Unwinding for the Year

Well, it’s that time of year again. Holiday season is upon us and the most wonderful time of the year as it is known typically signals the end of another very grueling (and hopefully) successful year. While many employees are busy planning holiday parties and trying to squeeze the last little bit out of their annual vacation days, it’s important to remember that there is still business to be done. By finishing strong, you can put an exclamation point at the end of an already positive year and be ahead of the game when the new year rolls around.

Plan accordingly. For many businesses, the holiday season equates to extra time off. On top of the normal time off for holidays, many employees use a significant amount of their vacation in December as well. While it is important to use this time to refresh and even out the work/life balance that so many of us have trouble maintaining, the added time off also means less time to finish what needs to be done. Resist the natural inclination to let your productivity level decline as a result. If you have time off approaching, plan accordingly and map out what assignments need to be completed and when. By establishing personal deadlines, you’ll have a better understanding of which days to focus on each respective project and be able to hold yourself accountable for staying on track.

Get answers. The end of the year can often be an ideal time to get answers and wrap-up some of the projects that seem to have been going on forever. Clients typically like to tie-up as many loose ends as possible at the end of the year to get a fresh start at the beginning of the next. Without putting too much pressure on them, bring up past projects that they have been non-committal on before and see if it’s worth revisiting in the first quarter of the next year. Companies will often have annual budgets with additional funds that may go unused if they don’t allocate them by the end of the year. This could be an opportunity to introduce a program in the coming year using a past budget. Good or bad, try to get an answer one way or another!

The most important thing to remember is that you’ve worked hard and earned a little R&R before the new year. Take care of business in the office so you can enjoy a stress-free and relaxing holiday season at home.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Words Of Wisdom From Marcel The Shell

If by chance you’re not one of the five zillion and forty five people who have viewed the YouTube sensation voiced by SNL’s Jenny Slate, you owe it to yourself to watch Marcel the Shell With Shoes On and Marcel the Shell With Shoes On Two. Besides being oddly funny, Marcel also offers a few nuggets of life wisdom.

A few handpicked gems:

“If you do drive a bug, you have to be pretty easygoing. Because you’re only gonna get to go where the bug wants to go.”

“Really what you just have to want to do is take a ride.”

“Sometimes people say that my head is too big for my body. And then I say ‘Compared to what?'”

“We won’t fight unless we’re provoked.”

“That’s just how it looks right now.”

“Guess why I smile a lot? Uh, cuz it’s worth it.”

The Real Reason…

It’s the time of year when everyone is busy thinking of dressed turkeys; black Friday door buster deals; gathering with family and friends; and watching football. Between all the hustle and bustle we forget the real reason for celebrating this holiday. So, I want to take you back to the very first Thanksgiving before football was known to mankind and before businesses created a reason for consumers to shop during unearthly hours.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. But did you know Thanksgiving wasn’t an official national holiday until 1863 in the midst of the Civil War? Yup. You can thank good ole’ honest Abe for that one. Only about half of the Pilgrims that came aboard the Mayflower made it through the first brutal winter in Massachusetts. Lucky for them they were visited by an Indian from the Abenaki tribe who greeted them in English. Can you imagine their surprise? Thankfully, through a series of unfortunate events, the now famous Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers, and much more. Squanto was also key in establishing a healthy relationship between the settlers and the local tribe.

Imagine leaving your motherland and coming to a strange new land with very minimal belongings and supplies and where you truly needed to use your God-given brains to survive. Then about HALF of the people you traveled with die and you too, wonder how long it will be before…well, I for sure can’t imagine going through difficulty like that, but if I had to, I’m sure my first Thanksgiving would be very different from the ones I’ve had so far.

Let’s stop and take a moment this Thanksgiving season to truly be thankful for the Pilgrims and the Indians for getting along, for the leftovers after the huge Thanksgiving meal and for the 70 degree weather we are having to “endure” in the middle of November.

-Posted by Grace

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Unasked Question In Internal Communications: What’s In It For Me?

That’s a question that gets asked too rarely in internal communications and it’s what every employee wants to know. “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I care about this intranet/blog/magazine/email/insert any internal communications vehicle?”

In the best of worlds, the answer is that the communication has been tailored specifically to what the employee wants to know. Not just which information but also how much of it and in what level of detail. But that’s harder than it looks.

It requires viewing the world through the lenses of various employee groups. What do employees working in the corporate headquarters want to know about any given topic? What about the people in the London office? How about the guys driving the trucks or the people manning the cash registers? What about the employees who work from home offices? Do the new generation employees care more about some issues than the Boomers?

Just as the one-message-fits-all model doesn’t work so well in employee communications, neither does one channel or touchpoint. Some employees prefer to get their answers online; others like to hold a magazine or brochure in their hands. Some want a way to add their two cents to the conversation. Some don’t even have computers at work, and far too little time to read printed materials.

That’s why we’re so lucky to be working in this field now. We have an ever-growing portfolio of communication channels that allow us nearly endless methods of reaching various employee audiences. Need to communicate to the guys in the warehouse? Maybe a closed circuit TV would work. Have a salesforce that’s constantly on the road and a CEO who wants to give them a weekly pep talk? Your answer might be a prerecorded radio show they tune into from their mobile phones. Want to make it easy for employees reading a brochure to get to a particular page on your website? Maybe you want to try a QR code.

The wealth of communication tools at our disposal is a hot topic at Tribe right now, as that’s the theme of our next quarterly issue of The Tribe Report. If you have a certain population that’s hard to reach and are interested in best practices, let us know and we’ll see what we can offer. Or if you’ve had recent success with either cutting-edge or heritage communication vehicles, we’d love to highlight what you’ve been doing. You can reach me by phone at (404) 256-5858 or email at [email protected] Even better, add a comment below so other readers can weigh in.

The Heart of Change by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen

In “The Heart of Change,” John Kotter follows up his 1996 book “Leading Change” by revisiting the topic of company transformations. In this book, Kotter (with Dan S. Cohen) focuses on the individuals who lead the change and breaks down what they do into an eight-step process.

Step 1: Increase Urgency – Develop an internal sense of urgency to provide the company with the initial energy needed to begin the transformation.

Step 2: Build a Guiding Team – Have an established team that works well together and is powerful enough to help guide other people and departments in the organization during the change period.

Step 3: Get the Vision Right – Let the guide team develop the right strategy and vision for the company’s future.

Step 4: Communicate for Buy-In – Provide employees with as much information as possible to allow their behavior to change for the better as they buy-in to the new direction of the organization.

Step 5: Empower Action – When people feel the ability to act on the new established vision, they tend to take more on their shoulders and rededicate themselves to the company.

Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins – Succeeding at easily obtainable milestones builds momentum in the company and helps fulfill the new vision while facilitating the change.

Step 7: Don’t Let Up – Continue to make the necessary changes in your organization until the vision is complete.

Step 8: Make Change Stick – Continue with the new direction of the company despite the pull of traditional programs and rotating leadership.

These steps are a good resource for any company in the early phases of deciding on the proper course to take when making changes of any scale to their organization.

At Tribe, we term initiatives like the ones listed above as Change Marketing©. We’ve helped companies like Coca-Cola Refreshments, UPS and other organizations by developing communication strategies that create internal buy-in for company transformations.

“The Heart of Change” points out that companies change successfully by altering the behavior of their most valuable asset: their people. This is done by not showing employees an analysis that shifts their thinking, but by showing them a truth that influences their feelings. Any company looking to deliver truth to their employees must first examine their communication strategy. When a communication plan capable of reaching every employee is successfully installed, goals of company transformations are more easily met.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Get Your Cat Back, Either Way

Once upon a time there was a veterinarian who decided to share office space with a taxidermist. They put a big sign out front that read: “Veterinarian & Taxidermist.” Underneath, they painted this promise: “Either way, you get your cat back.”

What’s the zen there? The lesson in that little story — if you choose to look at it in a certain way — is the value in teaming up with someone who has the knowledge or skills you don’t. When you’re working on something new — if you’re creating a new program at work; or considering an overhaul of a system; or you have an idea for an innovation that could save the company money — you might want to get some input from someone who would see the project through a different lens.

If you’re an idea person, find a numbers guy to weigh in on your concept. If you’re in a back office position, ask for feedback from some frontline employees. If your focus is technology, find a people person to offer input on how your proposed plan would impact employees or customers.

Two highly accomplished professionals may bring vastly different perspectives to the same issue. That can strengthen many ideas and create a far better outcome in the end. Unless you’re the cat.

Home for the Holidays

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching and I’m so excited to have my whole family reunited for an entire week! This past August my household of insanity went through a major transformation. My brood of six children was cut in half as my 18 year-old triplet sons went off to college. My home immediately became calm. Too calm.

Not only did my boys leave, but we also lost the constant activity of the comings and goings of their friends. What I thought was going to be bliss, turned out to be a disappointment. We really missed having all those boys coming to our house, eating all our food, spending the night, playing video games and making music on their guitars.

Then there is the impact on the remaining five of us. Where is the bickering and teasing in jest that went on between the six kids? The dinner table is so quiet on Sunday nights (which was the only night we all managed to eat together as a family) and my pantry and refrigerator are so empty because we no longer need the volumes of food with three less teenagers in the house.

Being that it is Thanksgiving week, I’m looking forward to having a blast with all our family traditions. Making chocolate pies and Jell-O for our traditional family meal, running the Gobble Jog at Marietta Square and spending Thanksgiving Day with aunts, uncles and cousins. I am also really looking forward to scrunching all eight of us into our car to make the day after Thanksgiving trek to North Georgia to cut down a Christmas tree. Then we will bring it back, set it up in the house, decorate, and watch football and eat a lot.

Now for one week we will get to enjoy that joyous chaos again. That along with their dirty laundry, dishes left in the sink and unmade beds. Bring it on!  This is definitely a Thanksgiving where I am thankful for the work that goes with the territory of having all six kids under my roof again.

Turning Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

Who better to promote your company to one and all than the people who live and breathe the brand every day? Here are four tips to turn more employees into brand ambassadors:

1. Check Your Engagement Levels. Employee engagement is a big indicator of how people feel about their jobs and the company that signs their paycheck. When employees are engaged at work, they are generally happy about being there and working for that company. Happy people are going to want to spread the word about the great place they work, naturally. Consider investing resources into an employee engagement program. Your ROI will be tri-fold – a more productive staff, happier workers and brand ambassadors for your company.

2. Share the Good News. Everyone knows the power of good PR, but some people underestimate how powerful this can be. If your company is making a large donation to a charity, has new hires or promotions to announce or is having a banner quarter in sales, spread the word. Better yet, give your employees the information first so that they have the opportunity to share the good news.

3. Empower Your Workforce. It is important to arm your employees with the necessary tools and information to perform at their jobs since they are the face of the company to the customer. Empower them to respond to customers and trust that they will act on your company’s behalf if you give them the tools they need for a positive interaction. The result? A pleasurable experience for the customer who will tell others about it and a worker who feels pride in their job.

4. Turn Job Applicants Into Ambassadors. Every person who comes in to your company to interview is a customer first and perhaps an employee later. Your hiring process should reflect this. Treat your interviewees as you would treat an honored guest. If they are right for the job, great. You’ve indoctrinated them early on to be brand ambassadors. If they are not right for the job, still great. Look at it as an opportunity to leave the interviewee with such a positive experience that they will want to tell their friends and family how wonderfully they were treated when they interviewed, thus presenting the brand in a positive way.

Brand ambassadors are an asset for your company. The alternative is negative word of mouth, which spreads faster and easier than ever through social media and the internet. Consider investing some time and take a look at your company. Do you have some brand ambassadors out there or are they all silent right now? What could you be doing differently to help them find a voice? If you’re still stumped, give us a call. Tribe can help with that.

Does Swag Engage?

CEO of Branders, Jerry McLaughlin recently wrote an article for Fast Company about swag and how effective it can be. The article has a consumer focus but is still relevant within organizations communicating to employees. The stats alone are almost unbelievable. “This year, the U.S. promotional products industry is estimated to be a $17.4 billion market. To put that figure in perspective, American wineries have annual revenues of $14 billion, breakfast cereal manufacturers have revenues of $12 billion, and movie ticket sales are about $10 billion. Americans will spend more on swag this year than on amusement parks, arcades, dry cleaning, and coffee shops including Starbucks and Peet’s.”

Companies are spending on swag but can an inexpensive promotional item really engage?

The article gives 4 tips for success with swag:

1. Focus on utility first

2. Invest in staying power

3. Don’t overspend

4. Make your message meaningful

To read more in depth about all things swag, check out McLaughlin’s article.

The meaning matters

Employees like free stuff but just slapping your logo on it isn’t enough. By doing this you are missing a key opportunity to convey new information to your people. For instance, if you’re struggling with employees embracing company values, tie the swag into values awareness. If you just launched a change marketing campaign, reinforce it with swag.

Think backwards

Start with the action you’re trying to drive and think backwards from there. This will help you determine the right promotional product as well as the right message to put on it.