Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

84% of Employees Say Change Management Communications Handled Poorly

In Tribe’s employee research, 84 percent feel that communications about major changes in their companies are handled poorly. If you’re interested in your employees falling into that 84 percent, here 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.

Want some guidance in handling change communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Connect Employees to Something Bigger by Telling the Company Story

Do your employees feel like they’re helping to write the story of the company? Perhaps the most important goal of internal communications is to help employees see how their individual roles connect to the big picture. They need to connect the dots between the work they do every single day and the success of the company.

The company story can be an invitation for employees and prospects to join the experience. Make the story relevant for corporate employees but also those in the manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and other production jobs. People on the factory floor should know that they’re creating a product that provides people with something that makes their lives better in some way.

Look for the golden thread of purpose that has always run throughout the company’s history. Although business strategies and even the organization of the business may have changed dramatically since the beginning, there’s likely a perennial purpose that’s been there year after year. For instance, an IT company may be using entirely different technology and providing new sorts of services than it was even a few years ago. But look for the reason why the company exists, the need it fills for its clients. In that example, maybe the company purpose is and was to help clients’ technology work flawlessly so they can focus on their own business instead.

What channels would you use to tell the company story? Tribe often creates what we call vision books for clients, in which we help the company articulate the vision and values of the company. This is an ideal tool for telling the company story, for a variety of reasons.

The company narrative can also be told in almost any other channel. Tell it in the employee magazine, on the intranet, as part of a company anniversary event. We’ve even incorporated colorful gems of company history in digital signage.

The importance of the story is that it connects employees to something larger than themselves. Being an integral part of the whole makes work more meaningful, and more meaningful work builds employee engagement.

Interested in telling your company’s story? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Insider Tips: How To Get Your Agency’s Best Work

iStock_000040279026_SmileWhether you’re talking advertising, digital marketing or internal communications, partnering with an agency can be a powerful way to make things happen. There’s nothing quite like having a team of talented professionals with relevant expertise on your side.

But how do you get their best work? And what makes one agency relationship a true pleasure while another makes you gnash your teeth in frustration? Here are four suggestions for making magic with your agency partners:

  1. Hire the best, not the cheapest. If you choose an agency by selecting the low-cost leader, you’re likely to get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you have to throw money at an agency to get attention. Small clients can sometimes be an agency’s favorite clients. Look closely at the work the agency has done for other accounts. Do you admire that work? Does it seem smart? Does it look fantastic? Also pay attention to chemistry. Do you enjoy the time you spend talking to the agency folks? Does your gut tell you that they’re excited about working with you? Do you trust them?
  2. Give the agency what they need to do the work. Take the time to prep before you hand off a project to your agency. Setting them loose without all the materials or information they’ll need can result in spinning wheels and unnecessary revisions. (Unnecessary revisions are something you definitely want to avoid, if you’re hoping to get your agency’s best work.) Does the agency need background documents or research results that will be important for developing strategy? Does the creative team have your brand standards? Have you given them the specs for your deliverables? This sort of stuff seems like small potatoes, but it all slows down the process and/or sends your agency off to do your work without being equipped to do it.
  3.  Don’t let projects sit. When the agency gives you work for review, get your responses back to them in a day or two. Keep the process moving forward, providing feedback when needed and meeting the milestones on the agency timeline. If there are other decision makers involved, work to give collective feedback from the entire group, rather than making each person’s revisions before sending on to the next reviewer. Most importantly, keep the communication flowing. Don’t go dark on your agency. Work rarely gets better when it sits for weeks, and it takes everyone on the team time to get up to speed again and remember what your project is all about.
  4. Be nice. Both you and the agency want the same thing: great work. So remember you’re on the same side. A little common courtesy can go a long way. When your agency meets a tight timeline, let them know you appreciate it. When you need revisions, communicate that with an attitude of respect. It’s amazing how happy agency people can be to bend over backwards for the clients they enjoy working with.

Interested in partnering with an internal communications agency? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Flexibility Trumps Foosball: Employees Want Control Over Their Workdays

papiroIn companies working aggressively to recruit and retain employees (think Silicon Valley), you’ll find workplaces with a long list of perks. A break room fridge stocked with energy drinks is nothing without on-site chair massage, professional housecleaning services, and an employee concierge to pick up dry cleaning, groceries and run errands.

Yet the perk employees value most, according to McKinsey research and other studies, is flexibility in when and where they work, says Fast Company.

“A new study by career site FairyGodBoss shows that, after compensation, flexible hours trump every other factor when women are deciding on a job offer, regardless of their age or whether they have children. A recent study by McKinsey & Company finds that millennials of both genders are more likely to accept a job offer from a company that offers flexible work schedules.

“Yet what drives most company’s recruitment efforts is demonstrating that it’s a ‘cool’ or ‘fun’ place to work. Instead of investing in ways to innovate flexibility, many companies are still spending money on foosball tables, onsite yoga, and free food. ‘Flexibility will become the norm for employers who want to win the war on talent,’ says Joanna Barsh, director emerita for McKinsey & Company and author of Centered Leadership.

“Flexible work schedules don’t necessarily mean employees work from home every day. ‘Flexibility means I can control my time so I’m not stuck in meetings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I know what work I need to do, and you will trust me to get it done,” says Romy Newman, cofounder of FairyGodBoss.’

Employees value jobs that support them in a high quality of life, and that means more than a paycheck. Does the job accommodate their life or is their life compromised by the job? Do they have the flexibility to manage family responsibilities, whether that means kids or aging parents? Are they doing work that makes them excited to get up and come to work in the morning? In short, does the job make their life better?

All that being said, there’s nothing wrong with a chair massage. Relaxing those tense shoulder muscles can also make life better. As can foosball.

Interesting in improving your recruiting and retention? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Origin of Brainstorming: Or Why It’s Not Something to Squeeze into that Meeting Agenda

osborn_foundationBrainstorming happens to be one of my least favorite words. In the corporate world, the term usually means a bunch of people in a conference room shouting out things that someone else scribbles on a whiteboard or flip chart. In my experience, it’s not the best way to generate truly creative ideas. It’s too loud, for one thing, to hear that quiet voice of inspiration. That voice is more apt to raise its hand when just a couple of people are kicking around ideas, or later when one of those people is in the shower, or driving a car, or cooking dinner. But there’s something else that bothers me about this brainstorming thing.

At least I now know who to blame for coining this word. It was Alex Osborn, one of the founding partners of BDO, later to become the advertising giant BBDO. (Oldies quiz for those who’ve been in Atlanta for decades: Remember the ad shop known as BDA/BBDO? When the receptionist answered the phone, it sounded like someone falling down a flight of stairs.) Osborn’s ideas on brainstorming were later expanded upon by academic Sidney Parnes, with whom he partnered to develop what they called the Creative Problem Solving Process, or CPS.

I have a vague memory of my father explaining the phases of CPS to me as a child, saying that it mirrored the general process of the way his firm practiced architecture. The rules Osborn came up with for brainstorming were rules I remember my father using with young architects, particularly the first of those rules. They’re also second nature for most art director-copywriter teams in ad agencies, at least those in which I’ve been involved.

  1. No criticism of ideas
  2. Go for large quantities of ideas
  3. Build on each others ideas
  4. Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas

There’s a tradition in ad agencies that says creative ideas come out of the creative department only. Any account executive who didn’t know better than to pipe up with a headline was quickly schooled by his elders. The way we work now is far too fluid for rigid boundaries of responsibility, and I think most of us in the business of selling creative ideas will take a good one where we find it.

What’s useful about that ad agency tradition, to my mind, is a respect for the hard work of generating ideas. Before the brilliant idea that comes in a flash, there are generally many, many bad ideas. Before any of those bad ideas, comes a period of immersion in the subject matter. Even before those particular bad ideas, there are often years and years of experience trying to think up ideas for a living. There’s a certain way of thinking, of using the brain, that can be honed over a career in a creative business.

Which leads us back to the original meaning of the word brainstorming. According to CPS, it’s a process of 1. fact finding, 2. problem finding, 3. Idea finding, 4. solution finding and 5. acceptance finding. So maybe I’m fine with the word brainstorming. I’m just not a fan of thinking that the entire process is easy.

Want a more creative approach to your internal communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Millennials: Is It a Generation Thing or Just a Life Stage?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAfCAAAAJGMyOWIwNDNlLTQ0ZjgtNGU0Mi1iZTAxLTJkZDMyOTgzN2E2MQ“Kids these days.” It’s not a new complaint. Millennials just happen to be the group we’re currently calling kids.

Even Socrates piled on. As quoted by Brian O’Malley in a great Forbes post, the father of Western philosophy said: “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect their elders, and love talking instead of exercise.”

Sounds familiar, right? O’Malley goes on to ask some interesting questions, among them: “Are millennials really that different from previous generations, or are we just describing young adults? As Patrick Wright, business professor at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina said, ‘From my standpoint, it’s not a generational thing. It’s actually a stage of life issue.'”

Some like to say Millennials are the worst workers in the history of the world  O’Malley confronts this common sentiment with data and insights that are welcome confirmation for those of us who are fans of this generation’s contributions in the workplace.

“Rather than typecasting millennials as unmotivated, lazy, or disloyal, it’s crucial to look at the larger macro trends in play. Companies used to invest significant amounts of time training new employees. It made sense, because the expectation was that these employees would stick around for decades. Investing in new blood was a long-term bet that paid off over time.”

Millennial job hopping is not necessarily a symptom of short attention spans. The pay off for loyalty to one company “began to change in the 1980s, when ‘you started to see healthy firms laying off workers, mainly for shareholder value,’ as well as “cuts in employee benefits—401(k)s instead of defined benefit pensions, and health care costs being pushed on to employees.”

Data frames this theory in a larger context:

  • “Jobs switching is a broader trend. In a recent study, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Baby Boomers changed jobs just as frequently, holding on average of 11.7 different jobs between the ages of 18-48. Most of the bouncing around happened when they were young—from the ages 18 to 24.
  • Millennials are more competitive than we give them credit. 59% said competition is “what gets them up in the morning,” compared with 50% of baby-boomers. Hardly the generation of slackers they’re cut out to be,69% of millennials see themselves in managerial roles in 10 years.
  • Millennials are more likely to comply with authority than their parents’ generation. 41% of millennials agreewith the statement, “Employees should do what their manager tells them, even when they can’t see the reason for it,” while only 30% of Boomers and Gen Xers agree.
  • Millennials are well prepared. Almost 70 percent of managers say that their young employees are equipped with skills that prior generations are not, around 82 percent are impressed with their tech savvy. Around 60 percent of managers say that the generation is full of quick learners.
  • Millennials are the best-educated generation. The White House Council of Economic Advisorsstates that in 2013, 47% of 25 to 34 year-olds had attained some kind of degree after high school, while graduate school enrollment saw a 35% jump between 1995 and 2010.

Beyond compensation and opportunity, millennials are looking for a sense of purpose in the workplace. When they can’t find it, the new generation is taking matters into its own hands. A further study by Elance-oDesk—now Upwork—claims that79% of millennials would consider the opportunity to work for themselves. Meanwhile, Babson College’s 2014 Global Entrepreneurship report claims that in 2014, 18% of Americans between 25 and 34 were either running or starting new businesses.”

Interested in improving your retention of Millennials? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Change Management: Avoid employee rumors by letting them know what’s really going on

 

Change Management: Avoid employee rumors by letting them know what’s really going on

Rumors are created to fill information voids. That’s number 17 of 21 “Internal Quotations for Internal Communications” included in a slideshare I stumbled across by Paul Barton of Phoenix, AZ. I don’t know Paul, but I like the way he thinks.

In fact most of the lines he quotes are things we say frequently at Tribe. Another of his slides, number 19, relates to the one above: “Employees should learn of important information affecting them and their organization from an internal source rather than an external source.” Number 18 as well: “In a crisis, internal communications is often the very thin thread that holds everyone and everything together.”

All three of these thoughts relate to the importance of being open and honest with employees during any major change. If you withhold information because you don’t want employees to know how bad it is, you can be fairly certain that what they’re imagining and telling each other is worse than the reality.

One of the best ways to destroy trust in your organization’s leadership is to share something big with the media, customers or shareholders before you tell employees. It’s easy to do unintentionally, especially when there’s time pressure to get out an announcement or press release to correlate with some major happening.

In fact, in Tribe’s research, that news needs to come from the top. In our national research with employees of large companies, major change was one of the few topics respondents said they strongly preferred hearing from company leadership rather than their direct managers.

This speaks to a measure of respect. In any major change or company crisis, beginning any internal communications from a place of respect for employees is the right place to start.

Does your company have a major change on the horizon? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Middle-Aged Millennials: Recruiting and Retaining These Mid-Career Professionals

HiResMany Millennials are now more than a decade into their careers. Although the bookend birth years of the generation vary depending on the researcher and/or media outlet, 1980 to 1994 is the block we use at Tribe to define the Millennial generation. That means the first Millennials are now 36.

They’re no longer those fresh college grads expecting an entry-level CEO position. They’ve done stuff. They know things. They’ve maybe even learned how to manage others. They’re valuable employees, not just for their potential but for their experience.

Yet employers are still flummoxed by this generation. How to recruit them and how to retain them remain issues that companies struggle to solve. Now that they’re the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, employers can no longer reduce the issue to throwing up their hands and exclaiming, “These darn kids these days!”

They’re not kids anymore, and they’re not kidding around about what they have to offer. So what does your company have to offer them?

This is a good time to reexamine your employer brand and your employee value proposition. Since Millennial employees (as well as their older colleagues, come to think of it) have more job options than any of us did during the recession, it’s worth investing time and money into making your company more competitive in the talent market.

What’s good for Millennials is often good for other generations too. For instance, Millennials value flexibility in terms of when and where they work. So do many Gen X and Boomer employees, whether they’re dealing with growing kids or aging parents or just the desire for work to accommodate the demands of their personal lives.

However, the most important element of the EVP for Millennials is the work itself. Sure, they expect work-life balance and constant feedback and an ethical organization. They appreciate being able to bring their dogs to the office and having a break room fridge stocked with energy drinks.

But the reason they’re drawn to one organization over another, and the reason they will stay or go, is the work they’re getting to do. Are they being challenged with opportunities to grow their careers? Are they given responsibility to run some projects of their own? Are they able to collaborate with other talented people? Do they see the work they’re doing being recognized for contributing to the overall success of the company? And is the vision of this company something that makes them excited to get to work every day?

Interested in defining your employer brand or EVP? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What Can Communications Professionals Do If Their Company Isn’t Already a “Chill Place?”

iStock_000088161219_skate“If your company  is a chill place, you won’t have to talk about it. It will be obvious the minute you walk in the door.” Could not agree more. The above is from Liz Ryan, author of a fantastic Forbes blog  titled “Please God, Can We Stop Talking About ‘Core Values?'”

“A lot of corporate and institutional weenies love to talk about Core Values, as though their organization’s values were somehow fundamentally different from every other organization’s values.” That’s another scathing but awesome line from her blog.

And this, perhaps, is my favorite bit: “I assume you lead your company with a human voice and choose trust over fear at every opportunity. If you do those things, you don’t need to stop and plumb the depths of your Core Values.” All of the above and more from her post is excellent advice for the CEO and his or her leadership team.

But what if you’re charged with communicating culture to employees in a company that isn’t totally chill? How can you help shift the culture towards what Ryan calls a “human place.”

The best thing you can do is to lead from where you are. Start your communications strategies from a place of respect for employees. Be the voice in the meeting that speaks up for being  honest with employees, even when it’s difficult. Put communication channels in place that give employees a way to share questions, concerns and comments — and then create systems for giving those employees a response. Advise your leadership to take the high road, even when that’s not what they want to hear.

While this is decidedly more difficult than working with a company that already has an enviable culture, it may have a more powerful impact on the world. As the bumper sticker version of Ghandi’s words says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Want a partner in helping to shift the culture at your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Communicating culture starts with the hiring process – even with the applicants you reject

SquareMost onboarding programs place an emphasis on sharing the company culture from the very first day an employee shows up for work. But that’s not where the process begins.

Exposure to the company culture begins with the hiring process. Whether you’re doing it intentionally or not, you’re communicating the culture to every single applicant, even those you don’t pursue.

How you treat the candidates you don’t end up hiring is just as important as the ones you do. No matter what the specifics of your culture may be, being rude is probably not a value you promote. Yet that’s what many companies are communicating, rejected applicant after rejected applicant.

In Tribe’s research on hiring practices, many companies let rejected job candidates fall into a black hole. Respondents reported that even after several interviews, they often received no notice that the job was filled with another applicant. Their calls and emails to their hiring contacts went unanswered. Understandably, this made a poor impression on job seekers.

Why should you care? Because 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.” Just as your company places a high value on word of mouth amongst consumers, it should take what job hunters say seriously as well.

Here’s the kicker though. Treating rejected applicants well can turn them into ambassadors for you company as a workplace. 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.”

This is low hanging fruit. By simply establishing hiring processes that treat all job applicants like they matter, you can potentially improve your ability to recruit top talent.

For instance, incorporating this one small step into your process can make a difference: If a candidate has taken the time to have an interview, even a phone interview, make sure you close the loop when you give the job to someone else.

Don’t worry so much about being the bearer of bad news. In our research, respondents overwhelmingly preferred knowing they didn’t get the job to being left hanging.

Interested in improving your hiring practices? Tribe can help.