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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.

Open Enrollment Acronyms (and other jargon that employees just don’t get)

  

It’s that time of year again when companies start throwing around confusing words and acronyms such as, CBA, EAP and prior authorization. But do they know if employees actually understand the communications they’re sending to them?

And this is not a problem that’s exclusive to Open Enrollment. There are plenty of times when SME’s are tasked with communicating to people who do not have a basis on the particular subject, whether it’s IT, HR, Marketing or Finance.

Each department has their own lingo that becomes second nature because they hear it day in and day out. But terms that are familiar to one person can seem like Greek to another. So, when it comes to sharing this information with coworkers, it can be harder for them to get the message across.

This is where agencies can step in and be that translator. Agencies have the ability to take complex, subject-specific information and break it down into conversational language that can be communicated and understood by any employee within the organization. This allows companies to communicate quarterly financial earnings, benefits information, cybersecurity details, and beyond. Agencies become an instrumental tool in facilitating the connection between employees and the companies they work for.

Need help communicating with your employees? Tribe can help.     

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

To reach non-desk employees, walk through a day in their shoes

Do you think your frontline, manufacturing or retail employees don’t notice that you’re not talking to them? They do, according to Tribe’s research with non-desk employees of large companies nationwide.

Even worse, they interpret a lack of internal communications as a lack of respect. When non-desk workers don’t hear from their company leadership, they assume it’s because their day-to-day contributions to the company’s success are simply not valued at the top.

Of course, it’s not easy to reach all those employees who aren’t sitting in front of computers all day. But that’s not a great excuse not to try. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

At Tribe, we recommend looking for touch points that are unique to your employee population. It helps to go out to the plant or the store or the hotel. Walk in the employees’ shoes, go through the paces of their days. Where do they enter the building when they come to work? Where do they eat lunch? Where do they park? Are they driving a truck, operating machinery, loading boxes or standing on a retail floor? We look for touch points that might be less obvious than a poster in the break room.

Over the years, we’ve come up with some pretty weird touch points to reach non-desk employees. Can you pre-load the trucks the night before with a rearview mirror hangtag? Can you put signage inside the van they ride to work from the off-site parking lot? Can you use floor decals? Window clings on restroom mirrors? Fortune cookies?

You need to understand the physical environment to find those untapped touch points. The trick is to get out from behind your desk and go see what it’s like out there. If you’ve already done that and have come up with some really smart touch points, we’d love to hear about it.

Looking for new ways to reach your non-desk audience? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Being The Best In Your Category Or Industry Is A Lot Like Being A Major League Pitcher

I’m in awe of Major League pitchers who can throw the baseball a hundred miles per hour. A few years ago, I was at an expo at a sponsorship event and stepped into a pitching cage to see how fast I could throw a ball.

Now I’m not completely un-athletic. But after lobbing the ball a few times to get warmed up, I wind up for the real thing –  forty-seven miles per hour. That couldn’t be right. So I wind up and give it everything I’ve got. Forty-six miles per hour. And now I have a newfound respect for major league hurlers.

So how does a major league pitcher make a ball fly at a hundred miles per hour and consistently hit an inches-wide target that’s ninety feet away? First, he practices pitching over and over for years and years. Then coaches and trainers meticulously hone the pitcher’s movements to ensure absolutely perfect form that won’t break down under pressure. Finally, and probably most importantly, the pitcher calls on every part of his body to participate in the process.

Sportscasters say, “that pitcher has a great arm.” But it’s not just the arm that throws the ball. Fingers have to hold onto and release the ball. The shoulder has to power the arm. The spine and hips have to generate torque to whip the arm around. The legs have to provide that forward propulsion for the movement.

The lungs can’t be seen from the stands, but if the pitcher couldn’t get air in him he wouldn’t be able to throw the ball. In fact, he’d die. The same is true with veins, arteries, blood and just about every other part of the body.

It’s a very similar story when we think about how high-performing teams deliver the brand experience at the best companies. There are front-line people delivering a service or selling the product. Typically, someone with a great pitch. But as important as they are, front-line employees are just the final connection to the customer.

Without the rest of the company, the brand experience falls completely apart. Someone invented the product or service. Someone figured out the operations requirements for building the product. Some actually worked on the assembly line or sewed on buttons. Someone made sure that the plant or office is a comfortable and safe place to work. Accounting figured out how to bill the customer so that employees could get paid and everyone would actually show up for work.

While the connection is not always obvious, everyone in the company has a role in the customer or brand experience. Everyone in the company contributes to making the product as good as it can be. Companies work at their peak when every part of the organization understands how his or her individual actions contribute to the company’s success.

Interested in communications that get every employee in the company aligned with your goals? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

When communicating major change, watch your step.


How does a company communicate a major change? In many cases, not well. Following are three sure-fire ways to completely blow it with employees:

1. Don’t say anything at all until every single detail is final. This is an awesome idea if you want employees to feel insecure and uneasy. Especially if they somehow suspect change is afoot and begin to spread that suspicion via the grapevine.

2. Tell them what they want to hear. For instance, if there’s currently no plan for layoffs, go ahead and promise them that all their jobs are definitely safe and they don’t have a thing to worry about. If that changes, they probably won’t even remember the earlier communication.

3. If it’s bad news, don’t talk about it. If you don’t acknowledge that something has gone wrong, or that a difficult change is coming, then you can keep employees from knowing a thing about it.

What’s that? You prefer treating employees with respect? Then you might find the following tips more in keeping with your approach:

• Don’t patronize them by withholding negative news. They’d rather know what to expect than be left in the dark.

• Tell employees as much as you can as soon as you can. If aspects of the change are not yet decided, tell them that too.

• Don’t make the mistake of thinking employees get all their information about the company from the company. They have plenty of other sources, from the financial news to the local news and from social media to social connections.

Interested in communicating change more effectively? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

The Internal Brand Starts With The External Brand

Your external brand or consumer brand, lives in a competitive environment alongside thousands of other brands. In order to stand out among the competition, brands do their best to differentiate themselves from others while remaining consistent – same logo, same colors, same fonts.

Internal communications departments often use their external branding for emails, the intranet, digital signage, and the like. Internally, your communications aren’t seen in rotation with other brands. Your audience can tire of the same thing over and over because there are no other brands working in the space to break up that experience. Oversaturating your internal communications with your external brand will eventually make your efforts invisible to the workforce.

Leverage your internal brand to create a more engaging experience by developing an internal brand. By expanding and building upon your external brand, a unique branding will emerge that employees already recognize. Not only will a fresh and expansive internal brand renew their desire to be engaged with, but it also acts as a cue for them to know that those communications are meant for them only.

We suggest developing your internal brand by creating the following:

  • Employer brand rallying cry
  • Adding additional colors to the existing brand palette
  • Design motif for backgrounds and other uses
  • Building a library of original employee photography

The internal brand should be authentic, genuine, and support the external brand. A good internal brand can transform your internal communications and create a better experience for your employees.

Need help with an internal brand? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

If You Want Employees on the Intranet, Skip the Spin

For intranet content that truly engages employees, think more like a newspaper editor than a PR exec. In public relations, you try to push the messages and information that you want the readers to know. As a journalist, you look for the stories your readers want to know.

A PR perspective* can result in the rose-colored glasses version of company news.Employees are sophisticated consumers of media, and they’ll see right through that rosy lens. A perpetual and obvious spin can erode trust rather quickly.

Taking a journalistic approach to content will mean thinking through the questions employees will want answered. Telling the whole story, without sidestepping the bits that might not be such good news, results in the sort of authentic content that employees crave.

That doesn’t mean you can’t promote company messaging on the intranet. Among other topics, it can and should contain content that helps employees align with the company vision; educates them on company accomplishments and the achievements of those in other functional silos; and connects employees across geography to remind them they’re part of something larger than their immediate work team.

The intranet is also an excellent place to tell the company’s side of any unsettling event or major change. It offers an opportunity to counteract the rumor mill by sharing the reasons behind a change or the company’s response to an unfortunate event. It can reduce employee stress by giving them the information they need to feel confident in the way management is moving forward. If you want employees to consider the intranet their go-to source for company information, give them an honest appraisal of what’s happening now, what will happen next, and how, and when and to whom.

Remember that an intranet is a pull medium. Employees have to want to see what’s posted, or you’ll never get them to go there. To make your intranet a must-read for employees, offer the news they want, delivered in a way that gives them credit for being intelligent human beings.

Interested in making your intranet the go-to source for employees? Tribe can help.

*This post is not intended to disparage the fine work of public relations professionals, many of whom we respect and admire to the nth degree.

Brittany Walker

Managing Manager Communications: The Art of the Toolkit

Providing leaders with the resources needed for cascading consistent messaging is important. In many cases, the responsibility of delivering company news falls on managers. Without the proper guidelines and tools in place, it’s easy for information to be filtered through the lens of each individual. The problem comes in when their interpretation of the message changes, slightly or vastly, from the message the company intended.

Make it easy. The answer to this common communications strife may be easier than you think. Providing managers with simple communications tools, like talking points and FAQs, can go a long way towards keeping them on-message while also making their job easier. And making communications easier for managers will increase the likelihood of the message being delivered.

Everyone communicates differently, and that’s okay. Particularly for major initiatives, a communications toolkit can be an efficient solution. A range of communications styles can be accommodated by providing an electronic compilation of email templates, flyers they can print themselves, PowerPoint presentations, talking points, training guidelines and more.

Give managers a head-up. Communicating with managers in advance will allow them to process the announcement before cascading information to their teams. They should have a solid grasp of the upcoming change and how it impacts the company, their role and the individual roles of their employees. Providing information in advance will also give these leaders a chance to get onboard with the change. Once a manager is embracing the change, they can act as informers, as well as reinforcers.

Need help with manager toolkits? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Leadership Bubble: Are Your Top Execs Just Talking to Themselves?

Sometimes the top leadership of a company can be something of a closed system. The C-level and management a layer below tend to spend their days rubbing elbows with each other rather than employees in the rest of the company. Without a strong effort to create channels of communication between top management and rank-and-file employees, there’s sometimes very little information flowing between the two.

Leadership often thinks employees know things they don’t. Important things for engagement and alignment, like their vision for the company, their strategic plans for growth, the values they want the company to use in doing business.

Towards the end of the Recession, we did some research on this topic with a limited sample of four or five large companies. First we spoke with leadership about their plans for handling the economic downturn and coming out stronger on the other end of it.

Without a single exception, leadership from every company said they had a clear vision. When we asked if they believed the employees were aware of and understood this vision, they said, yes, absolutely, we talk about it all the time.

Then we asked the same two questions of employees at each of those companies.What we heard from most of them were comments like: “I don’t think they have any idea how to get us through this;” “There’s no plan, not that I know of;” and “I don’t thing there’s a vision and it scares me.”

Why would leadership think employees know these things when they clearly do not? It’s because they themselves hear about the vision every day. They’re all sitting in the same meetings, seeing the same Powerpoints and having the same discussions. They know the vision, and they know how their department or division of the company is expected to contribute to that vision.

 In short, they’re talking to themselves. What’s needed is a strategic approach to communicating top management’s strategic direction and vision to people at all levels of the company.

They’re also not hearing the views of employees outside the C-Suite. If there’s little to no communciation direct from leadership to employees, then there’s probably not an established two-way communciation channel either. So corporate management is missing out on all that employees could tell them — from suggestions and innovations to complaints and concerns. Both are useful for improving the company in a myriad of ways large and small.

Interested in establishing communication channels between your C-level and the rest of the company? Tribe can help.