Stephen Burns

4 tips to make Podcasts your employees can actually use

itunes-podcast-app-logoTribe has always been a big proponent of Podcasts. And they’ve never been been a more effective communication tool. We covered the benefits of having a conversational tone with employees, and how Podcasts can help you make that connection and deliver pertinent information to large employee populations in a way that is easy and accessible. But simply having a Podcast does not equal more engagement. It’s a communication channel that needs to be used effectively in order to get results.

Here are a few tips to make your Podcast top notch:

1) Know your audience’s interests. What do your employees want to know about? It might help to send out a survey with possible topics, so you can see what people want to hear and create an editorial calendar. This can also act as an awareness campaign, and employees will feel more attached to the project if they feel they have had input. Above all, this is an employee resource. They don’t want to hear an executive pontificate in corporate platitudes. They want to hear about specific issues, the direction of the company and things that matter to them personally.

2) Have a plan. This tip is two-fold. First, have a subject itinerary for each show, so you don’t have “dead air”, inconsistent timing, or someone searching for what to say (umm, uhhh) on your recording. You can edit the content in post production, but if you have to go in and cut a lot, it can be time consuming. Outline what topics you want to cover and make it solid.

Second, have a plan for when you want to release the Podcast. One of the reasons the top Podcasts are so popular is because they put shows out regularly, usually on the same day every week, bi-weekly or monthly. The audience knows when a new one is coming out and will check back on their own volition. It’s helpful for you too to develop a rhythm to have that push to continue making content. But you also need to be prepared to stick to your plan if you make one.

3) Let the authority speak. It might be good to have a “host” for the company Podcast, someone who does it regularly and becomes a familiar voice, but it’s crucial for engagement for employees to hear the information straight from the horse’s mouth. If there is a financial Podcast, try and have the CFO speak about it; if it’s a marketing theme, have the CMO. You get the idea. This channel allows employees unique insight into the subjects that you cover, and having someone they don’t normally converse with speaking on such an intimate platform will make it seem like more of an insider’s view. The information will be more pertinent and valuable to employees.

4) Make it listenable. A good quality recording can make all the difference in how the Podcast is perceived and received. Loud background noises, hums, pops and breathing all detract from the content. They’re distracting, even on a subconscious level. Invest in a nice microphone, a pop filter and maybe even a shock mount to make your recordings sound as nice as possible. As we outlined in the aforementioned blog, a few companies are making USB microphones specifically for Podcasters and this would be a good, inexpensive way for you to make your recording sound as professional as possible.

Stephen Burns

How do you make company values “real”?

core-valuesYour company’s values are an integral part of your business. But they also need to extend outside day-to-day operations. They need to be engrained in your culture. They need to guide your decisions and your people. In short, they need to be something more dimensional than words on a page.

Show your employees how values impact them directly. They may not realize how connected their work is to your company values. Even if they’re living them everyday, if the connection isn’t clear, they may not see how they tie-in to the overall culture and the bigger picture of the company.

It’s up to you to create opportunities for conversations around your values. If your values are stagnate, they won’t resonate with employees. They’ll remain an idea, perhaps a good idea, but if they aren’t consciously in the daily dialogue, it will be hard for them to gain traction.

Here are three ideas from Tribe about how to make your company values real to employees, so that they not only embrace them but apply them in and outside the office.

1) Spotlight employees in an internal magazine

In Tribe’s experience, we’ve found employee spotlights to be one of the most highly read features in any company publication. Focus the spotlight articles on how employees have used one or more of the values in their individual jobs. This not only serves as recognition for those employees being featured, it also models that behavior for other employees and helps them understand what it looks like to use those values at work.

2) Provide conversation guides for managers

If your company holds pre-shift meetings, that’s a great opportunity to start some discussions about the values, particularly with any frontline or other non-desk employees who have less access to other channels of internal communications. Managers, however, often feel awkward about starting these sorts of conversations, or just don’t know where to start. Prepare them by developing talking points or conversation guides that explore a range of real-work situations where the values can be applied. For instance, you might create weekly discussion topics that illustrate various ways employees might use the values in their jobs.

3) Create recognition programs based on the values

Employees need to know the company is paying attention to those who are upholding the values. By recognizing employees who are living the values on the intranet, at an annual conference, or just in a departmental meeting, management communicates the message that they’re serious about the values being important. Including values in performance reviews. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” If employees know they’ll be evaluated on how well they apply the values in their jobs, they’re more likely to use to those values in day-to-day situations.

Stephen Burns

Do employees like your company’s social intranet?

social-mediaImplementing a social intranet, also known as an enterprise social network or ESN, is tough for large companies. There isn’t a formula for success. Rolling out a companywide tool takes a lot of time, effort, communication and collaboration. It can be tricky, but if you pull it off, there is no limit to the benefits a solid internal communications network can bring to your culture and organization.

The social network for the office is still an evolving tool. The phenomenon is relatively new, as the latest extension of the time-tested company intranet. But enough companies have taken the leap and worked with the concept long enough to where we are finally seeing some conclusive feedback.

The wonderful folks over at Simply Communicate surveyed over 70 enterprises with a “Social Intranet Barometer” to examine emerging trends — “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Here is a summary of their findings. There were mixed reviews for certain, but there were also positive signs. And the majority of the pitfalls lay not with the technology, but adoption and rollout.

“Management increasingly understand the value of social and collaborative platforms”

“The survey results point to a growing use of social and collaborative platforms; however, they confirm… that adoption and demonstrable success are patchy.”

“…overall adoption rates reflect widespread concern that social and collaborative platforms are failing to realize the highest hopes of their most vocal advocates.”

“There is rarely adequate budget for launching and promoting use.”

The technology will evolve, but in order for a social intranet to truly work, your company has to evolve, too. And employees need to be prepared for what is and, should be treated as, an extensive company change. Internal communications can often be taken for granted, but when you’re investing so much in a tool that could be the edge you need for success, it’s worth doing the leg work necessary to make it connect with your employee base.

Still wondering an enterprise social network the right tool for your company? Maybe you’ve implemented an ESN that isn’t gaining much traction or perhaps you’ve been weary to take that first step. Tribe can help you build your own ESN survey or work with you to find the best ways to introduce these tools to your employees.

Stephen Burns

How do Millenials define leadership?

It seems the Millenial generation of workers are redefining the term. In Tribe’s research with Fortune 100-company employees under age 35, we found that these younger workers consider building a strong team and good relationships to be high indicators of leadership.

To Gen X and Gen Y employees, being a leader means:

• Inspiring others to do their best (76%)
• Helping to develop other members of the team (63%)
• Building strong relationships above and below in the company (59%)

What does that mean for your company? According to Forbes, “[The] ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.” Moving forward, think about where the strengths of Millenials lie: in technology, network building and diversity. Creating an environment centered on these ideals is key to investing in the next generation of the workforce.

How can you use this changing mindset to your advantage? The type of leadership Millenials crave is one that is rooted in transparency, open-door policies and, perhaps most importantly, building an office that thrives on teamwork. In Tribe’s research, we’ve found that these are things that most employee, regardless of generation, can identify with.

The days of “climbing the corporate ladder” are coming to an end. Corporate vernacular is moving away from the image of a “ladder”, in terms of success, instead using the lattice as a representation of the ideal. We’re no longer clambering to get to the top as individuals, we’re supporting each other and finding success together.

Need help reaching Millenials or bridging the generational gaps in your office? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.

Stephen Burns

Time Warner Cable and the art of being upfront

time-warner-cable-change-hed-2016-1You may have seen Time Warner Cable’s new ad campaign about the company changing. “Changing for Good”, in fact. That’s the slogan. With access to more channels, newer technologies and a focus on customer service, there’s a sweeping effort coming from TWC, as well as Comcast, Charter and the other cable giants to show customers that cable companies are different now. Really and truly different.

Well, actually, they aren’t that different. Beside the new technology, which has updated consistently but glacially through the years, not much has really changed. They’ll still be late, but instead of a four-hour window of time for arrival, they give you a one-hour window. They’re 98.8% sure they can hit that. And they’ll send you a notification when they’re on the way. That seems to be it.

But there is a lot of merit in this particular campaign.  Sure, they aren’t making massive changes in policy, price or customer service — the important stuff. Regardless of (my) personal vendettas against the cable companies, one has to acknowledge the vast networks of employees, data and technology that these companies have to manage. Yes, I’m calling for sympathy for the much-maligned cable companies. Don’t shoot. They’re admitting that they’ve messed up. You may see the sentiment as “the least they could do,” communicating the fact that they have been terrible, but this is the first step. There may be real changes on the horizon. And as a customer they’re telling you one, very important thing: no matter the changes, they’ll be communicated to you.

Companies can take a lesson from the transparency demonstrated here. Change management is one of the toughest areas of internal communication. Even at the helm of the company, leaders may not know exactly how changes will unfold. You may feel like you can’t communicate unless you have all the answers. As a result, managers may not feel well informed about what’s happening, and employees will feel out of the loop. The truth of the matter is, no news does not mean good news in the corporate world. People need to know what’s happening, no matter what.

Hence, there is one cardinal rule in change management: communicate. So, you may not know what’s happening exactly. Tell employees everything you do know. Give your people a heads-up that there are certain possibilities on the horizon. What’s truly important is keeping everyone on the same page, and showing them that they can trust you to continue that communication. With that trust comes the confidence to weather the changes and even voice improvements and opinions as to how the changes can happen as smoothly as possible.

Want to find the best ways to communicate change with employees? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.

Stephen Burns

Find your company communications champion

bigstock-Cheering-Crowd-25662716Internal communications campaigns are some of the hardest to get off the ground. This is, in part, because they often require an extra effort from employees in order to be effective. Even if you have a dedicated communications team, a successful campaign, be it the launching of a new intranet, digital signage for employees or a new weekly newsletter, requires employees from all departments to take action above and beyond their normal, everyday duties.

You need to hit the ground running with a big launch, but there is also the issue of sustaining the message. The key to creating an impactful campaign is creating a resource that employees need and want to use in their daily work. Ideally, you would do this right off the bat, the resource would be adopted completely, people would start using it in their everyday work, and boom, you’ve got a success on your hands. But it is never that easy. You’ll always have some sluggish adoption, some resistance for one reason or another. If you want to plant the seeds for a successful campaign, there is a huge factor that a lot of folks tend to overlook.

Your campaign needs champions out in the field. These are your seeds, your hype people, your go-getters, people who can get excited about new initiatives and spark the imaginations of others. If you are introducing a new technology or channel, they get a beta version. If you’re launching a new digital signage campaign or newsletter, they are your content managers. They are natural momentum builders, because they spread the word about the project or initiative in a way that doesn’t seem forced. They give a word-of-mouth element to your campaign that truly stirs something up in the employee population.

So, how do you find your champions? At Tribe, we always joke that you should look for the person in the craziest Christmas sweater, and essentially that’s not too far off. Your champions are going to be extroverted, influential, individualistic and open-minded. And they can’t be a part of the traditional communications team. They need to be proof that this new initiative can work for everyone in their daily routines no matter the department. They also need to be able to make the benefits of your initiative apparent to employees around them.

This makes the growth of your initiative organic and that’s what makes things stick. You want your new campaign to have grassroots strength and to be a natural progression in your company’s internal communications. You can have all the support you need from the executive team, managers and budget, but if the employees aren’t convinced, it’s going to fall short. Having an employee champion your initiative is a key part to building that momentum early on, so by launch day, you’ve already created something that employees want to have and use.

Who are your champions? With surveys, discovery and unique engagement strategies, Tribe can help you find out. Give us a call.

Stephen Burns

Making BYOD work for your company

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a trend that has been building in the internal comms world for a while now. And why not? Just about everybody on the planet has a smartphone or other smart device. There are a multitude of great apps that can give your company a great channel for employees to connect and collaborate. Best of all, the apps are intuitive, and employees are becoming increasingly familiar with the interfaces, so training and other related expenses are at a minimum. Is your company taking advantage?

It might be time to do a sort of audit on your internal communication channels. In Tribe’s research, we’ve found that a lot of employees are already on board the BYOD train. It’s very likely that there are large groups in your company using one of the aforementioned apps to great effect. Surveying employees can help identify these trends that are already happening in your company, so that you can build on them and help officially promote them companywide.

Still worried about your company’s security? It could be time to stop. These apps and the information “clouds” that make them tick are becoming more and more secure. While it is important to keep a tight lid on trade secrets, personnel and customer information, you don’t need to sacrifice what could be a beneficial communication tool. You can maintain a secure, onsite channel to communicate about those topics, and reserve the mobile channel for day-to-day tasks and collaboration.

With all the options out there, it can still be a challenge to find the right way to connect your employees and their devices.  Start by having a conversation with your people. Find out what your employees want and what your company needs. And if you need someone to navigate the waters of BYOD, give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.

Stephen Burns

In company communications, consistency is key.

I have to admit something: Ringo is my favorite Beatle. The poor drummer is often regarded as the least talented member of the group (which is actually a compliment if directed at any other musician). And even though it is hard to stand out amongst three of the most talented musicians to ever to be recorded, Ringo gets a bad rap. He certainly isn’t the flashiest drummer. But he was innovative, and the backbone of arguably the best band in the world. George Harrison noted that Starr almost never needed a second take in the studio, and when the band broke up, Harrison and Lennon both called upon the drummer to play on their solo records. 1973’s “Ringo” was also the only solo Beatle record to feature all four members of the band.

So why is poor Ringo overlooked when most people think of Rock n’ Roll’s great drummers? Well, simply put, consistency is underrated. It isn’t necessarily a marquee-worthy attribute, but it is something that people on rely on, whether they realize it or not. Just as Ringo’s steady tom-roll rhythm makes “Come Together” the standout classic tune that it is, steady, consistent leadership and communication can make or break your business.

Consistency allows the same message to reach everyone’s ears. The effectiveness of your company’s communications depends on information traveling from leaders to managers to staff to new staff and so on. If the message is inconsistent, if details are left out and visions are miscommunicated, the boat starts to change course, if only slightly. But a subtle variation in the beginning yields a vastly different direction over time. To ensure that the message is consistent, be it the company’s values, purpose, vision or anything else, leaders need to communicate clearly and often. The message can then disperse throughout the company successfully.

Consistency is necessary for a purpose and strategy. Everyone in your company needs to be on board the same ship, working toward the same goal. They also need a defined battle plan. At the risk of mixing in a fourth metaphor, I’ll just come right out and say it: employees can’t guess what those things are. And they shouldn’t have to. Your business goals, and the things that support those goals, need to play a part in your everyday communications, so that people can be reminded of what drives the business.

Don’t let your company’s communications turn into a game of “Telephone.” If the people you work with know the pillars of your company from day one, they’ll better understand how they work in your company, and that will allow them to work smarter for your company. Being consistent in leadership and communication helps employees to really get behind your business and play active roles in the evolution of your company.

Stephen Burns

How do you determine your company’s culture?

In an ideal world, your company’s culture stems and grows organically from day one. It’s a grassroots force that spreads from employee to employee, that continues to grow and evolve to support your business.

But often, companies grow rapidly and culture gets lost in the hurried pace of business. Culture takes time to resonate with people. If a company is opening offices and acquiring new partners, especially globally, it can be hard to unite employees under a common culture.

Companies need to evaluate their culture in order to connect with employees. Elements of cultures are undoubtedly growing amongst employees. Your company can really gain an advantage from uniting what is already out there. From a cohesive culture, employees can communicate easier and more effectively. It also helps to ground your business and lets employees understand both your company purpose and their personal purpose within your company.

Here are three steps from Tribe to help discover what makes your company culture tick.

1) Leadership Interviews

Start at the top, by sitting down with members of the leadership team to discuss where they would like their culture to be. Ask about their vision for the organization, as well as their mission and values. Get them to talk about their one-year or five-year goals for the business. You can’t develop a communications plan to align employees with the vision if you don’t understand what that vision looks like.

2) Employee Interviews or Focus Groups

This can be done one on one, either in person or by phone, or in group sessions, although like any focus group, one strong personality can dominate the discussion without a skilled moderator to foster more inclusion. For a representative sample, make sure you’re including employees of different business units, geography, seniority, gender, ethnicity and from functions that cover the gamut from sales to enterprise services to manufacturing or the frontline. This is a time consuming stage, but will provide some of the most critical insights for strategic development.

3) Employee Survey

Surveys allow you to quantify the themes and issues you’ve uncovered in the qualitative stages of Discovery and to gather more general cultural statistics about the employee population. The most useful surveys are structured in ways that allow for a close look at the cultural differences between business units and other silos, geography and demographics. An effective cadence for a comprehensive survey is once or twice a year. Including a number of open-ended questions helps ferret out the intention behind the responses. But keep in mind that it’s important to build in an appropriate level of anonymity so that employees feel safe in answering openly. For a couple of reasons, employee surveys should be fielded regularly. First, these are important tools that measure changes or improvements and allow leaders to understand what’s going on inside the company. Second, if surveys only occur in the midst of major change, lots of angst and negative energy can become associated with an otherwise helpful tool.

Stephen Burns

The elements of a highly engaged employee

We often discuss the benefits of an engaged employee. And they are almost endless, as far as your company is concerned. A more engaged employee means increased productivity, creativity, collaboration and, in general, evolution of talent within the business. Employees also benefit from being engaged by feeling more appreciated and integral to the success of the company, and having a true voice with the power to create real change.

What actually makes an engaged employee engaged? This question usually conjures up visions of programs and brand new channels, some of which may be necessary to facilitate the types of communication necessary to engage. But there are much more basic elements that happen on a day-to-day basis that affect employees’ answer to the question, “Do you feel highly engaged?”

The good folks across the pond at Energi People have broken it down. And as you can see, most of the criteria are things that can be achieved without sweeping changes to your company’s infrastructure. They are small but powerful strategies that, with the right approach and coaching, can be incredibly effective in the engagement portion of your company’s communications.

employeeengagementproductivity

via Energi People

Need help finding the best ways to implement these strategies? Tribe works with your company’s leadership and management to find the best ways to communicate and engage. Give us a call. We’d love to help.