Internal communications trends: Three positive changes

The internal communications field has come a long way in the past decade or so. The Thanksgiving holiday has me thinking about what I’m thankful for in our business, and three positive changes come to mind.

1. Non-Desk: There’s a new awareness of the importance of communicating directly with offline employees, and more companies are making it a priority to find ways to connect this difficult-to-reach audience. Although cascading information through direct managers remains a default channel for manufacturing, sales and hospitality workforces, more and more of the companies we meet with are already convinced that a critical component of their internal communications strategy will be finding touch points to connect with those employees who aren’t sitting in front of a computer all day.

I remember meeting with the CEO of a manufacturing company in my home state of North Carolina and trying to convince him of the need to communicate with employees outside his corporate headquarters building. He saw no need to spend money on the many employees in all his plants scattered across the state in small towns. When I pushed him on the issue, citing the importance of engagement in that population and its business benefits, he looked at me and said, “Elizabeth, we’re the only game in town. Where else are they gonna work?”

2. Vision and Values: A decade ago, many companies viewed this as a soft topic without clear business benefits. Tribe was far more likely to be called in to help with reorgs and layoffs than with communicating the vision. If top management gave any attention to this area, it was often to develop crazy long mission statements that covered every possible cliché clause. Then they’d print those up and hang them in the company reception area, and that was that.

Nowadays, a large part of our business is working with companies to create employee alignment with leadership’s vision and to help them see how their individual roles contribute to the success of that vision. A critical element of that is finding ways to bring the company values to life, in the sense that employees throughout the company are guided by those values when they make day-to-day decisions in their jobs. 

3. Talent: In the old days, internal communications wasn’t always where the star talent showed up. Young creatives, and I include myself in this group, were drawn to what we saw as the glamor and excitement of consumer branding. And truly, it was a lot of fun to shoot television spots in New York and LA, settling in for ten days or so at a great hotel, eating on expense account at all the trendiest restaurants.

Fortunately Millennials place a priority on meaningful work, and they are increasingly drawn to our field. Many most talented young writers, designers and strategic thinkers are attracted by the opportunity to help improve the quality of work life — and to make work more meaningful — to employees in companies across the globe.

So I’m grateful. It’s a good time to be in our business, and a privilege to have seen it evolve over the past stretch of years.

Interested in strengthening your company’s internal communications? Tribe can help.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Apps for mobile internal communications

Question: When companies send internal communications to employees’ own mobile devices, are they sending to employees’ personal numbers?

Answer: Of those companies using employee personal phones for internal communications, 79 percent are using an app, according to Tribe’s global research. An application eliminates the need to request personal phone numbers from employees.

For more information about this and other studies, see Tribe’s white papers and internal communications resources on the expertise page of, or shoot us an email.

The most common mistakes in change management communications

What’s the biggest mistake you could possibly make in communicating change?  The absolute worst would be to tell employees something that would make them feel better, but might not be true. For instance, saying there will be no layoffs with an impending merger, before management knows for certain that there won’t be. In the midst of change, there are many moving parts, and some early assumptions may be revised as more details and numbers are fleshed out.

On the other hand, it’s also a  mistake is to say nothing because the details haven’t yet been finalized. Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them everything right now. What causes them more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something’s afoot and management isn’t telling them anything. We advise clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “We don’t know yet, but we’ll tell you when we do,” or “We can’t share that information, but what I can tell you is such and such.” In any case, you certainly want to avoid having your employees hear the news from someone outside the company, whether it’s a neighbor who’s related to top management or the business section of the newspaper.

You can also minimize stress for employees by acknowledging what we call the Two Big Fears. In the face of any major change in the workplace, employees worry about two major questions: “Will I lose my job?” If the answer to that is no, then the next concern is “Will this make my job more difficult?” Acknowledging those two issues can take some of the heat off them.

It’s human nature to imagine the worst. So in the absence of communication regarding the change, employees’ imaginations will fill in the gaps and rumours will begin seeping through your organization. Setting realistic expectations can be a relief. Most people would rather know what to expect, even if it’s not good news, than to be left in the dark.

The most important key to successfully communicating change is to begin with a foundation of respect for the employees. That means treating employees like the intelligent adults they are, as well as putting yourself in their shoes. We often talk about the Golden Rule of Change: If you were an employee impacted by this change, how would you want to be treated?

Interested in communicating change more effectively at your company? Tribe can help.