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Building employee relationships can build employee engagement

To build employee engagement, create opportunities for employees to relate to each other. When employees have strong relationships at work, they’re more likely to be engaged — and to stick around. Here are three ways to make that happen:

 

 

  1. Look for ways to build visibility across silos. Help build awareness of the people and the work being done in different geographical locations and functional areas — through the intranet, employee publications, town halls or other channels. When employees are aware of other colleagues and the work that their doing, it smooths the way to potential collaboration down the road.

 

  1. Make celebrities of employees. Build in employee spotlights or other storytelling aspects to your recognition programs to help build human connections. Use photos of actual employees whenever you can, whether it’s for employee of the month or just a service milestone.

 

  1. Use wellness to create a level playing field. Fitness competitions, fitness tracker step-counting contests and other wellness initiatives are a great way to break down barriers between employees, managers and leadership. Nothing puts people on the same level like working out together. These sorts of programs also allow employees to build relationships that transcend workplace conversation, which can be valuable when they’re back in the office.

 

Do you need help engaging your employees? Tribe can help.

4 Ways to Align your Team with the Company’s Vision

True success as a company comes when you can align your employees with your vision. When employees feel connected to the direction of your company, they better understand their role in the structure and how their job can impact the success of the overall organization.

Your vision is the common goal that unites the employees. When everyone is engaged and working in the same direction, the company works smarter and better. And it’s leadership’s responsibility to communicate and align employees, especially as the company evolves.

Here are four ways that Tribe recommends sharing your vision with your company:

1) A vision book to set the landscape.  The goal of this product is to clearly articulate the vision, often along with the values that support that vision. There’s never a wrong time to unveil a vision book, but they can make the most sense during the launch of a major cultural transformation or immediately following a large-scale change, such as a major acquisition or a new CEO.

2) Leadership communications to make it relevant. Employees need leadership to lead by example. In town halls presentations, blogs and intranet articles, the vision can anchor executive announcements in any channel. When executives use their platform to tie company information back to the vision, it helps increase employee confidence in the company and trust in its management.

3) Manager communications to relate the vision to day-to-day work. Although leadership communication is important to set the bar for the vision, employees will look to their direct managers to understand how the vision impacts their individual jobs. This is where talking points and other communication materials can make it easier for managers to work vision into the conversation.

4) A culture magazine to share progress toward that vision.  Including articles on teams or individuals that have contributed to the company’s success help show the real life application of following the vision. Employees appreciate reading about the roles their coworkers are playing in achieving goals, whether those coworkers are in positions like to their own, or in completely different silos.

 

Need help aligning your team to the company’s vision? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Does your CEO talk to the people delivering your brand promise?

Who creates the customer experience? The employees working in retail stores, hotels, restaurants, and call centers, of course. The frontline employees represent the face of your brand and they’re the ones who deliver on the brand promise — or not.

If you can engage the frontline as ambassadors, you’ve got some real fire power. Cascading communications through people managers works well for some topics, but it often takes top management to inspire them, to lead them to a place where they truly feel ownership of delivering your brand promise.

Frontline employees want to learn the soul of the company from their executive management. In one of Tribe’s national studies,  58 percent of frontline employees indicated that they’d like direct communication from top management about the company’s vision and values. And when they don’t hear from their leadership team, they often make the assumption that it’s because the top executives don’t respect them or their contributions to the success of the company.

How often does your CEO communicate directly to the frontline folks? That communication doesn’t necessarily mean an in-person plant visit or retail store appearance. It could be a streaming town hall, a leadership video, an interview in an employee magazine, or a CEO Corner on a mobile-friendly intranet. It could even be digital signage or a letter mailed home or a podcast. The important thing is that some culturally relevant communication comes straight from the top to the people doing the real work of the company.

Reaching the frontline is not as easy as reaching their colleagues sitting in cubes. But there are numerous ways to make it happen, if your company is willing to invest the effort and budget.

What it takes to build non-desk communication channels is a drop in the bucket compared to your company’s ad budget. You can spend a zillion dollars on brand awareness, but the customer experience comes down to that fast-food worker at the drive-thru window. It seems reasonable to invest some time and money in communication channels for that frontline audience, in order for them to fulfill the customer expectations you create with your brand promise.

Interested in helping your CEO create brand ambassadors of the frontline employees? Tribe can help.

 

 

Steve Baskin

Leadership may know all the words, but don’t assume employees have heard that song

Leadership is listening all day long to a radio station employees don’t get. Those top layers of company management hear the same songs over and over. They know all the words by heart.

Most often, that station isn’t even on the dial for employees. They’re not in those meetings with C-level and the one or two layers below. They don’t see the same PowerPoints their boss’s boss’s boss sees. They’re not rubbing elbows with other SVPs or bumping into the CEO in the hallway. And the email that gets pushed to all employees describing the company’s new vision and values will rarely capture the nuance behind the new direction.

Tribe’s national research on functional silos indicates that executive management is often detached from employees. Although we generally think of silos as vertical divisions, in many companies the leadership level exists in its own horizontal silo.  And this exists even in some of the smaller companies that Tribe works with.

This divide can make it difficult for leadership to know what employees don’t know.  The vision of the company is clear to leadership because it’s a focus of their work. The business reasons for major, disruptive changes in the company are apparent because they’re dealing with those business objectives every day. Employees are often left out of this communication loop.

Vision and change, however, are the two topics employees want to know about and want to hear directly from the top. In other Tribe research, employees shared that when there’s a major change afoot, they prefer to hear it first from executive leadership. And when the discussion turns to where the company is headed, employees want their top management to fill them in on that vision. For understanding the details and how the change affects their individual roles, they’re comfortable following up with their direct managers.

Ironically, the same barriers that keep employees out of the loop makes it difficult for leadership to recognize their isolation. When we do employee interviews during the discovery phase of our work with clients, it often comes as a surprise to leadership that their employees feel so out of the loop on the vision and the reasons behind change.

That recognition is often the first step to aligning employees with leadership’s plan for the company’s future. When channels are developed to communicate directly from those at the top to the rest of the company; when employees feel in the loop on leadership’s plans; and when they see how their individual roles support leadership’s vision, it can create powerful alignment that streamlines success of the company.

The goal is to teach everybody the words to the songs leadership hums all day long. If you’re not sure where to start, Tribe can help.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Building employee trust requires honesty — and proactive communication

Here’s the thing: trust is not about guaranteeing employees that nothing bad will ever happen. If building trust requires a guarantee of anything, it’s that the company will tell employees what’s really going on, even if it’s bad.

Employees are smart enough to realize that no company can promise lifetime employment anymore. Most employees don’t even want lifetime employment. They want interesting, challenging work, and in an ideal scenario, work that they find personally meaningful.

They start a new job with the expectation that eventually they’ll move on to another company. Ideally, this would be when they themselves decide it’s time for a change. But unless they’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, they recognize that sometimes companies have to lay people off, eliminate positions or somehow reduce head count.

Honesty, then, becomes the real building block of trust. Employees feel trust in their company — and thus do their best work and are most engaged — when they believe management is being honest with them. So how does a company go about doing that?

1. Tell employees about any significant changes in the company — and tell them fast, before the rumor mill and the media get a jump on you. Some CEOs and other leaders delude themselves into thinking that if they don’t say anything, the employees won’t notice that anything is going on. Wrong. Employees know when something is up, and in the absence of management communication, they’ll take their information wherever they can get it, often from each other.

2. Tell the truth, even when it’s bad news. Particularly when it’s bad news. If employees know that the company will be straight with them in communicating negative developments, then they tend not to worry so much. Ironically, sharing bad news makes employees feel more comfortable instead of less so.

3. Give employees credit for being smart enough to know business includes both ups and downs. Most people have experienced plenty of highs and lows in their own lives, and they have an understanding that things move in cycles. Just because the business is down today, doesn’t mean it won’t be up tomorrow.

4. Make room for employees to ask questions. You have to make this honest communication a two-way street. Provide an intranet page for submitting questions or employee Q&A in town hall meetings or some venue for your people to ask management about the tough issues. That gives the company a chance to respond to the concerns that you have to accept are swirling around the workplace. The other side of that coin is that employees need the information they need to make their own decisions –even if that means their decision will be to leave the company. Although by answering their questions, you make it less likely that they’ll feel in a panic to jump ship. Often, the reality is not nearly as bad as employees imagine it to be.

5. Share the management vision for the future. Most corporate management teams believe they’re doing this all the time, and it’s true that the people closest to them are familiar with the vision. But when we speak to the rank and file, there is most often a disconnect and the further away an employee is from the top, the less confident they are that the company leadership has a plan. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is a management blog, which we at Tribe liken to “walking the halls, electronically.” A employee blog allows a CEO to communicate one on one with the entire workplace, and to reinforce the vision over and over, and to discuss a range of aspects of that vision.

Interested in communicating proactively and honestly about an upcoming change? Tribe can help.

 

Jeff Smith

Internal Communications: Brand guidelines are for video too

Video is a very strong form of communication. It can humanize executives, it can break down silos, and there is a level of entertainment that will get employees to watch and listen. But before you jump in and create a video, there are a few important brand tips to take into account, to make sure your video not only communicates the right message but feels like your brand.

Brand guidelines are important, and the same goes for video. You want to have a set of video brand guidelines that will assist anybody in the company who is making an internal video. These guidelines should include tone and voice, logo, color, and font treatment, shooting guides, and also editing techniques. Each of these categories will help ensure that no video will stray from what the brand stands for and how it is portrayed to all employees.

Go beyond the basics. It’s obviously very important to make sure you’re using the right tone and brand voice, along with correct colors and logos. But two of the most important things to consider when creating video brand guidelines are shooting tips and editing tips.

Show people in their work environments. Shooting guidelines are different for each company, but when interviewing employees or leadership, you might want to shoot people on the job rather than in front of backdrops. You want to portray your brand as authentic and genuine, and showing the actual physical locations of your employees can help portray that. It also helps employees throughout the company to get a better feel for other locations and areas of operation.

Think about post-production as well. Editing guidelines don’t have to be as complex as shooting guidelines, but the main tip for editing is to, keep it real. Although there are many tricks and tools available for video editing, they may not be appropriate for your brand. When in doubt, keep it simple. Better for your video to come across as authentic and human than slick and hokey.

Internal videos are a great medium for storytelling, for making human connections, and showcasing the people who work at your company. You want the way you communicate with your employees to be as powerful as the way you share the brand with the rest of the world. A set of guidelines will help you be consistent and professional in the way you communicate internally through video.

Need help creating video guidelines? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The EVP: Addressing various life stages and personality types

The employee value proposition helps employees see beyond compensation and benefits to the larger picture. Although there are other elements of the EVP that attract top talent and keep your best employees in place, it’s safe to say all employees care about their pay and health insurance.

Beyond that, many elements of the EVP will be different for each individual. Some people are looking for a company where they can enjoy a better work-life balance. Other employees might secretly enjoy racking up air miles and staying in hotels all over the world. Some folks want to be able to wear T-shirts and flip flops to the office. Hourly workers in positions that don’t promise much career advancement might appreciate tuition assistance to get that college degree.

Although we can’t assume that diverse personalities will want the same things, people in certain life stages often want similar perks. New parents might particularly value the options of flex time or working from home. Those in the early stages of their careers will likely be looking for a company with a great deal of opportunity for growth. Although Gen Y employees often rank meaningful work high on their lists, that factor can also be a big deal to many Boomers.

The EVP provides answers to the employee’s question, “What’s in it for me?” It’s wise to remember, however, that the right answers will be different according to what any individual employee values most in life.

Ready to explore your employee value proposition? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Engaging Your Workforce: Just for Fun

A highly engaged workforce is good for business, plain and simple. One way to effectively move the needle on engagement is to foster a mentality of fun throughout the organization. A fun company culture is established through the energy of the workplace, and it’s up to leadership to walk the walk, and managers to set the tone for their teams. We spend a lot of time at work, might as well enjoy ourselves while we’re there.

Here are a few simple ways to foster engagement through fun:

  1. Take a note from The Office‘s Party Planning Committee. Nominate or request volunteers to head up your version of a Culture Club – however it fits your organization’s size and structure. At Tribe, our Culture Club comes in the form of the Snack Committee. With a budget of $100 per month, Tribe’s Snack Committee takes on the responsibility of a bi-weekly trip to the grocery store to fuel the office. Everybody loves free snacks; and a little bit goes a long way.
  2. Indulge in a little friendly competition. Organizing challenges is a great way to impact employee engagement. A fitness competition can bring wellness to life in your organization, and can easily scale to be as high or low tech as desired, for any number for employees. Competition can also apply to the work itself, by creating a challenge around an initiative or problem-solving exercise. Prizes often help up the ante.
  3. Encourage personal friendships at work. Having a good friend at work can lead to a greater sense of belonging. And when things don’t go as planned, or long hours are taking a toll, the built-in teamwork mentality of a friendship can drive employees to address problems more constructively. Fostering friendships at work starts with the vibe of the workplace. Incorporating social activities and encouraging eating lunch as a team is a great place to start.
  4. Celebrate success. Congratulating wins and milestones is an important step in building a fun culture. From dedicated website portals, to a verbal “thank you,” there are many effective methods to increase excitement and morale through acknowledgment. Even better, rewarding employees in front of their peers (i.e., friends), puts a little extra oomph in building pride.

Interested in building engagement through fun? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

A strong agency partnership makes impossible deadlines possible

On Friday before I left the office, I posted a couple of sentences that have now had over a couple thousand views:

At Tribe, we like to think we can move fast when necessary, but I think we just broke our own record: Planned, wrote and designed an internal site in 72 hours. Our client gave us the assignment Tuesday afternoon and we handed off PSDs to the developers EOD today. Bam!

To be fair, that particular client deserves a tremendous share of the credit. I don’t want to give the impression that Tribe could do that large a project so quickly on just any account. When I stop to think about it, there are five ways this client enabled us to develop all the creative for a great-looking, content-rich site with some extra-cool functions so quickly.

1.    The client has let us learn their business. We know their organization inside and out, because they’ve let us in. They’ve given Tribe a great deal of time with their senior leadership team, particularly the CEO, but also the other key people driving the strategy and growth of the company. That gives us the ability to write intelligently about many aspects of the company, with a working knowledge of important nuances.

2.    They’ve built an internal brand. They’ve developed a very strong external brand and the internal brand is treated with the same importance. That makes it easy for us to design quickly, because we know where we’re going.

3.    They’ve invested in employee photography. There’s no substitute for photos of the actual people doing the work of the company. Because this client has a fantastic library of employee shots by talented photographers, the site we designed overnight expresses the reality of what it’s like to work there.

4.    They are super responsive at giving feedback. When we email them creative work, they don’t let it gather dust in their inboxes. That keeps us from sitting on our hands waiting to move ahead. We can only move quickly when our clients do too.

5.    They trust us to do good work. They know we’ve done this before and they assume we know what we’re doing, so they don’t feel the need to micromanage or to make multiple revisions. Besides, they don’t have time for that.

If any of those five factors were not in place when we were given the assignment, turning around the creative in 72 hours might not have been possible. Now, we’re counting on our developers to do their part on an equally demanding timeline.

Interested in building a strong agency partnership? Tribe can help.

 

Nick Miller

3 Ways to Maintain a Strong Internal Brand

Many brands struggle with creating a clear and overarching internal brand that will be welcomed and accepted by every individual or department. This is, in part, because every brand has a subsidiary or individual that wants to feel unique and recognized as such. When they feel this way, it sometimes makes them go outside the guidelines that outline what they should and shouldn’t do to remain consistent with the internal brand. This can prove to be problematic because you open yourself to additional requests or potential loopholes that other individuals or departments will look to exploit and, in turn, de-rail the entire brand. Here are three different approaches for maintaining a strong internal brand:

1. Let the internal brand be your North Star: Meaning that it should serve as a guide to everything that you communicate, produce, stand for and go to market with as a brand. The easiest way to be true to your North Star is to avoid letting the process of breaking down the internal brand ever begin. What that means is, when the requests begin to pour in to provide a mini-brand or a brand-within-a-brand that assists in differentiating one department or individual from the others, you point them back to the internal brand and the guidelines that are in place and make sure the design stays within those guardrails.

2. Meet them in the middle: Just because someone in X department wants their own mini-brand or someone in Y department wants their own specific newsletter, doesn’t mean you have to go all in on the request and give them exactly what they’re asking for. A way to help bridge that gap is to get more information on the types of things they are looking for and where this will be applied and think of ways to satisfy their needs, while also remaining consistent with the internal brand. This can be through a variety of things such as a personalized channel, color palette, theme or icon that will differentiate them naturally from the others, while still satisfying their needs.

3. Give them what they want: Sometimes a case can be made for Human Resources or the volunteer program or some other group having their own look within the internal brand. In this case, have a designer familiar with the internal brand create that look in a way that supports the brand rather than breaking away into entirely new territory.

Depending on the culture of your company and other factors, you will have to make a choice on how far the internal brand can bend. However, remember the end goal is to maintain the integrity of the internal brand and have it guide everything that you do to avoid showing multiple iterations that will make it feel fragmented. If you don’t, you run the risk of your internal brand feeling disjointed and incomplete.

Interested in improving your internal brand? Tribe can help.