although a culture can provide flexibility in many different ways, most employees seem to value flexibility in terms of work accommodating their personal lives — whether that means being able to work from home when a child is sick or taking time out in the middle of the day to fit in a long run or fitness class. If your culture doesn’t support that sort of flexibility, look for other kinds. Is the culture flexible about allowing employees to make lateral moves into other departments or divisions? Is there flexibility in terms of a condensed work week? Do you offer unusual options and flexibility in your benefits?
  5. High stress/high rewards or laid back/life balance: An environment of high stress and long hours isn’t always a negative. Some people thrive in that environment, especially when they feel like they’re part of something big. Maybe your company is at the forefront of the Industrial Internet or a major player in Fashion Week or on the verge of finding the cure to cancer. On the other hand, maybe your culture is one where people put in a reasonable day at work and then get out the door on time to be with their families. Either way, that can be an appealing element of the culture described in your EVP.

How do you know what recruits will value about your EVP? Ask them. Don’t stop at doing focus groups and other research with existing employees. It’s easy enough to field questionnaires or focus groups with new hires from the past year or so. It’s worthwhile to explore the reasons they chose La-Z-Boy. Their answers might be different from the responses of employees who’ve been at the company for years.

Interested in developing or refining your EVP? Tribe can help.

 

Brittany Walker

Employee Photography: Why it’s worth the investment

An important contributing factor to successful employee engagement is human connection. Employees can smell inauthenticity from a mile away, especially if it’s in the form of a model posing as an employee.

Nobody’s hair is that perfect while driving a fork lift. Employee photography is one of the easiest ways to connect employees based in different locations, busting silos and creating instant assembly. Used in tandem with thoughtful stock photography, original employee photography will quickly elevate your library to a successful engagement tool.

In our opinion, the three benefits below are well worth the investment.

1. Turn employees into celebrities. Enlist a quality photographer who will be strategic in their shots. Photography is a great way to make heroes of your employees. The objective should be to show the people doing the real work within the organization in a way that makes them look heroic. If you have a multiple locations and functions, try shooting a few places a year to become inclusive over time.

2. Show your desired culture in action. When the goal is to communicate certain values like collaboration or innovation, what better way to showcase that behavior than show your employees living it. Tribe recommends capturing real working photos of employees doing what they do best, their jobs.

3. Increase engagement across a variety of channels. It’s no secret that visual messaging gets more consumption. Whether your photo shoot is for an upcoming internal magazine, vision book, annual report or just to stock the visual library, be sure to shoot for many different scenarios to stretch your content usage. To create even more assets, snap a few behind-the-scenes shots of the shoot itself to build excitement. Employees enjoy seeing their peers, and themselves, celebrated by the company, providing an immediate connection to the bigger picture – pun intended.

Need help with employee photography? Tribe can help.

 

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Training & Development can lead to higher employee retention

Professional development programs can be a key element in employee retention. From a company perspective, training and development programs are meant to improve overall performance. But a well-designed program can do just as much for the employee. By providing employees an avenue through which to build upon their skills, it shows them the company has a vested interest in them as individuals, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll take those talents elsewhere.

The type of individual to partake in career development programs is one who welcomes more engagement. Take advantage of this desire to learn. By engaging this group in a meaningful way, they are likely to communicate these opportunities to employees that may not seek them out on their own. It’s a win-win situation for both the company and the employee base by increasing engagement levels. An engaged workforce is a happy workforce, and this too decreases the turnover rate.

Of course, it’s also important to ensure that training programs themselves are engaging. It will be hard for an employee to see the benefits of training if the material isn’t meaningful, or if the presentation is boring or poorly organized. The first step is to make the training materials and format appealing and motivating, while not coming across as cheesy or self-serving.

Communicate the “why.” Employees need to know that the time taken away from their regularly scheduled jobs is for a purpose. If they know up front what the training will entail and how it will improve their day-to-day operation or advance their career, they will be much more likely to see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Bake in your corporate vision and values. The opportunity to get your brightest workers in one room with the hunger for learning doesn’t happen every day. Take advantage by reinforcing what is most important to your organization. By illustrating their role in the big picture, you are creating internal brand ambassadors, whether they know it or not. This too will increase engagement, and thus increase retention.

Structure your program to create a feedback loop. These are the leaders in your workforce, and they are a valuable source of information. Tap into this wealth by providing them a channel to express their opinions, not just on the development program, but the operations of your company. Show them that their voices are important and act on their suggestions. If they understand that their perspectives are valued, it will only benefit the organization.

Need help developing an engaging training program? Tribe can help.

A Non-Comprehensive Guide To Implementing Change

No one likes change. It’s scary, it’s unknown. But market conditions and other business factors sometimes require large-scale, organizational change. You might be targeting an increase in sales, better trained staff, or even a complete culture shift. Regardless, there are four simple steps that can guide you down the path of smart, lasting change.

 

Do Your Research

Not only do you have to identify what you want changed, but you also have to know what’s causing the problems. If you’re in need of a personnel shift, more training might not be your answer. Achieving your best results doesn’t include glossing over problems. Identify your issues, and your solutions will come to light.

Have A Plan

Who is going to take charge in this battle for change? Battle is a bit harsh, but there will be people who resist. If you’re bringing in a consultant or agency to take the helm, it’s best that they have experience in your industry. Nothing kills momentum like no one believing the leader. Whoever’s in charge needs to have credibility. That’s also true if the leader comes from inside.

Provide Value

This goes back to not glossing over problems. Holding additional training sessions just for the sake of being able to say you did something, isn’t going to cut it. Lasting change doesn’t come from checking off boxes — you need to add value to the employee experience. They need to believe that changing will benefit them. Making their job easier, more efficient, or more secure is a great way to get everyone buying in.

Evaluate

There’s only one way to know if you’re going in the right direction. Give your change team short term goals, and listen to feedback. It’s important to know what’s working and what’s not. This also gives you insight in to who is taking change seriously. Bottom line, you need to be able to compare where you started to where you ended, and measure the progress.

Sometimes the road is short and wide, and other times you have to walk the straight and narrow. But no company every stayed the same and also stayed in business. The key is to steer everyone toward beneficial change, and this non-comprehensive guide is a great way to do that.

Interested in improving communication change within your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Can internal communications replace some of those dreaded conference calls?

Everybody loves to make fun of conference calls. A photo of conference call bingo has been floating around social media lately, and I particularly like the video pictured here of a real-life conference call with people sitting in a conference room together listening to hold music while other people walk in and announce “Beth (has joined the meeting.).” We hate conference calls but we can’t stop scheduling them.

And what are employees really doing during all those conference calls? According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, they’re doing other work, sending emails, online shopping, playing video games, exercising and taking other phone calls. Some report (and I apologize for putting this image in your mind) taking conference calls in the bathroom.

So if employees don’t like conference calls, and they’re not particularly engaged during them, should those of us in internal communications be offering an alternative? When work teams are located in different offices, or in other countries, an in-person meeting isn’t practical. But that hurdle of geography is indigenous to a global workplace, or even a national one.

At one point, it seemed that video conferencing would become the new conference call. Certainly being on camera would eliminate some of the temptation to be multi-tasking. And seeing the faces of other participants would shortcut some of those awkward start-stop interruptions and allow us to pick up on all those missed cues of body language. Although a number of Tribe’s clients have video conferencing capabilities, we don’t see it used very much. In fact, it seems to be avoided like the plague.

Theoretically, intranets could handle some of the informational exchange and collaborative work of conference calls. But in practice, they’re not replacing many of those calls clogging up employees’ calendars either.

So there’s always email. And an awful lot of business does get done through group emails. Yet employees consistently complain that they get too much email — which makes it an unlikely candidate for conference call replacement. 

What’s the answer? I don’t know. But if you do, I’d love to hear about it.

Want new ideas for internal communications other than a cure for the common conference call? Tribe can help.

 

4 Reasons Your Company Should Be Investing In Digital Signage

Digital signage is a useful channel that allows companies to communicate with employees in bite size pieces. This is especially helpful because it allows employees to be kept in the loop with little effort on their part.

Below are four reasons why you should be communicating through digital signage: 

1. Connection: It connects your employees and builds a stronger bond between them and the company. Featuring monthly new hires or explaining departmental roles can help associates familiarize themselves with one another and the way the company is run.

2. Education: Posting slides about new policies or procedures can be an easy way to reiterate recent updates that were communicated within the company.

3. Public Relations: Employees enjoy seeing their company (and maybe their work) featured in the media. Displaying recent press articles or a scrolling twitter feed with company mentions on a new product or service can serve as a great way for associates to see their hard work being appreciated.

4. Recognition: Digital signage gives you an opportunity to shine a light on specific people or teams that have gone above and beyond and make it visible to anyone who walks through the doors. Giving employees this sense of pride and recognition helps them know that they are an important part of a team and that their work is valued.

Need help creating content for your digital signage? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What retail employees, airline attendants, hotel workers and other frontline people know that corporate doesn’t

Valuable customer insights go unrecognized in companies across almost every industry. Although large brands may expend considerable budgets on customer research and voice-of-customer initiatives, they may overlook the most direct source of knowledge regarding what customers want.

That source of knowledge is the frontline employee. The customer-facing employee can be a rich resource of ideas for small and large improvements.

In quick service restaurants, staff may notice a trend of customers mixing two packets of different sauces. That observation might lead to a product idea for a new sauce flavor. In the hospitality industry, hotel housekeepers might know that guests often remove a scratchy bedspread and toss it on the floor. That knowledge could influence the choice of fabrics in the next design prototype for room interiors.

The frontline employee also has firsthand knowledge of customer complaints. They see things corporate can’t, which not only stymies customer solutions but also frustrates these employees.

In Tribe’s research with non-desk employees, this frustration was a prevalent theme. They often see corporate as out of touch and ineffective at solving common issues. Respondents reported that corporate often doesn’t understand the realities of the business due to being so removed from customers.

In most companies, this valuable field intelligence is lost. Without a clear channel of communication between the front line and those back in the corporate office, none of this knowledge becomes actionable.

Establishing such a channel takes some doing. Communication to field employees generally flows in one direction only, cascading from managers to the front line. Although individual managers may be aware of these frontline insights, there are rarely established communications processes for sharing up the ladder.

An effective channel will be specific to the physical realities of those frontline employees. What works for hotel housekeepers may not work for garbage truck drivers. A solution appropriate for a high-end jewelry retailer may not suit furniture rental store employees.

Interested in collecting the field intelligence of your frontline? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Internal Communication is Change Communication – Or Should Be

We talk about change communication as a category of internal communications. In fact, Tribe’s capabilities presentation has a page on Change Communications. But perhaps we should evolve our thinking on this a bit.

Every email, announcement, blog, post, recognition, video or podcast should be signaling some type of change. I read the email or watched the video. I learned something I didn’t know. I changed my behavior because of the communication. I’m now able to do my job better. That’s the real purpose of internal communications. Right?

Internal communications should be written to change behavior. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be wasting people’s time with yet another email, blog or article. What’s the point of asking someone to spend time reading or seeing what you’ve developed if it’s not designed to change behavior or help employees do their jobs more effectively.

I suppose this might add a bit of complexity or challenge to our jobs as communicators. To develop effective change communications, we need to know a few things. 1) What we want them to think or do after reading the message. 2) The gap between the existing and goal knowledge. 3) What the result will look like if we can get everyone to change a behavior.

If I read an article in the company newsletter or culture magazine, it should be more than just an interesting read. The article should educate me on what’s going on around the company and perhaps offer insights on things that I could be doing to help the company achieve its business goals or vision – and potentially change my behavior.

“I just need to make an announcement. How is announcing the winners of an internal contest change communication?” Quite often it may seem like there’s no opportunity to elevate a message beyond its basic points. In this example, instead of just announcing the contest winners, there’s an opportunity to revisit the original purpose of the contest. What were you trying to get employees to do? And how does that behavior support the goals of the company? There’s almost always an opportunity to tie the conversation back to the company’s goals.

But let’s be careful not to load these communications up with so much stuff that they stop communicating. There is beauty in simplicity. There are lots of important emails that communicate that something must be done before some date. And that’s a form of change. I didn’t know the date before I read the email. Now that I do, I’ve made a note in my to do list to have a conversation with my spouse and sign up for benefits before the window closes. That’s change too.

And keep having fun. Making your communications consistently strategic doesn’t mean they can’t also be fun. It’s important to be engaging and entertaining with your communications. But cute for the sake of being cute at the office can be quite a waste of time. We prefer strategically fun.

It doesn’t matter what you call your communications. What’s important is not missing the opportunity to affect change.

Want to make sure your communications affect change? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What we know about building employee trust in the CEO

One of the best ways a CEO can build employee trust is to first demonstrate that he or she trusts employees. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review addresses this dynamic from the perspective of managers, but the same principle applies at a higher level in the corporate hierarchy and to the organization overall.

How does company leadership show trust in employees?

  1. Share information. Not just good news, but the bad news as well. In fact, sharing bad news honestly can go a long way towards increasing employee trust. Of course there will always be business information that’s not appropriate to share, and it’s fine to say that. Employees can appreciate that distinction. But if you talk about transparency, make sure you follow up by truly keeping employees in the loop on news you can share.
  2. Avoid creating a risk-averse culture. This is a big ship to turn around, if your culture is already rife with policies and attitudes intended to put as many controls in place as possible. It’s popular now for companies to promote the idea of failing fast, but there’s sometimes a contradiction presented by punitive policies. Giving employees a little more autonomy and decision-making power demonstrates trust in their abilities and their judgment. That’s a first step in having them return the favor.
  3. Promote visibility for individuals responsible for innovation. Look for examples of leaders within the company who are spearheading new product developments or initiatives and celebrate them. Mention them in town halls, encourage your communications staff to feature them in the internal publications or on the intranet. Most success stories will include bumps and challenges along the way. Telling those stories reinforces the notion that the company leadership trusted those employees enough to let them hit a dead end or two before they got it right.

Interested in building trust in leadership at your company? Tribe can help.