Leadership may know all the words, but don’t assume employees know the 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.

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 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. For questions and more details, they’re comfortable following up with their direct managers but that’s not where they want to get the breaking news. And when the discussion turns to where the company is headed, employees want their top management to fill them in on that vision.

Ironically, being isolated from the rest of the company 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.

Gen Y employees and the pressure of finding one’s passion

Younger employees just entering the workforce are often preoccupied with finding their passion. Gen Y (not to mention Gen Z, which is right on their heels) has been told — by their parents, teachers and our culture in general — that this is what they should look for in a job.

But that’s a lot of pressure. Identifying one’s passion requires more self-knowledge than an entry-level employee might be expected to possess. It places a tremendous importance on choosing the exact right position. For some, this expectation can be paralyzing, or at the very least intimidating.

It also promotes what might be called belly button gazing. By definition, searching for one’s passion means focusing heavily on the self. Extreme self pre-occupation is probably not the best way to be happy, which would seem to be the whole point of finding one’s passion.

Instead, maybe we could encourage these younger employees to look for ways they can help. That puts a whole lot less pressure on finding a passion-filled job, and switches the emphasis to a willingness to be useful and a heart that’s open to opportunity.

The irony, of course, is that by looking for ways to help, one is apt to discover passion. By following the path that appears when one looks for a void to fill or a problem that needs solving, one can become fully engaged and find a personal passion exists where it might have been least expected. Accepting a job where one has the chance to be useful can lead unexpectedly to meaningful work.

Interested in engaging younger employees in your company? Tribe can help.

Authenticity in company communications

This week, I was shown an interesting discussion concerning authenticity in social media. Mark Schaefer, in his podcast “Marketplace Companion“, took a look at how companies carry themselves on social media, what appeals to viewers and customers as far as a company’s “character,” and if it was even possible to be “strategically authentic.”

This authenticity is key to connecting with customers, Schaefer asserts, and creating a celebrated brand. They described social media as a company’s public resumé, something that will stay visible as public record, track your behavior and exist as something you’ll always be measured against. With your brand in the public eye, everything you say, every conversation you have reflects on you. And, as Schaefer says, “You’re never off.”

It’s one thing to create a more personified company brand to consumers, it’s another entirely to create one that is internally-facing.  You can create a social media brand for your company, but consumers only see that side of things and it’s easier to control. Employees, on the other hand, see all sides of the company and understand all the dimensions of the business. Transparency is key, and inauthenticity is easier to spot.

What is the difference between transparency and authenticity? Schaefer describes transparency as your “words and actions being congruent with how things actually are.” That’s not entirely dissimilar from authenticity. The distinguishing factor, though is being intellectually honest versus simply disclosing everything.

How do you create an authentic company “persona”? Think about the public resumé precedent Schaefer sets. Having a smaller audience within a company, this record is going to be even longer, so consistency is key. To create a trusted internal brand, you have to pick a voice and a cadence and stick with it. That means maintaining thorough communications throughout company changes, but it also means keeping up with correspondence during down times.

It’s important to consider the source. In order to be authentic, your company communications need to come straight from the horse’s mouth. If your HR team is handling all internal communications, at times it will seem inauthentic. Let HR communicate HR issues, let the finance team relay financial news, encourage marketing to speak about their latest initiatives, and perhaps most importantly, let the executive team speak about company news and issues. If you have an executive blog, don’t allow someone who has never even met the CEO create his voice. Employees pick up on this kind of stuff fast, and once you lose their trust, it’s incredibly hard to re-gain.