Communicating During Shift Changes

An organization that operates on a 24-hour cycle usually has it broken down into three separate phases: mornings, days and evenings. These companies usually have their business set up this way because there’s a demand for these services. That being the case, it makes it a challenge to communicate everything that needs to be said in a short amount of time.

If this sounds like your company, then maybe you could take a few tips from the healthcare industry. As you can imagine, doctors and nurses need to know about any new developments that arise with their patients. Has a condition improved or worsened? What treatments are being prescribed and how is the patient reacting? To make sure all of this information is communicated clearly, a group at Kaiser Permanente developed the SBAR technique.

SBAR stands for: Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation. It was modeled after a military procedure and the basic idea of how it should work is this:

  • Situation: Identify and describe the situation as it currently exists
  • Background: Give a brief summary of how things got to this point
  • Assessment: Share any thoughts or concerns about the current situation
  • Recommendation: Explain what actions you think need to be taken

If you’re thinking about how you can incorporate this into the way your company operates, don’t get scared off by the four stages. Depending on your organization, this is something that can be explained and discussed within a five-minute conversation. And that would be perfect for companies with little time for the employees to be huddled up and talking when they have responsibilities that need their full attention.

So give it a shot. If it works out or if you discover some challenges with it, feel free to jump back on this blog and share your experience. It could be something that really helps others.


Using Special Events to Engage Employees

It’s that time of year again. It’s cold outside, the holidays are over and the football season is coming to a close. So with all of the hoopla surrounding the big game, it’s only natural that people start to think about employee engagement. Okay, that may be stretching it, but engagement is something you can consider when big events occur that many of your employees will be talking about anyways.

That’s right, these things tend to distract people a little from their work. The Super Bowl, like the Oscars and anything else that fills the headlines, should not be events that are seen as problems, they should be embraced as opportunities to bring people together.

What if these events could be used to help people get to know each other, and help your company at the same time? Imagine if your employees divided themselves up between the two Super Bowl teams. A friendly competition could be held between the two sides. The side that chooses the winning team could win something small for a few days (the best parking spaces or their choice of music to be played in the warehouse) and the losers would simply have to grin and bear it. The competition would cause a lot of conversations and that may uncover common interests between people that your employees may never have known otherwise.

It’s not only about sports. In preparation for the Oscars, you could use any available televisions in your company to host movie nights leading up to the ceremony. This would allow people to come together, pop some popcorn and hang out and see some of the latest flicks that were nominated. If a movie hasn’t made it to DVD just yet, a group trip to the local movie theater could be arranged. Maybe a quick dinner beforehand so employees have a chance to get to know each other better.

When people get to know each other and become friends, they enjoy coming to work. And when your employees enjoy coming to work each day, they’ll be more productive. This will help your company meet its current goals, as well as help you grow in the future.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What Can You Subtract From Your Internal Communications?

Do you need to delete anything? It’s typical for us all to think of what channels or vehicles we’d like to add to our internal communications programs. But at Tribe, we also address what to subtract.

That’s not to say we don’t advocate a full spectrum of communications, so that you cast a net wide enough to keep entire groups of employees from slipping through. We recommend you look at how your program serves up information for different generations in your workforce, different genders, different geography, different languages, different types of employees (from those sitting in front of computers at headquarters to those working out in the field).

Yet sometimes there are a few communication methods that aren’t working. If measurement tells you a printed newsletter is not being read, if employee feedback is that they’re not sure what’s on that aging portal or how to get there, then maybe you should put those items out of their misery.

We’re always in danger of giving employees too much information — just as there’s always the risk you’re not giving them enough. It’s a careful balance that needs to be re-addressed every so often, with annual measurement or employee surveys or intranet feedback, to make sure you’re offering them enough choices to accomodate their preferences for how they receive information, but not to overwhelm them with too much stuff they don’t know what to do with.

In a communications audit, we’ll generally make a recommendation to keep some vehicles just as they are, to tweak some of them, and often to subtract some. For one client, we found that their fantastic quarterly employee magazine was never even seen by one of our major intended audiences — those rank-and-file employees who weren’t managers. We subtracted that magazine and replaced it with a three-pronged program that included one vehicle for those in management positions and two vehicles that would reach that important non-desk audience.

For another client, we found literally dozens of vehicles but no cohesive plan for how they all work together as an organic whole. By looking at one piece at a time, you can’t possibly get a good view of the entire puzzle. In their case, they needed to subtract a number of vehicles to get rid of some of the clutter coming at employees.

We also know companies that send all-staff emails on a regular basis — even when the message is only relevant for a subset of the entire staff. In this case, it’s not the vehicle that needs to be subtracted. It’s just huge numbers of their recipients. They need lists that allow them to reach specific groups of employees, like those in one geographic location or those who work in the distribution center or those who are on the company healthcare plan.

If you’re interested in this concept of subtracting, there’s a book you might like. Matthew E. May’s book “The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything.” It’s not specifically about internal communications, but about the subtraction approach to business and life in general.


Walking, My Passion

How does one find their passion in life? I’ve been told it’s by accident. That you have to try many different things and it will just evolve. I think that’s true because how I became passionate about walking, I have no clue. My mom likes to say it’s because she walked me daily in my stroller when I was a baby. I really don’t know because I didn’t discover how much I love walking until I was in my 20s.  

I think it really started when my husband, then my fiancé, and I got a dog.  After sitting at a desk all day at work, I couldn’t wait to come home, head outside and walk the neighborhood with the dog and breathe the fresh air. Then we discovered Valley Forge National Park close to where we lived in the Philadelphia area. They had a five-mile walking path that we would happily walk with the dog on Sundays. I was hooked. 

Ever since then, I almost never miss a day. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, whether it’s raining or icy, I almost never miss. My neighbors may think I’m crazy but I don’t care.  It’s so freeing to be out there walking along. I love breathing fresh air, just thinking about whatever and hanging out with my dog. No one to bother me or ask me for anything. If I’m feeling stressed, I feel 100 percent better when I’m finished. It makes me a better mother and wife.

Another great thing about walking is how great it is for your body. I have no aches and pains despite being almost 50 years old. I don’t have to worry about sports injuries and it keeps me slim and trim.

So next time you are feeling stressed or sluggish, go out, take a deep breath and start walking. I promise you, the rewards are endless.  

Getting the C-Suite to Buy Into Innovative Communication

Internal communications can be a difficult sell. As communicators, we all understand the array of business benefits effective internal communications can yield, but when it comes to C-suite employees, their focus is one thing: the bottom line. This is why it’s crucial to show tangible business outcomes that introducing new, innovative communication resources can provide.

The more results you can show, the better. You can tell the greatest story ever about how so and so happened as a result of communications, but in the mind of C-suite employees, it’s all for naught if there are no numbers to back it up. At the end of the day, they want to see what it means for the business and the easiest way to do so is by measuring as many aspects of internal communications as possible to show success.

Reinforce how innovation at your company starts from within. Any successful company wants to think of themselves as innovative. If you’re not innovative, the connotation is that you’re living in the past and just spinning your wheels. Point out specific internal communications channels that have become stagnant and offer up innovative solutions to replace or modify them. To be an innovative company, employees must first believe that you are and need to see internal evidence showing that.

Research communications best practices other companies are doing. The majority of C-suite employees are likely very competitive; if they weren’t they probably wouldn’t be in that position today. Regardless of the job function, they’re always looking to keep up with the Joneses and look at what other companies are doing that they’re not. If you’re able to show how similar corporations have introduced new, innovative communication channels they’ll likely realize that changes must be made to stay at or above the industry curve.

Finally, seek out help. In all likelihood your company will need third party help to develop an innovative communication channel. Remember that a vendor is going to be more than willing to help sell their product to C-suite employees because that means more money in their pocket. Let them do the legwork and come up with all benefits and cool features behind the new communication channel in hopes that the two of you will be partners moving forward.

Looking for the next great internal communications idea? Give us a call. We’d be happy to share the latest and greatest from the world of communications.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Improve Your Hiring Practices Now to Make Recruitment Easier Later

If your company is like most in Tribe’s research study on hiring practices, you’ve gotten a little sloppy. The job market has meant employers didn’t have to do much to court candidates; they were flooded with so many resumes they didn’t have time to respond to them all.

Ah ha, and there’s our first problem. Candidates in our survey reported that their submitted resumes seemed to go into a black hole. They would apply online, as instructed, and never hear a word, yea or nay or even a “Hey, thanks for your resume.”

Companies assumed they could afford to do that, when they had their pick of a multitude of candidates. They also slipped into disrespectful or even rude behavior later in the interview process. Our respondents reported making it through a series of hoops to be told they were one of the top two or three final candidates under consideration.

They held their breath, crossed their fingers. And heard nothing. When they called or emailed, they got no response.

Possibly employers are not responding because they don’t want to give candidates bad news. But over and over we heard job seekers say it would be a relief to hear something, even if that something were the news that they weren’t selected. They said that knowing they weren’t going to get that particular job helped them move on and put their energy into other possibilities.

Respondents also reported discourteous treatment when they visited companies for interviews. They were often left waiting in the lobby for lengthy periods, or told upon arrival that their host had something come up and the interview would have to be changed to another day. They were shuttled from office to office for a daylong series of interviews without ever being offered so much as a glass of water, not to mention lunch or a bathroom break.

Slowly but surely, the tables are now being turned in the job market. Increasing numbers of jobseekers will have a choice of more than one job, and those already holding jobs will hear about attractive openings at other companies.

Think about this. In the Tribe study, of those who had a negative experience in the hiring process with any particular company, 78 percent of respondents said they would be “likely to discourage others from applying to that company in the future.” Not so surprising.

But this one is unexpected. Over 87 percent of respondents said that in situations where they were not hired, but had a positive experience such as very personal or courteous treatment, they would be “likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.” And it doesn’t take much to be more courteous than the vast majority of companies.

Social media has amplified the power of word of mouth in hiring. Just as your company is at the mercy of consumers discussing your service and products online, you will also have past and future employees complaining or raving about you as an employer. Most job candidates who find themselves in the final rounds of interviews will reach out to their online networks for opinions and warnings.

Forward-thinking companies will be addressing that future now, by taking a look at the candidate experience in their hiring process. If you’d like some suggestions for critical touch points, you might want to see Tribe’s executive summary of the hiring study.

Inspirations for the New Year

Everyone needs a little inspiration sometimes. People choose various sources in which to receive their inspiration, but I’ve always found quotes that make me think about my life from either a different perspective or in a more positive light to be very inspiring.

As we embark on a new year, I’ve been searching for inspiring quotes to set the tone for 2013. At the start of each year, I like to find one quote that really sticks with me and write it on my mirror at home. I see it every morning and it serves as motivation and a daily reminder of what to focus on.  Right now, my mirror quote is a bible verse, but I came across a list of twelve quotes for 2013 on INC and they cover all resolutions including dieting, career goals and self improvement.

Do any of these inspire you? Where do you find motivation for the new year or in general? I’d love to hear your comments!

  1. “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” Napoleon Hill
  2. “The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire, not things we fear.” Brian Tracy
  3. “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”
    Dale Carnegie
  4. “Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.”
    Og Mandino
  5. “A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” Tony Robbins
  6. “If you can’t control your anger, you are as helpless as a city without walls waiting to be attacked.” The Book of Proverbs
  7. “A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves.”
    Harvey Mackay
  8. “Freedom, privileges, options, must constantly be exercised, even at the risk of inconvenience.” Jack Vance
  9. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn
  10. “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar
  11. “The number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.” Tom Hopkins
  12. “You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself.”
    Seth Godin


Impact of a Major Change on Internal Culture

Major changes such as mergers, acquisitions or executive re-orgs can be difficult on a company’s internal culture. Even though the change may be beneficial to the company and its employees, the nuances of cultural shift can be problematic long after the integration is complete. In times of change such as this, it’s important for companies to place an increased emphasis on values, culture and employee engagement.

Acquisitions or mergers can sometimes cause employees to carry a lingering loyalty to their legacy affiliation. Instead of looking at the positive behind the combined entities, some employees will look back and remember how things used to be. One way to remedy this is to develop a new internal identity to create cohesion. This identity will serve as a unifying front that all employees, regardless of background or affiliation, can now recognize and embrace. The identity typically encompasses everything from the creation of the identity itself by defining the new culture, to the supporting visual treatments and finally, the implementation plan ensuring that employees make the connection. Through this all-encompassing approach, employees recognize that the past is the past and this identity serves as the rallying cry for future growth.

Changing the way communication is done. Major changes can often lead to major questions. One way to deal with this for a major change that impacts process or procedures is through a manual directing the target audience through the details of the change. The manual can answer the questions of the change itself, but also communicate the new way business is done. Other tools to communicate include FAQ sheets, micro-sites, senior leadership blogs and collateral.

Feeling lost and confused? Call us at Tribe – we’d be happy to help!

Building a Unique Culture

When you think about it, a company’s culture can be a crazy thing. It’s a combination of values, mission statements and strategies all blended with the ingredient that makes a company run: its people.

Every internal culture is unique because it blends together so many distinctive personalities and plans. But that’s also why it’s something that’s in constant need of maintenance. Whether you’ve just flipped the sign on the front door to “OPEN” for the very first time or are about to celebrate your organization’s 100th anniversary, your company’s internal culture is always under construction.

If you feel like your culture has veered off course a little or if you think it’s time to really start thinking about who you are as a company, the best place to start is by taking a look at your company values. If you’ve yet to get them down on paper, start the self-evaluation process and make an honest assessment of what’s important to you and your company. If you already have your company values established, take another look at them and make sure they still ring true. If not, it’s never a bad idea to reevaluate and make them something your employees will be able to believe in.

Once every CEO, executive or any other bigwig in your company has signed off on your values, then it’s time to get them out there. Burying them on a website somewhere and occasionally mentioning them in a speech doesn’t bring them to life. It doesn’t make them principles your employees turn to when they’re looking for guidance on business decisions or interactions with customers. It also doesn’t mean much to your workforce if your values are full of promises that never materialize.

So get those bad boys up and out. Don’t just put them on the bulletin board in your break room, make them a part of the décor when guests walk in your front door. Show both your employees and customers that these are things your company believes in and you stand by them 100 percent. Spend a few bucks on some SWAG items that can live on your employees’ desks or work areas that act as constant reminders to them that these are the things your company is all about.

From huge celebrations to ordered-in pizza for lunch on Friday, the list of ways to celebrate and keep your values front and center with your employees is limitless. But before you begin thinking about that, start thinking about your employees, your customers and your company. That should give you a clear picture of who you are, and who you want to be.


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

To Engage Employees, Make Their Work Meaningful By Communicating Your Vision

There are a million ways to build employee engagement, but nothing will engage your people more than offering meaningful work. And that doesn’t mean your company has to be saving the world or feeding the hungry. It does mean you need a reason for employees to feel they’re contributing to something larger than themselves, and for that, you need a strong vision.

Any company can develop an inspiring vision. If you’re an insurance company, your vision might be to help people sleep at night, knowing that they and their loved ones are protected. If you’re a baby food company, maybe your vision is to help parents start their children out with healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. Whatever you do, you can create an inspirational vision by linking your company’s product or service to some greater human need.

But a vision won’t do anything for employees, nor very much for the company itself, if it’s not communicated. At all levels and repeatedly over time. Sometimes the top management team is so familiar with the vision, and surrounded by other people in management who hear about the vision constantly, that they mistakenly believe the vision is more widely shared than it is.

Why is it so important that people throughout the company understand the vision? When employees are made aware of the company vision – and the roles that they, as individuals, will play in making that vision a reality – it increases engagement in a most powerful way. People like to be a part of something bigger. They find their work more meaningful when they can see that their contributions are helping the company move closer and closer to a long-range goal.

The end result is that the vision creates a strong competitive advantage. Besides making employees feel more engaged, clear articulation of the company vision can mobilize the entire workforce towards reaching those business objectives. When everyone is pulling in the same direction, it streamlines the company’s progress towards success.