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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.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Employees don’t trust your leadership? Here are 5 tips for changing that.

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.

Impending job reductions are a great example of the sort of bad news that companies occasionally have to share. But 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.

Employees start a new job with the expectation that eventually they’ll move on to another company, ideally when they themselves decide it’s time for a change. But unless they’ve been living under a rock, 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. And what they tell each other is often worse than the reality.

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 a place on the intranet for employees to ask questions and post leadership’s answers. Hold a town hall and have your CEO respond to those difficult questions on the spot. Or provide your people managers with a source for responses to the questions they’re bound to get. The advantage of fielding those employee questions is that it gives the company a chance to respond to the issues 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. But by answering their questions honestly, you make it less likely that they’ll feel in a panic to jump ship.

5. Share leadership’s 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. This vision isn’t something you announce once and then check it off the list. It should be woven into all your communications, from the CEO blog to internal videos to the employee magazine to digital signage — and maybe even to your recognition programs.

Interested in building trust in your organization? Tribe can help.

 

Peer-to-peer recognition programs boost employee engagement

There’s a different dynamic at play when an employees’ peers recognize them for their work. They’re often told “good job” by their manager or direct superior, but peer-to-peer recognition is helpful in building collaboration, community and engagement. Employers often struggle with creating a program that is meaningful to the culture.

One way to ingrain employee recognition into company culture is to tie the program into your mission or vision. Ask employees to nominate peers that exemplify your values. This opens up recognition to every level of employment. Directors, managers, customer service reps, and sales people can be all be held to the same standards. Plus, showing love to every division helps retain employees that might otherwise feel undervalued.

Recognition or signs of gratitude can take different forms. At one end of the spectrum, the reward might be nothing more than visibility. But you could also consider a points-based system with a prize for the winner. Money, gift cards, a day or half-day off work all drive high engagement in recognition programs. More important than the reward is the overall experience. Employees should have fun when they participate, because when they do they’re more likely to stay involved.

There’s no reason not to make recognition public to the whole company. Upload digital signage with their names, post a congratulatory article on your intranet, or send a monthly email with a short Q&A highlighting them. This creates heroes in your workforce for others to look to. Employees appreciate it when their peers get rewarded for hard work, and in turn will strive to be the next one recognized.

Not to mention, it’s easy for employees to work only in their silo. Public recognition is a great way to introduce and showcase hard-working part-timers and remote employees with the broader company.

No matter how you handle employee recognition, you need to sustain it. Skipping a month shows employees that you don’t care about the program or their work, and in return they’ll do the same. The results of a more focused and determined workforce will be reason enough to continue.

Interested in implementing a lasting and rewarding employee recognition program? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Middle-aged Millennials: Recruiting and retaining an experienced generation


Many Millennials are now more than a decade into their careers. Although the bookend birth years of the generation vary depending on the researcher and/or media outlet, 1980 to 1994 is the block we use at Tribe to define the Millennial generation. That means the first Millennials are turning 38 this year.

They’re no longer those fresh college grads hoping to get a foot in the door.  They’ve done stuff. They know things. They’ve maybe even learned how to manage others. They’re valuable employees, not just for their potential but for their experience.

They’re not kids anymore, and they’re not kidding around about what they have to offer. So what does your company have to offer them?

This is a good time to reexamine your employer brand and your employee value proposition. Since Millennial employees, especially those in the technology field, have plenty of job options, it’s worth investing time and money into making your company more competitive in the talent market.

What’s good for Millennials is often good for other generations too. For instance, Millennials value flexibility in terms of when and where they work. So do many Gen X and Boomer employees, whether they’re dealing with growing kids or aging parents or just the desire for work to accommodate the demands of their personal lives.

However, the most important element of the EVP for Millennials is the work they’re getting to do. Sure, they expect work-life balance and constant feedback and an ethical organization. As they begin having kids, they value solid benefits and competitive salaries even more than when they were younger. And they’re happy to have any extra perks, from a great coffee bar to mobile dental care that show s up on-site. But they care more about the work they’re doing and why.

The employer brand helps communicate that EVP, and that communication begins with recruitment. How are you building that brand with potential job candidates? What are you sharing about what it’s like to work for your company? Should they expect to be challenged with opportunities to grow their careers? Given the responsibility to run some projects of their own? Will they able to collaborate with other talented people? Will they work they do be recognized for contributing to the overall success of the company? And is the vision of this company something that makes them excited to get to work every day?

In terms of retention, it’s helpful to tell the stories of employees’ and their individual efforts. For instance, you might do a regular feature on your intranet or in your internal magazine or newsletter that interviews employees who are highly engaged in their work and excited about how it contributes to the company goals and vision. Or you can tell those stories through video or podcasts. Giving those concrete examples of real people thriving in their jobs is one of the best ways you can promote your employer brand.

Interested in defining your employer brand or EVP? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

The Power of Design in Recruiting Millennials

Design is a strategic weapon. If you want to recruit top Millennial talent, one of the best things you can do is give them communications that make them want to be where you are. Design can change people’s minds, make them take a second look, and maybe even look further into a company they didn’t think was a good fit.

It could all start with a brochure. Whether or not your recruiting collateral ends up in the trash or stays in the hands of a potential employee can depend on design. That brochure or flyer might be the potential candidate’s first encounter with your employer brand, so it’s important to make that first impression a strong one.

Millennials, in particular, will notice the design. This generation has been raised on powerful branding, and they’re a discerning audience. If the design of your recruitment materials looks second-rate, they’ll assume your company is a second-rate kind of place to work. If you want to convince potential candidates that your company is a leader in the industry, your recruitment communications need to reflect that caliber of design.

Millennials also have lots of questions. What does your company stand for? What do you offer? What’s the culture like? Although your copy might include answers to all of the above, people will also collect clues from the look and feel of your recruitment materials. Use design to transform your recruitment collateral into a conversation starter.

Millennials respond to authenticity. In addition to great design, it’s also important to be real. Show photography of actual employees, not stock photography of models. If your company is particularly innovative, the design should reflect that. If it’s a collaborative culture, show that. Give potential job candidates a visual feel for what your employer brand represents.

Interested in stronger recruiting communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

2018 Resolution: Do less of something

What are your internal communications goals for the New Year? Most of us are great at adding one more thing to the list, but it’s equally important to edit that list from time to time. How about making a goal to not do something, to eliminate something or to do less of something?

Here are three potential New Year’s resolutions for internal communications professionals who want to start 2018 with less:

  1. Resolve to eliminate one channel: You’ve probably added channels over the years, but have you shut any down? If you haven’t done a serious audit of what’s working and what’s not, this might be a good time. Or if you have data that no one is reading a certain newsletter or blog, if posters are getting shipped out to locations but never making it to the break room walls, or if there’s some other channel that’s taxing your resources without much return, the most efficient move might be to delete it from your mix.
  2. Resolve to reduce word count: Take a look at the length of your intranet posts, magazine features, newsletter articles and even posters and digital signage. The longer the copy, the less likely employees are to read the whole thing. What do employees really need to know? What’s the key message? What’s the most interesting stuff? Be disciplined about cutting out the fluff and making the copy tighter and more effective.
  3. Resolve to set expiration dates: It’s hard enough to get employees to pay attention without the clutter of communications that are past their shelf date. Are there still posters about open enrollment out there, now that the deadline for that is behind us? Are there articles on the intranet about signing up for a Thanksgiving volunteer opportunity? Create a trigger to follow up with those folks you sent the posters to when it’s time to take them down. Enable expiry dates on the intranet and educate those who post content about using them.

Interested in doing less? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Three tips for cascading manager communications

Properly arming managers for cascading consistent communications can make or break your message delivery. In many cases, managers are responsible for delivering news to their teams. Without the proper guidelines and tools in place, managers will filter any information they receive through their own lenses. The problem comes in when their interpretation of the message changes, slightly or vastly, from the message the company intended.

The answer to this common issue can be easier than you think. Providing managers with simple communications tools, like talking points and FAQ sheets, can help them stay on message in face-to-face sessions. All while making things easier on managers. And making communication easier for managers will increase the likelihood that the message will be shared.

For major initiatives or change management issues, a communications toolkit can be an efficient solution. You can accommodate a range of manager communication styles by providing an electronic tool box of email templates they can copy and paste into their own emails, bulletin board flyers they can print out at work, PowerPoint presentations, videos, tip sheets, training guidelines and more. Many managers have different preferences when it comes to communicating, so providing multiple delivery methods will aide in a dissemination that is timely and authentic to their management style.

If you can, allow managers to receive the news of a big change before the rest of the company. For major change initiatives, giving managers a heads up will allow them to process the announcement before cascading information to their teams. Before they can lead their teams, they should have a solid grasp of the upcoming change and how it impacts the company. Providing this information in advance will also give these leaders a chance to get onboard with the change.  Once a manager is embracing the change, they act as informers, as well as reinforcers.

Interested in helping your managers cascade more efficiently? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Best Practices: 8 ways to make your digital signage work harder

What could be better than a steady drip of messaging that catches employees’ attention as they’re walking by? Digital signage can be an incredibly effective channel for keeping a wide range of topics top of mind, without the hurdles of clicking on an email, a video or the intranet. Here are eight suggestions for getting better results from digital signage:

1:Create a larger library: If you only have a handful of slides, they’ll get stale quickly. Shoot for 30 to 50 slides in rotation at any given time. And refresh the deck either weekly or monthly.

2. Build an editorial calendar: You can cover a lot of ground with digital signage, so map out your content with an editorial calendar. Include topics ranging from vision and values to HR programs, company news to financial recaps, employee recognition to leadership messages, wellness to IT security, volunteer programs to sustainability.

3. Limit the words: Think of this as a billboard, not a brochure. It’s not a good medium for paragraphs of copy or lists of bullets. Ideally, you’d have no more than a headline and possibly a subhead, with maybe a word or two in a top corner to indicate the department or program communicating the message.

4. Use the whole screen for one message: Sure, it’s cool that your digital signage can be divided into a bunch of different zones, but the disadvantage there is that you’re limiting the geography you give to any one message. Use the whole screen for one slide, if you can.

5. Include additional colors and fonts. Yes, you want the digital signage to be on brand, but give the designer any flexibility you can. The secondary color palette can be helpful at creating visual variety, as can having more than one font.

6. Vary the layout: It helps to develop a range of design templates so that your slides don’t all look the same. Some might have only a large visual and a headline. Others might have a headline and subhead type knocked out of a color field. Make some that work with vertical visuals, and some for horizontals.

7. Break one message into two slides: Two consecutive slides can be used to deliver the old one-two punch. For instance, you might use one slide for a question and then answer it on the next slide. Look for ways to make the slides more of a conversation to boost engagement.

8. Direct viewers to other channels: If there’s more information you want employees to have on any specific topic, send them to an article on the intranet or let them know to look for an email with more information.

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

Nick Miller

Company Intranet: Welcome your employees to do the communicating

Not all internal communications departments have the manpower to constantly post fresh content to their intranet. The perpetual search for news and blog topics is extremely time consuming and can lead to burnout, which inevitably causes your intranet to regress and become stale.

The key to avoiding a stagnant intranet is to welcome your employees to generate their own content. This can come in many forms. For example, we often suggest companies encourage their executives to publish blogs, a valuable top-down channel for topics such as corporate vision and values, operational success, and the roadmap for future business decisions. With the size of a typical leadership team, each member only needs to contribute once every month or so.

You can extract equally valuable content from employees at any level. Promote the opportunity to be a content provider by advertising it as a differentiator, whether that be a brand ambassador, company hero or organizational influencer. Increasing the visibility of these individuals with a desk tchotchke, such as a plaque or pennant, will both provide the employee with acknowledgement for their hard work and give others a person to offer their own ideas to.

Break down silos by giving departments, committees, and special interest groups a platform through which to distribute information. A designated spot on your intranet for each group to share monthly updates, such as current initiatives or new collaboration processes can do wonders for your overall engagement. Clubs and corporate responsibility groups can raise awareness and explain their own purpose and goals through periodic exposes. Even a general op-ed space for any associate to contribute content of all sorts is a way to make your workforce feel like their voices are being heard.

 

Administrating this network of user generated content can be a substantial job, so simplify the process by providing guidance, training, and organization. A quarterly schedule of posting responsibilities will ensure that your internal communications team isn’t still chasing content at the last minute. Short training sessions on news writing, AP style and company guidelines can eliminate much of the quality assurance work required before posting. By doing so through a webinar, you can record the sessions and provide your content creators with a resource through which to refresh their skills. A content author manual can also help to reinforce proper writing and the process through which to gain approvals and post articles.

Want to build a corps of internal content creators? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

4 tips for a better end-of-year CEO letter

‘Tis the season for the year-end letter from the CEO or another executive team member. This 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. Show some gratitude: Employees appreciate a little acknowledgement of their contributions. Whatever success the company has had this year, they’ve had a hand in it, so let them know the CEO recognizes that.
  4. 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.