Summer Vacation

Summer vacation. It’s a huge highlight of my year. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the same once you’re in the working world. You don’t get months off all at once, but it is still a great time of year to take a trip or to just get out of town. Maybe it’s the leftover mindset that I have to take a vacation this time of year because that’s the way we always did it when I was a kid. Or maybe it’s because summertime is a great time to be lazy, and what else do you do on vacation besides indulge in laziness?

At any rate, I’ve taken quite a few trips this summer with friends and family (I’m seeing how many I can pack in before the first leaves fall). I’ve made it to Amelia Island, Ireland, Saint Simons and Charleston. Next up, I am headed to Boston this weekend then Hilton Head the next.

For some, this schedule looks exhausting. But I love it! If I were independently wealthy (still working out how to make that happen) I would travel all the time. For me, it is essential for my well being to get out of town and see a different part of the country or even the world. Traveling was always something that was important to my family and I’m lucky enough to have not only been brought up in a family that cherished it, but that I still appreciate it now. This is one of the many things for which I am forever grateful to my parents.

If I am physically able, I will always set aside the time, scrape up the resources and find a travel companion if necessary, to take a trip. As they say, it’s a great big old world out there – lots to see and do. The only question left to ask is, “where are we going next?”

Three Quick Employee Engagement Tips

Employee engagement doesn’t always have to come with a high cost. Many companies follow the common misconception that keeping employees satisfied is expensive, but more often than not it’s the little things that keep employees feeling recognized and fulfilled. Below are three low-cost employee engagement tips we believe in here at Tribe.

Say “Good job.” In a busy work environment, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day responsibilities and hard work can go unnoticed. In many instances, conversations are negative and revolve around what needs to be improved upon or what could have been done better. Let’s face it, this is the case in many offices and it wears on employee self-esteem and engagement, as most employees do not respond well to negative reinforcement. A simple “good job” or “well done” goes a long way. Verbal acknowledgement of an employee’s hard work – either public or private – can boost employee morale significantly, and at zero cost.

Create a recognition jar. Yes, a recognition jar. The jar serves as a recognition program in which each month, an employee is rewarded for going above and beyond. The chosen employee gets to enjoy a predetermined day off and then puts a token from their free day in the jar. At the end of the month, the employee passes off the jar to the next employee he or she deems worthy. The sole purpose of the recognition jar is to recognize employees for their hard work, but it can also give employees something to work towards.

Take a Birkman.  The Birkman Method is a personality assessment in which individuals are able to see what their personality traits are in the form of a Life Style Grid. As it relates to business, the benefits of employees taking this test is to discover the different learning, working and social tendencies in the office. The end goal is to be able to identify which personality types work well together, which ones don’t and to ultimately be able to structure the office dynamic based on the results. Not only can this benefit how the company works as a team, but it will also show employees the company cares enough to take a step towards understanding each individual’s working habits.

What are some other easy ways to create employee engagement?

Back to School

As the school year begins, it makes me think about how it’s only a few short months before a whole new crop of graduates enter the job market. Talented they as a group may be, companies are still in a race to grab the best and brightest.

The ways to do that have changed significantly through the years. Gen Y isn’t simply looking for a solid paycheck, they want to do work they’re interested in and enjoy doing every day. On top of that, they also search out roles that provide a high level of freedom. Is it a nine to five gig or can they show up at 10 and leave at eight? Is it cool if they listen to their iPod while working or do they need to constantly be open to conversation?

Tribe tackled this subject in a previous blog and now is the perfect time to revisit it. Companies should begin thinking about this now, so they have time to plan ways to attract star talent after they throw their mortarboard hats in the air.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Can You Teach a CEO to Blog?

Today Tribe received another inquiry from someone about to meet with her boss to talk about leadership blogs. She was looking for case studies or any information on management blogs that might help convince her boss it was the right thing to do.

I flipped through a social media white paper Tribe wrote in 2010 and was struck by how little had changed since its writing. Of course, the social media world has changed a ton in two years, but convincing top management to join that world is still a challenge.

In fact, a recent article in Forbes says a recent study indicates that 70 percent of large company CEOs have absolutely no presence on social media. Zero. The article, by Josh James of DOMO, the company that just completed the research, goes on to say:

Since “employees have more social savvy, so must company leaders. Consider the results of a recent BRANDfog survey: employees feel that companies with CEOs who use social media are much better positioned for success. In addition to enhancing the brand, employees believe that social CEOs help the company on most every front including recruiting, trustworthiness and sales.”

A leadership blog is an easy way to start. A weekly or monthly post written to  employees, published on the company intranet or some other internal site, offers the comfort of keeping it in the family.

They CEO doesn’t even need to write the blog. An hour-long phone interview can give a ghostwriter enough material for four or five posts, all sharing the unique perspective of that big corner office in the sky.

It may take a new generation of CEOs to make leadership blogs more widespread. People who use social media in their personal lives are of course more apt to see its applications for reaching employees.

The lost opportunity is that it’s such an easy way for top management to be more visible to employees. It can help employees understand the company vision, the underlying values and the challenges of the marketplace. It makes the top exec seem much more human. And it creates the possibility of a two-way dialogue, if the blog allows employee comments.

By giving employees a chance to both hear the CEO’s voice and to share their own voices, the company can build employee engagement in powerful ways. To learn about Tribe’s approach to ghostwriting leadership blogs, see the sidebar on page 14 in the Innovation issue of the Tribe Report.

The Wild Wild West

Calling all cowboys!

Our old buddy James has left us to travel west into the great wide open.

His destination: The E Bar L Dude Ranch, located 30 miles east of Missoula, Montana.

Have a look: (Are those crop circles???)

E Bar L is a 4,000 acre ranch located in Blackfoot Valley. Its land has been managed and cared for by conservationist Bill Potter since he was 13 years old. If my calculations are correct, Bill would be 95 years old today, although I am not sure if he is still alive. His granddaughter Juanita also helps him with the conservancy.

Here is an article about Bill

And a link to a video of him and Juanita.

James will join the E Bar L Ranch team as a ranch hand, helping with the day-to-day operations of the ranch. On days off and during down time, hands are allowed and encouraged to enjoy all the amenities the ranch has to offer. How amazing!

Prior to his arrival on the ranch, James had to mail in and initial a supply checklist of items he promised to bring with him. The headlamp and cowboy boots list items got us really excited. We couldn’t help daydreaming of how great we would be as ranch hands ourselves. Living on the ranch, riding horses, milking cows, mending fences, wearing chaps, chewing straw, you know, like real cowboys do. What we wouldn’t give to have an experience like that!

During my research about the ranch, I’ve also discovered that Missoula is the home of the Grizzly Riders International. (Who coincidentally are coming up on their 2012 Annual Ride on September 7-10, held at the Ranch.) These guys sounded tough until I realized they don’t ride motorcycles or grizzly bears, they just ride horses and then  basically loaf around on the ranch and go fishing. James will be rubbing elbows with these cowboys in just a few weeks!

James wrote to us this week and sent some pictures of his outdoor adventures. So far he has gone horseback riding, rafting down the Blackfoot River, skeet shooting, wine tasting, stargazing and swimming in Salmon Lake. James also mentioned he has been spending his nights by the campfire and has been frequenting the nearest bar (which is conveniently also a gas station!)

We are looking forward to more updates from James. I will share his newest adventures when he does.


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Companies with Compelling Visions Attract and Retain Star Talent

A recent post by Tim Williams of Ignition Group is directed at ad agencies, but it also raises an important point for large employers in any industry. The post is titled “One Agency, Indivisible,” and it refers to studies that show a causal relationship between agencies with strong ideals and strong financial performance.

This dovetails with what we know about companies with a compelling vision and the underlying values to support that vision. No matter how much you pay employees, how many perks and benefits you offer, nothing tops people finding meaning in their work. (For more on how that impacts retention, you might want to see an earlier Good Company blog titled “For Retention, Loving the Work Itself Trumps Anything Else in the EVP.”)

A compelling vision that provides meaningful work is not just for non-profits. But it does have to be something more inspiring than the vision of selling more widgets. How does selling more widgets make it a better world? How does it improve human lives?

When a company can offer employees a meaningful reason to come to work every day, that engages employees in a way that attracts star talent and retains the talent you already have. But as Williams says towards the end of his blog, “Countries march into battle motivated by firmly held beliefs. If you model a set of meaningful, differentiating principles, the people in your firm will be willing to do the same.”

In other words, employees have to see their management bringing the vision and the values to life  in the day-to-day business. When you have that, then you have the  potential for harnessing the best work of the best people in pursuit of that vision.



Analyze Your Intranet for Insights on Your Culture

Your company’s intranet should be a reflection of its culture. Culture is not only about your mission, vision, values, logo and formal rituals, but it also includes employee beliefs about the company, myths and ancillary symbols that develop over time. Reviewing your intranet should shed some light on the intangible areas of your company’s culture.

Analyzing your site doesn’t need to be a formal process. There are many tools in the marketplace that will help you to review your site analytics.  Those tools will help you understand who is clicking, liking and commenting on what information – which is valuable information to have.  However, by taking some time and reviewing a few basic elements, you will also gain a better understanding of your culture.

Site design should be reflective of your external brand AND your desired internal culture.  Look at the design element of your internet and intranet.  Are they of the same quality? Do they look similar?  Does it appear that the company invested in both? Does your intranet reflect your desired culture in terms of being fun or potentially a more formal culture? If the answer to some of these questions is no, it may be a good time to improve the design.

If work/life balance is something your company values, give employees the opportunity to share information about their personality on the site. Rich employee profiles are a great way for employees to connect on a more personal level and improve their working relationships with co-workers. The underlying message that employees will receive is that the company cares about them as individuals, not just for the skill set they bring to the company.

Review your values, culture attributes and other brand elements to see if they are reflected in the site. Your intranet is a great tool to communicate and sustain elements of your brand, which in turn help develop your culture.  Look for interactive ways such as spotlighting employees that live your values or promoting events on the site that help build camaraderie.

Do you have other ideas of how to analyze your intranet for insights on your culture?  We would love to hear them.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: The Difference in Watching and Seeing

This post will be short. I’ve been out of the office all week, recuperating from a bad fall on a trail run that split my kneecap open to the bone and required 15 stitches. And a tougher and longer recovery time than I expected.

I’ve been looking for the lesson in this. I don’t think it’s a signal to stop and rest, as some of my extended family have proposed. Counting the minutes until the next pain pill is not all that restful.

My first thought was that the lesson is to watch where you’re going. On a rocky dirt trail, you need to watch for where you’ll put your foot next, step by step. I know that.

So why didn’t I see the root that sent me flying through the air while running downhill? Turns out my vision is not so hot. I have almost zero depth perception about five feet out.

So the lesson within the lesson is to not just to watch but to see. That’s deep. I’ll think about it, between now and the next pain pill.

21 Again

Today is my little sister’s 21st birthday. Not only does this make me feel old, but it also brings back memories of my 21st birthday and how times have changed in just a few short years.

On the day I turned 21, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking that I still looked 16. I over-applied makeup to my face until I resembled a drag queen and wore the tallest heels I had in my closet in an effort to look the part. Once the transformation was complete, my girls and I set out for a big night on the town. Our crazy plans began with dinner at our favorite sushi dive, followed by a night of bar hopping around Athens. Five Jägerbombs and $50 later, we were in a taxi heading back to the apartment. That was how we celebrated 21st birthdays back then.

My sister, born in the 90s, has a much different (and more expensive) agenda. Her plans consist of dinner at a nice restaurant in West Midtown, followed by drinks at JCT Kitchen where the bartenders are called “mixologists,” then a short walk to Ormsby’s, an establishment where you can drink and play bocce ball. Very high class.

Despite each generation looking older earlier and taking the definition of “celebrate” to the next level, the common theme seems to be enjoying a few (or many) drinks with good friends. Oh, to be 21 again!

What did you do for your 21st birthday?

Teaching Others to Measure Communications

So you decided which communication channels to use and launched them out into your company for everyone to read, watch or use. You’ve heard some positive reviews by a few of the people you speak with on a daily basis, but what about the company at large? Did that dockworker read about the new company contest in the break room? Did the accounting department see that video from the CEO about some upcoming changes in the company? And more importantly, did your communications cause employees to alter their behaviors in the way you hoped they would?

This is when you need to begin the second part of the measuring process. “The second part?” you ask. Yes, the second part. The first part should have been started and completed before your messaging campaign(s) launched. Measuring at the beginning provides you with baseline numbers for comparison once your strategy reaches a designated point.

There are numerous ways to actually do the measuring. If you’re looking to increase your employee engagement levels, measure things like the total participation and attendance numbers at events, town hall meetings or lunch and learns. If you’re using online methods to reach people, track the number of impressions a particular web page on your intranet receives. A company-wide contest can be easily measured by comparing the number of total eligible employees versus the number of people who actually entered submissions.

If employee feedback is something you’re craving, there’s one simple way that always works: Ask for it. Send out a survey asking for opinions about the company, where it’s heading, where it’s been and any other information you’re searching for. Everyone has an opinion and more often than not, they enjoy sharing it. To take this search for the thoughts of your workforce online, check out what they’re saying in the comments section of blogs. Is there a two-way communication happening between a member of the leadership team and a C-level manager? Are open discussions occurring that result in solutions to company challenges?

The great thing about measuring your communications is that it allows you to see how effective your messaging strategy is and what channels work well for your workforce. It also provides real numbers to validate how the initiatives you develop can positively affect your organization’s bottom line. That makes leadership happy and the company thrives as a result. Now get out there and start counting!