Two biggest hurdles for mobile internal communications

Making internal communications available on employees’ mobile devices is an increasingly promising option. More than two-thirds of Americans now have smartphones. And mobile allows us to reach employees wherever they are – even in the field or on the frontline.

It seems like an obvious solution, but there are two major challenges a company must address before launching employee communications via mobile. The first is that most companies are paying for fewer employee phones than ever, so communications would have to go to employees’ own devices. Some employees are fine with that; others are not so eager to share their personal phone numbers with the company.

The second challenge is the legal question of whether mobile communication requires employees to address company business when they’re off the clock. For high-level executives, this may not be an issue, but those are the folks who are easier to reach by computer anyway. For hourly workers, those least likely to have a computer at work, mobile could be overstepping the company’s bounds.

There are ways around both of these challenges, but each company must address them in ways appropriate to their industry and culture. An opt-in opt-out mobile program respects the privacy of those employees not willing to hand over their personal mobile numbers. For other companies, a custom app might be a more easily accepted solution since it sidesteps the issue of phone numbers completely.

There’s also more than one response to the legal question mentioned above. At some companies, it’s a non-issue. At others, the question alone is a deal breaker for any internal communications through mobile. There are also companies that have developed a reasonable approach in between the two extremes.

In the next issue of the Tribe Report, focused on non-desk communication, you’ll find a few best practices that could be useful for your own mobile strategies. If you’re not already receiving our magazine for internal communications professionals, please email to request a print or electronic subscription.



Thanks, Mom and Dad.

How much did your parents influence your career path? Depending on a lot of factors, that answer could range from “not at all” to “my dad is my boss.” But the majority of us, whether or not we like to admit it, wouldn’t be where we are without our parents. Interpret that as you will, but a lot of companies, including PepsiCo, are realizing the importance of familial influence in the hiring process.

“Engaging them with their hearts.” PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi stumbled upon this phenomenon of interacting with her employees’ parents when she first visited her mother after landing her current position. Her mom had invited a “parade of friends” to the house to show off her daughter, and Nooyi noticed the particular glow her mom had about her when her friends told her what a good job she’d done as a parent. It made Nooyi stop and think, “We’ve worried about buying employees, we’ve worried about bouncing them when things didn’t work, but we’ve never focused on engaging them with their hearts.”  So, she began writing thank you notes to the parents of her new direct-reporting hires.

Do companies actually hire your family? Well, yes and no. A company should not look at your pedigree to determine whether or not you’re hired, but in Nooyi’s case and the case of other executives, such as former Campbell’s Soup, Doug Conant who wrote almost 30,000 handwritten notes to employee’s families over his tenure, it’s a kind gesture meant to show appreciation for all aspects of their employees. After all, you’re not just hiring part of an employee. You want them to know you care about all of them and not just what you see from 9-5. This way, they feel truly engaged and fulfilled at work.

This is not to endorse the practices of the helicopter parent. There is a stigma within the Millenial generation of “helicopter parents.” You hear horror stories of parents coming to job interviews and talking to the boss on behalf of their children. That is, shall we say, unhealthy, and certainly not something we hope continues (please, stop).

Your parents just want and deserve to be proud of what you’ve achieved. So take some time to share your accomplishments with them. Thank them for the sacrifices they made to make you the person that you are, and hope that, maybe one day, Indra Nooyi will be sending you a thank you note.

Connecting front-line employees to the company vision

McDonald’s invests over $1 billion annually in advertising, but the business all comes down to the hourly worker at the register or the drive-through window. Early in my ad agency career, I worked on the McDonald’s Restaurants business. At the time, I didn’t realize the significance of what I was learning regarding internal communications issues, but this is the mantra that we repeated quite often.

It’s the major concern for many retail organizations whose point of contact with their customers happens in face-to-face meetings in a restaurant, at a drive-through window or on a sales floor. Whether its McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, Target, BestBuy, Wells Fargo or the regional health care system, success depends on a knowledgeable and engaged frontline employee base.

Let’s face it, the revenue at these companies literally passes through the hands of hourly workers. These folks typically account for the majority of employees in the company. They’re also the most difficult to reach with internal communications. They’re the least likely to have a company email address or have regular access to the company intranet. They’re typically reluctant to allow the company to send work communications to their personal smart phones. And there is high rate of turnover on the front lines.

Most major retail organizations offer extensive training programs that tell employees what to do operationally. The programs help employees understand the proper way to execute their tasks and hopefully to help them grow into positions of greater responsibility. Most have communications systems that alert store employees when a new promotion will be advertised.

Less ubiquitous are programs that help employees understand why their individual roles are important – even critical – to the success of the organization. At Tribe, we’ve found that this knowledge is a key ingredient in employee engagement, and engagement is the key to individual success within an organization.

In a retail environment, there are many competing priorities when it comes to communicating with frontline employees. It’s a challenge to add another layer to the mix, but this is quite important. Here are some thoughts:

  • Make connecting the vision to frontline employee roles a corporate priority. We don’t just mean posting the corporate vision statement on the intranet. We’re talking about an ongoing communications campaign that peels back the layers that make up the company’s vision and values. With thought and planning, this conversation can be integrated into tactical communications and doesn’t necessarily require additional layers.
  • Provide tools for frontline managers that help start and maintain the conversation with their employees. These might include talking points for pre-shift meetings, presentation templates or a range of situational examples that help managers apply the values to the everyday work environment.
  • Recognize the employees that do it best. Strategic recognition programs offer several benefits for the organization: 1) Highlights best practices that already exist. 2) Provides real-world examples of the vision. 3) As employees learn about peers from other parts of the organization, the vision is reinforced. 4) Allows for a spark of competition since frontline managers will benefit from the halo of recognition as their employees are highlighted.
  • Understand the reality of communicating to frontline employees. As we mentioned, frontline employees can be almost as difficult to reach as customers. Posting on the intranet or posting a flyer in the break room just won’t cut it. As with consumer advertising, we have to approach this kind of communication with a campaign mentality. Ask your employees how they prefer to receive communications and offer interesting options. You’ll likely be surprised by their receptivity when you ask opinions and provide choices.

Do you have questions about communicating with non-desk employees? Give Tribe a call. Perhaps we can help.