Using Internal Communications for Crisis Management

Doesn’t it always seem like the most difficult times to reach people are when you need them the most? No truer words have been spoken than in the event of a dire emergency (and by emergency, I mean a real emergency such as needing medical assistance for a colleague, not the “I was supposed to have that done yesterday” ones we all know and love).

Unfortunately, accidents happen. Communication during the actual emergency is a separate discussion in itself, but putting in place effective communication methods can prepare you to handle the worst of situations. Even in the most stressful of times, you and your team can be prepared, organized and collected.

Just over half of companies have crisis plans in place*. And 100% of companies have a crisis at some point. Ok, so I might have made that last stat up but my point is that a large percentage of companies are ill equipped to handle a potential emergency. Even the most cool, calm and collected person gets flustered in a critical situation. A crisis plan can detail the who, what, when and where behind any crisis so there is a blueprint in place to help avoid making hasty and unprepared decisions.

Making a plan is only the first part. It’s useless if no one is equipped to be able to act on it. In the plan, detail who is responsible for what and ensure they understand what’s expected of them and how to do it. Think of it as being the passenger sitting in an exit row on an airplane. Nobody pays much attention to what they’re supposed to do until the plane goes down and they become the “go-to” person. Same for whoever is managing the crisis plan – always make sure they’re ready to go in case something happens.

Instant communication is key. If a company has 20,000 employees then guess what? They should have channels in place to reach all 20,000 employees. Obviously, this is a major challenge if there’s a large percentage of non-desk workers, but with today’s technology, there’s really no excuse to not be able to reach any employee instantaneously (please check out our white paper on communicating with non-desk workers for help). Other than the benefit of being better connected, it’s especially important with crisis management.

What plans and communication practices does your company have in place for unexpected events? 

What to Do When You Land in a Communications Rut

Have your employees stopped looking at your internal communications? Do you send out the same mass email every week with irrelevant information? If you asked your employees about the company’s values, would they say, “What’s that?”

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you’ve landed in a communications rut. It’s easy to do after getting in a routine of producing the same pieces of communication that have worked well in the past. But just because you send something out doesn’t mean that the employees have engaged with it.

It’s important to remember that employees are consumers too. If the information presented isn’t engaging, informative and insightful, they won’t pay attention to it any more than a magazine reader that skips over a boring print ad.

It’s time to shake things up. The advent of social media has done wonders for two-way communication in large corporations, giving employees a source of feedback in a fashion that allows acknowledgment of their comments. Gone are the days of the “comment box” that never gets read. Employees expect their voices to be heard and social media tools like chat rooms and forums on the intranet allow for that to happen.

Is no one reading the all-staff emails with important updates? Why not try digital signage in the break room or mirror clings in the bathrooms? Those will be sure to capture attention when they aren’t distracted by email or the phone ringing off the hook.

Maybe your employees feel underappreciated and forgotten. That’s a perfect opportunity for a simple employee recognition program. At Tribe, we have the recognition jar, passed from peer to peer, that entitles the holder of the jar for the month to a free day off. It’s nothing extravagant, but it means the world to whoever receives it and having an extra day off is a wonderful thing!

The most important thing to remember is to be creative. Internal communication doesn’t have to be stodgy and boring or impersonal and formal. It can warm, casual and even funny at times.

If you need help coming up with fresh ideas for your internal communications, give Tribe a call – we’d be happy to help!


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

A company with a 24/7 culture will have difficulty recruiting and retaining Gen Y

When the company culture encourages a 24/7 workweek, that expectation is generally set at the very top. If your C-level believes it takes 60-hour weeks to succeed, then the rank and file in your company probably work  70- or 80-hour weeks.

The head of Interface, one of the Atlanta companies I admire the most, says an early boss convinced him to take weekends off. Daniel T. Hendrix, president and CEO of Interface, was featured in last Sunday’s Corner Office column in the New York Times, in which he told the following story:

“The company brought in a president above me who was really charismatic and dynamic. One day he was in the office on a Sunday and he said: ‘Every time I’m in here on Sunday, you’re in here working.'”

Then his boss added this kicker: “‘I’m not impressed by somebody who can’t get their job done in five days. I’m really not. It’s about balance.'”

As companies begin recruiting more Generation Y employees to fill the spots left by retiring Boomers, a culture of balance will be a key recruitment tool. Unlike many employees from older generations, Gen Y actually expects to have work-life balance.

They may blur the lines between work and life more than some of us oldsters. They might be responding to work emails when they’re waiting in line for a movie Friday night. By the same token, they’ll be texting their friends while they’re in a boring meeting.

But when it’s time for that yoga class, that mountain bike ride, or that beach trip, they’re out the door. They just assume their jobs will allow time for other things. That doesn’t mean they won’t work hard, especially when they’re truly engaged, but they aren’t likely to feel guilty about taking weekends off.

A culture of balance will be key to recruiting and retaining the star talent in this younger generation. To be more competitive in the job market, some companies will need to encourage their employees to work a little less.



My New Favorite Toy

I feel like the Crock-Pot has had a negative reputation since the 70s. As long as I can remember, the Crock-Pot was presumed on par with microwave dinners; the easy way out and unhealthy. A meal in the slow cooker was not considered “homemade” and usually consisted of a cheap cut of meat combined with some boring vegetables.

Not anymore! While using the new photo-sharing website, Pinterest, I began seeing a trend in the recipe section – Crock-Pot recipes. I was skeptical at first due to my prior judgment, but as I scrolled through the pages, I started to see amazing pictures of delicious meals. When you click on the image, it directs you to the website where you’ll find the recipe. I was shocked when I saw the abundance of Crock-Pot recipes!

So now, the Crock-Pot is my new best friend. I’m now obsessed with “pinning” Crock-Pot recipes. Not only do I pin them, but I actually print out the recipes and try them! My boyfriend is beyond thrilled. I love it because I wake up in the morning, throw my ingredients in the pot and voila! You come home to your home smelling great and dinner ready to serve. It’s a win-win!

I wanted to share some of my favorite Crock-Pot dishes I’ve made recently. All of the recipes below are both easy and delicious. The photos are from Pinterest and not my own, but mine looked exactly like them of course!

Factors That Cause a Change to Stick

At Tribe, we approach change from a place of respect for employees. Regardless of whether this is positive change like recognition programs or a negative change like layoffs, communicating it successfully will give you a much better likelihood of having it adopted by your employees.

Take care of your people. Morale sometimes suffers a blow after change. Let employees know what the change means to them as individuals as well as the company as a whole. This will help them see how they fit into the big picture and how what’s good for the company can also be good for them.

Set a clear timeline for the change. Often it’s the unknown that’s hardest for employees. When there are unanswered questions about when a change is happening, often it’s not embraced. Let employees know what’s happening when and give them time to process and understand the change. Understanding it is a step they need to take before they can embrace it.

Be sure you tell the truth. Sometimes this means using the “yes, but” rule. Such as, “There will be layoffs but we don’t know when.” If you don’t tell them the truth you aren’t building a foundation of trust. As a company you might not have all the answers and that’s okay as long as you’re being honest and transparent. If your employees don’t trust you in a time of change, it will be much harder to build acceptance for the change.

Let them know where to go if they have questions. This will help eliminate any rumors or confusion associated with the unknown. This is especially true because you can never communicate everything to everyone. Dedicate an email address or section of your intranet to answering questions to keep any molehills from becoming mountains.


Any questions about a change in your company? Give us a call at Tribe, we’d be happy to help!

Responding to Employee Feedback

You’ve probably sent out an online survey and posted Quick-Polls on your intranet. You might have collected employees’ thoughts and opinions via the comment box in the break room. You’ve even hosted town halls and lunch-and-learns to help open the lines of communication between senior leadership and your workforce. Now what?

Let them know they’ve been heard!

  1. Analyze and share results. While all of the info gathered isn’t necessarily relevant for everyone to hear, it’s very important to acknowledge that employees’ thoughts and opinions have been heard. It’s also vital to acknowledge that you intend to do something with the feedback that was shared.
  2. Define new goals and a way to monitor the efforts being made to achieve them. Send out a monthly update or news bulletin. Hold a quarterly all-call and address some of the findings there. Make a progress board to hang up in a common area for all to see. It doesn’t really matter how you define the goals, it just matters that you do.
  3. Use your feedback as an opportunity for company growth. Don’t let employee feedback fall on deaf ears. They cared enough to share their honest beliefs and thoughts, show you care in return by honestly reviewing the information you’ve collected. You never know what you might not have known until you ask. You may gain new insights that could greatly improve a process or business model. You could gain insights that will tremendously impact company culture and workplace dynamics. Sort through responses and address the easy ones first. Implement a plan for the more difficult or larger ones next.

Remember that allowing for employee feedback is also a huge engagement tool. The more opportunities employees have to connect with the company, the more they’ll be invested in its future.

Make Sure You’re Fully Committed Before Going on Cleaning Strike

*Disclaimer: I love my boyfriend to pieces, I really do. Also, his apartment lacks the necessary appliances (a washer and a dryer and a dishwasher) for making cleaning easy. I like to think that would make a huge difference.

It’s probably pretty common in relationships you discover your significant other has a different definition of what “clean” is. It wasn’t until my boyfriend moved from having a girl roommate into his own apartment that I realized what different pages we were on.

Whoever had previously leased the apartment didn’t bother to clean when they left. There wasn’t any trash, it was just dirty. The baseboards and floors were covered in hair, fur and dust. The bathtub was a brown pink color that was a mixture of old grime and mildew. You get the idea.

Before we moved all his stuff into the apartment, I wanted to clean it first. He was thrilled at my offer to help and said he would go to the store to get cleaning supplies and meet me there after work. When I arrived ready to clean, I was dismayed to see his complete “cleaning supply” purchase summed up to a bottle of Windex and paper towels. When I exasperatedly asked him where the rest of the cleaning supplies were (mainly things with lots of bleach, as I hoped to be able to be barefoot and eat here one day) he answered back that he specifically got the clear Windex because it says right on the bottle “multi-surface.”

Fast-forward to present day. Due to the lack of dishwasher or washing machine in the apartment, dirty things really pile up quickly. Right before he completely runs out of clean plates and glasses, I usually step in and hand wash the dirty dishes that are overflowing from the sink and stacked throughout the kitchen. My boyfriend is in the Reserves and once a month is gone all weekend to drill. I’ll spend one whole day cleaning, washing, scrubbing and dusting his place for him. The problem is he barely acknowledges the effort! I’ll get an “Oh thanks for cleaning.”

I decided to go on cleaning strike. Not because I was mad and not to prove a point. I realized it was his place, and if he didn’t care that it was filthy then I shouldn’t either. There was no point for me to continue to be frustrated at a lack of appreciation for something he never asked me to do.

I didn’t lift one finger to help clean, nor made any complaint that I was drinking water out of a coffee mug and eating chicken out of a bowl. The fact he ran out of clean clothes wasn’t my problem. I left the two empty toilet paper rolls lying on the bathroom floor wondering how many would accumulate (four by the way). The furniture got dusty, the floors got dirty, but things were fine.

Weeks and weeks went by. Then one glorious day it happened. I went to his apartment and it was picked up. He went to the laundry mat and washed all the dirty clothes that had been strewn all over the floor for weeks. The living room was free of old pizza boxes, used napkins, junk mail and dirty dishes. I was so proud of him. Then I walked into the kitchen, and amidst all the dishes covered in dried on food was a brand new sparkly white pack of paper plates.

I realized I didn’t have the commitment to the cleaning strike to let the dirty dishes (some of which were already growing mold) to sit another couple weeks while we went through the pack of paper plates. I’d like to think that if he hadn’t made such an effort picking up the other rooms I would have held strong. As I spent the next three hours of my life washing dishes and scrubbing the bathroom I realized that since I was the one who ended up cleaning them, I really just created more work for myself with the strike. I caution anyone who might be considering striking to really think through your commitment level to it first, and never take for granted the convenience of having a dishwasher and washing machine.

Methods of Communications Measurement

Measuring the effectiveness of internal communications campaigns can be a difficult task. Concepts like engagement are difficult to define, let alone measure, but it’s important to get some numbers on the programs you run internally to make sure that they are worthwhile and effective.

The important thing to remember is that you have to measure twice. Once before the communication reaches your employees to gather baseline numbers and then again after the campaign has ended.

For more ideas on how to measure internal communications efforts, check out this blog from last summer on teaching others to measure communications.

External and Internal Branding: Should They Match?

Most companies know the importance of having a strong brand. It presents a face to the customer that they can form a relationship with and get to know. Companies that do well in the marketplace typically have a very strong and well-developed brand image.

But what about your internal brand? What kind of face does your company present to employees? This internal branding is just as important and brings up another good question – do your internal and external brands need to match?

For more information on marrying the internal and external brands, check out this blog post with tips on how to make cohesive branding a reality

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Three Ways to Botch Change Management Communications

How does a company communicate a major change? In many cases, not well. Following are three sure-fire ways to completely blow it with employees:

1. Don’t say anything at all until every single detail is final. This is an awesome idea if you want employees to feel insecure and uneasy. Especially if they somehow suspect change is afoot and begin to spread that suspicion via the grapevine.

2. Tell them what they want to hear. For instance, if there’s currently no plan for layoffs, go ahead and promise them that all their jobs are definitely safe and they don’t have a thing to worry about. If that changes, they probably won’t even remember the earlier communication.

3. If it’s bad news, don’t talk about it. If you don’t acknowledge that something has gone wrong, or that a difficult change is coming, then you can keep employees from knowing a thing about it.

What’s that? You prefer treating employees with respect? Then you might find the following tips more in keeping with your approach:

• Don’t patronize them by withholding negative news. They’d rather know what to expect than be left in the dark.

• Tell employees as much as you can as soon as you can. If aspects of the change are not yet decided, tell them that too.

• Don’t make the mistake of thinking employees get all their information about the company from the company. They have plenty of other sources, from the financial news to the local news and from social media to social connections.