Aligning employees with company culture

Is your desired culture becoming a reality at your company? You started out with an ideal company culture in mind, but for many companies, culture is one of the toughest things to implement. It needs a strong foundation, thorough communications and organic growth through employee champions at every level.

The effect of culture is even tougher to measure. A strong culture is incredibly important in supporting your vision, employee retention and overall engagement. But it’s a challenge to know exactly how your company culture is working for you. Through Tribe’s client work, we’ve found a few ways to see if your company culture is spreading and making the desired impact on your employees.

Here are the three stages Tribe recommends for the Cultural Discovery process:

1) Leadership Interviews

Start at the top, by sitting down with members of the leadership team to discuss where they would like their culture to be. Ask about their vision for the organization, as well as their mission and values. Get them to talk about their one-year or five-year goals for the business. You can’t develop a communications plan to align employees with the vision if you don’t understand what that vision looks like.

2) Employee Interviews or Focus Groups

This can be done one on one, either in person or by phone, or in group sessions, although like any focus group, one strong personality can dominate the discussion without a skilled moderator to foster more inclusion. For a representative sample, make sure you’re including employees of different business units, geography, seniority, gender, ethnicity and from functions that cover the gamut from sales to enterprise services to manufacturing or the frontline. This is a time consuming stage, but will provide some of the most critical insights for strategic development.

3) Employee Survey

Surveys allow you to quantify the themes and issues you’ve uncovered in the qualitative stages of Discovery and to gather more general cultural statistics about the employee population. The most useful surveys are structured in ways that allow for a close look at the cultural differences between business units and other silos, geography and demographics. An effective cadence for a comprehensive survey is once or twice a year. Including a number of open-ended questions helps ferret out the intention behind the responses. But keep in mind that it’s important to build in an appropriate level of anonymity so that employees feel safe in answering openly. For a couple of reasons, employee surveys should be fielded regularly. First, these are important tools that measure changes or improvements and allow leaders to understand what’s going on inside the company. Second, if surveys only occur in the midst of major change, lots of angst and negative energy can become associated with an otherwise helpful tool.

Need more tips? Call Tribe. We’d love to help.

Using LinkedIn to build your internal communications community

People who work in internal communications don’t get out much. Or rather, their work doesn’t. If you work for a corporation, you’re not likely to see much of the internal communications that are produced in other large companies

In contrast, marketing professionals see the work of their peers all the time. If you’re in advertising at The Home Depot, you’ll probably see the television commercials created by your peers at Coke, and vice versa.

That’s why LinkedIn can be such a valuable community for internal communications. It gives us a place to share best practices, ask questions, learn about technology that others are using. There are countless relevant industry groups to join, some with hundreds of thousands of members and others with only a few dozen. Those are great arenas for asking advice and sharing your own knowledge.

LinkedIn has been the starting point for some of my most interesting relationships in our industry. Some of the people I count on as sounding boards or touchstones are people I’ve never met in person. They may be in Arizona or Australia, but they’re just a few clicks away when I need input.

When I’m travelling, I occasionally reach out to LinkedIn connections to meet in person. In Baltimore, I met my LinkedIn friend Dawn Brzezicki of T. Rowe Price for coffee on her way to the office. When Tribe had a meeting with clients in the San Francisco area, we stopped by Clorox to sit down for a few minutes with Patti Bond.

I’ve also continued relationships with past clients or business acquaintances over LinkedIn. I love reading blogs by Sharon McIntosh, formerly of Pepsi and now running her own company called And Then Communications. I like seeing posts of people I’ve worked with before but haven’t seen in ages.

Like any social media community, you get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. (For a take on how to make the most of your LinkedIn network, see this interview by our friend Gloria Lombardi of Simply Communicate with Chuck Gose of the digital signage company Stratacache.)

When I first joined LinkedIn, it was just to kill time on a shoot that was going on forever. The producer and I challenged each other to see who could be the first one to get to 300 contacts. I topped 3,000 long ago, and I’ll never have any interaction with the vast majority of them. But in a few dozen of those people I’ve found kindred spirits with a passion for our industry.


The importance of internal communications in change management

Internal communications are an integral part to any successful company. Truly communicating with employees is the key to creating a productive, creative and open office environment. Simply put, engaged employees are happy employees.

Perhaps the most important role they play is guiding employees through big company changes. When leadership is shifting, if the vision or the direction of your business is changing or even if the future of the company is becoming uncertain, communicating with employees can help reduce or alleviate your employees’ stress and reassure them that you’re looking out for their best interests. Here are six things you can do to help employees through company change.

1) Have respect for the employee. The most effective change communications are built on a foundation of respect for the individual. That means treating employees like the intelligent adults they are, as well as putting ourselves 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?

2) Be aware that knowledge is power. And it also makes people more comfortable. We recommend beginning communications to foreshadow the change as early as possible. Some companies feel they should wait until they know all the details of how things will shake out, but in our experience employees prefer to know earlier, even if there are gaps in the information you can share.

3) Know that it’s ok not to have all the answers. Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them everything right now. What causes them much more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something’s afoot and management isn’t telling them about it. We advise clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know yet, but I’ll tell you when I do,” or even “We can’t share that information, but I can tell you such and such.”

4) Acknowledge the two big fears. Why are people so afraid of change? In the workplace, it usually comes down to two major questions: Will this make my job more difficult? And will I lose my job? We encourage clients to talk about both. You can bet their employees are.

5) Recognize individual differences. Since they happen to be actual human beings, each employee is unique. They won’t have the same psychological or emotional reactions to change. They will also have their own individual preferences when it comes to how they like to receive information. To support a change, it’s helpful to offer communications in a wide range of channels. From a section on the intranet that’s frequently updated to printed materials to face-to-face interaction. You also may want some train-the-trainer tools to help people managers know how to communicate the change to their teams.

6) Remember: trust trumps all. Your most valuable asset in any change is the trust your employees already have in the company’s management. Without it, any change will throw people into a higher level of stress. If your company is fortunate enough to have built a strong equity of trust in its leadership, your job as a change manager becomes much easier.