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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.

Nick Miller

Five ideas to consider for your intranet launch event

Launching a new intranet is quite the undertaking. Months of work is put into searching for the best platform solution on the market, planning your site structure and branding, inventorying the necessary content, and beta testing for quality assurance.

This can often lead to a critical element of a new intranet being overlooked or under-prioritized: the launch event. It’s crucial that you take advantage of the first time your employees are exposed to this new tool. Raising awareness and promoting traffic on the site that first day can be the key to your users forming a habit of visiting your intranet. Increase your potential for a high return on your investment by considering these five ideas for your launch.

  1. Trivia or Scavenger Hunt
    Encourage your workforce to explore the many facets of your intranet from the start by distributing a scavenger hunt or trivia quiz featuring questions/clues around the contents of your site. This activity can be scaled to fit the size of your company, whether by handing out cards that can be turned in or emailing a SurveyMonkey or Formstack that exports the data right to Excel. By including participants with perfect scores in a raffle for some goodie, you will promote participation while avoiding the tax and disclosure hassle that comes with handing out prizes without that random element.
  2. Profile Building Station
    It’s not always easy getting your employees to do anything on their own time when it doesn’t obviously apply to their everyday responsibilities. Instead of relying on employees to build out their profile at their desk, set up a laptop bar and provide employees the chance to do so the first time they sign on to your intranet. Give away swag to those that visit the station and put the time in to round out their profile.
  3. Professional Photography Booth
    Some companies allow employees to upload whichever photo they see fit to their profile, but often you’ll have large groups of people using photos of other things, such as their children or pets. Other companies use grainy security badge photos and don’t allow their employees to change their picture. Neither of these have the desired effect of an intranet with profiles, which is to help other employees recognize those who they need to find to make their own job easier. Our favorite solution is to provide an opportunity to have professional photos taken, which can then be used on the intranet. These photos can also provide the bonus uses of LinkedIn or newsletter pictures.
  4. A Message from Leadership
    It may not be overtly obvious to employees how an intranet might fit into your company’s overall business strategy. Communicate to your employees how a hub for information and news can positively affect your bottom line with a message from leadership. You can do so with a simple letter or intranet article, but there is loads of potential to make that message fun and engaging. A video is always a great way to capture attention, especially one with an entertaining format, such as a mock movie trailer. Having executives visit various locations to make short speeches can also do wonders for engagement, especially those locations that may feel like they are often left out.
  5. Event-in-a-box
    Don’t forget your home-based employees! These are often times the workers who get the most out of an intranet since they aren’t within the typical communications environment. Send each of your home-based employees an event-in-a-box or pouch with the same contents an employee would receive at a launch event. Make it personal by including a message from leadership to home-based employees only, ensuring that they don’t feel like the odd man out.

However you go about your intranet launch event, take the necessary steps to make it an event worth remembering. The more your employees are wowed and engaged the first time they see your intranet solution, the more likely they are to continue to visit.

Want to launch your intranet the right way? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Non-desk employees cite two issues with cascading communications

In most companies with non-desk workers, the default mechanism for communicating with them is through their direct managers. Frontline employees in manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, retail locations and the hospitality industry rarely have company email addresses, so using managers as human communication channels  a logical solution.

But using managers to cascade communications can be an imperfect channel. In Tribe’s research, employees have two concerns about communications that come through their managers. The first is timeliness, in that some managers will share with their team right away, others will eventually get around to it, and still others may never do it. Corporate often has no way of knowing whether the information has in fact been shared or not.

The other issue employees often cite is inconsistency of message. Human nature being what it is, each manager will filter the information through their own lens. Employees in our research often referenced the childhood game of Telephone, where a message is whispered from one person to the next to the next until what the last person in line hears bares little resemblance to the original message.

Tribe’s research also indicates that many direct managers may struggle with this process. In our most recent study, 53 percent wanted online tools to help them communicate with their teams more effectively. This could be a comprehensive online tool kit of PowerPoint presentations, email templates and videos. Or it could be as simple as providing a one-pager of talking points and maybe another page of FAQ.

Either way, these communication tools address several issues at once. They increase the likelihood that direct managers will indeed share corporate communications with their teams. They promote consistency of message. And they help both the direct managers and their direct reports feel supported and valued.

Of course, in most cases Tribe would also recommend some corporate communications that go directly to employees rather than through their managers. In our research, 72 percent said that hearing from their top management is important to them. And 84 percent said they currently receive “not enough” information from corporate.

Even with employees who don’t have company email addresses, direct communication from corporate is quite feasible. If you’d like to know more, just ask us. Tribe can help.

Are You Keeping The Door Open On Internal Communications?

Communicating with employees is more than sending out communications just so you can check off a box. There’s no perfect playbook to guarantee every single employee will truly listen, but you can capture moreof your audience with open channels of communication.

Having an open channel of communication with employees is something every business should strive for. The employee dynamic is different from office to office, but it’s hard to beat face-to-face communication. That can take shape in group sessions or one-on-one talks. If it’s possible, allow managers to carve out time during the week for this discourse.

When speaking to individuals isn’t feasible, questionnaires and surveys on the intranet cast a wide net. Many employees say online feedback is the best way to share their voice. Even private channels like Slack or Instant Messenger give employees a collaborative space to toss ideas around. However, if you collect input online, employees need assurances their feedback was read. Listening is an important element in any conversation.

After feedback has been gathered, have a plan to acknowledge and implement. Not every idea can be taken, and employees need to know why certain suggestions were left out. Explain your rationale for going the direction you did, and acknowledge the feedback that didn’t get used. The next time you want input from the workforce, they’ll only put in the effort if they know they’re being listened to.

It’s impossible to get 100% of your company’s attention, but through testing different methods you can find what works best for your culture. Communication within a company is an evolving conversation. Employees are eager to share their voices, they only need the avenues to do so.

Do you need help communicating with your employees? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

There are two-steps to two-way communications

The first step is asking for employee input.  Whether it’s a formal engagement survey, a questions-and-comments feature on the intranet or employee focus groups on particular issues, people like being asked for their opinion.

But you can’t forget the second step: responding to that input. Once employees have offered their thoughts and opinions, they tend to expect something to happen as a result. They need a response from management, if not in terms of actions taken, then at the very least an acknowledgement that the input was received.

Employees realize the company can’t say yes to everything. Clearly, every employee preference can’t be accommodated nor can every employee suggestion be implemented. By making one choice, the company opts out of others.

Still, employees need to know that they’ve been heard. If your intranet accepts employee suggestions for ideas and innovations, make sure you’ve got a process in place for someone to read those suggestions and to thank the employee, whether or not that idea is one the company could adopt.

They also want to know the business reasons behind decisions. When employee input has been solicited for a key decision at the company, from healthcare benefits to flex workdays to the platform for a new intranet, some employees will be taken aback when their recommendation is not the one adopted.

Tell them why the decision that was made is the best one for the business. Show how that decision best supports the company vision. Share how employee input helped shape the decision, but wasn’t the only consideration.

It also helps to discuss those options discussed but discarded. For lack of a better example, let’s say management decided to make chocolate ice cream the official dessert in the company cafeteria. Those who suggested vanilla and strawberry and butter pecan might feel their opinions were ignored. Just by acknowledging some of the other possibilities considered, you’re letting employees know that their input didn’t drop into a black hole.

Finally, make clear the difference between a voice and a vote. By giving employees a voice in upcoming decisions, management is not handing over responsibility for decision making. At some point, leadership has to make the call and move on.

Is your company working to engage employees in discussions about upcoming decisions? Tribe can help.