Including everyone: Scale employee events for smaller offices and remote employees

Employee events are a fantastic way to build engagement. At Tribe, we often recommend events at the launch of a new enterprise strategy, leadership vision or rebranding. They provide an experience for employees that is unlike anything we can do through print or digital or even video channels.

But it’s tempting to focus the event just on those working 9-5 at the corporate headquarters. Those in other geographic locations, or in call centers, or working night shifts are often deemed just to difficult to include for a wide range of reasons. Home-based employees are usually excluded as well. After all, how can you create an event for one person?

At Tribe, we’ve found ways to include all those employee populations in events in meaningful ways. Here are three tips to expanding your reach when planning an employee event:

  1. Scale the event materials by office: Although it may not be practical to stage an event of the same magnitude in every global outpost, you can scale back the materials and activities to suit. We recently worked with a client on a rebranding event. The corporate headquarters was the epicenter of the happenings, but we threw similar events simultaneously in another US office and in a few smaller European offices. Working with a representative from each location, we determined the appropriate number of elements and the right agenda for each.
  2. Find ways to accommodate employees who can’t attend when everybody else does: When we worked on a vision event with a large healthcare system on the west coast, we had to consider that all the doctors and nurses couldn’t come strolling over to the event at the same time. Likewise, those working the graveyard shifts would miss the whole thing. So instead of what otherwise have been a two-hour window for the event, we stretched the time period so that people could come whenever they had a break in the action. This approach is also helpful with call centers or other locations where somebody’s got to be manning the fort at all times. For the night shifts, we held a separate event and instead of serving lunch, we served midnight hotdogs and barbecue. You wouldn’t believe how much it meant to those people that we staged an event in the middle of the night, just to make sure they weren’t left out.
  3. Send remote employees a mini-event: Often we’ll ship individual events-in-a-box to home-based employees. It might include a letter from the CEO on the cultural or business milestone the event is meant to mark, the same branded swag available at the event — from t-shirts to travel coffee mugs — and even refreshments, such as a branded cookie or box of mints. Recently, we included a confetti cannon to add a festive note to the at-home celebrations. We’ve also included online scavenger hunts when launching a new intranet and themed photo contests. Home-based employees can participate in those activities the same way those in the corporate office do.

Interested in learning how to engage more people in your employee events? Tribe can  help.

Are you sharing your company’s story?

Every company has a story. If the narrative is not being shared, you’re missing a chance to engage employees in being part of both the company’s legacy and its future.

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.

UPS, to use an actual company as an example, has been in business for the past century. Although today they not only deliver packages but also handle supply chain, logistics,  and run retail stores, they’re still focused on the same thing: helping their customers move things reliably from one place to another.

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 bigger than themselves. And it helps them see how their individual roles contribute to the overall success and ongoing legacy of the company.

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

 

Who wants what: Life stages and the EVP

The employee value proposition helps employees see beyond compensation and benefits to the larger picture. Although there are other elements of the EVP that attract top talent and keep your best employees in place, it’s safe to say all employees care about their pay and insurance.

Beyond that, many elements of the EVP will be different for each individual. Some people are looking for a company where they can enjoy a better work-life balance.  Other employees might secretly enjoy racking up air miles and staying in hotels all over the world. Some folks want to be able to wear T-shirts and flip flops to the office. Hourly workers in positions that don’t promise much career advancement might appreciate tuition assistance to get that college degree.

Although we can’t assume that diverse personalities will want the same things, people in certain life stages often want similar perks. New parents might particularly value the options of flex time or working from home. Those in the early stages of their careers will likely be looking for a company with a great deal of opportunity for growth. Although Gen Y employees often rank meaningful work high on their lists, that factor can also be a big deal to many Boomers.

The EVP provides answers to the employee’s question, “What’s in it for me?” It’s wise to remember, however, that the right answers will be different according to what any individual employee values most in life.

Ready to explore your employee value proposition? Tribe can help.

Internal communications and change management

Internal communications are an integral part to any successful company. Truly communicating with employees is the key to creating a productive, creative and open office environment. Simply put, engaged employees are happy employees.

Perhaps the most important role they play is guiding employees through big company changes. When leadership is shifting, if the vision or the direction of your business is changing or even if the future of the company is becoming uncertain, communicating with employees can help reduce or alleviate your employees’ stress and reassure them that you’re looking out for their best interests. Here are six things you can do to help employees through company change.

1) Have respect for the employee. The most effective change communications are built on a foundation of respect for the individual. That means treating employees like the intelligent adults they are, as well as putting ourselves in their shoes. We often talk about the Golden Rule of Change: If you were an employee impacted by this change, how would you want to be treated?

2) Be aware that knowledge is power. And it also makes people more comfortable. We recommend beginning communications to foreshadow the change as early as possible. Some companies feel they should wait until they know all the details of how things will shake out, but in our experience employees prefer to know earlier, even if there are gaps in the information you can share.

3) Know that it’s ok not to have all the answers. Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them everything right now. What causes them much more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something’s afoot and management isn’t telling them about it. We advise clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know yet, but I’ll tell you when I do,” or even “We can’t share that information, but I can tell you such and such.”

4) Acknowledge the two big fears. Why are people so afraid of change? In the workplace, it usually comes down to two major questions: Will this make my job more difficult? And will I lose my job? We encourage clients to talk about both. You can bet their employees are.

5) Recognize individual differences. Since they happen to be actual human beings, each employee is unique. They won’t have the same psychological or emotional reactions to change. They will also have their own individual preferences when it comes to how they like to receive information. To support a change, it’s helpful to offer communications in a wide range of channels. From a section on the intranet that’s frequently updated to printed materials to face-to-face interaction. You also may want some train-the-trainer tools to help people managers know how to communicate the change to their teams.

6) Remember: trust trumps all. Your most valuable asset in any change is the trust your employees already have in the company’s management. Without it, any change will throw people into a higher level of stress. If your company is fortunate enough to have built a strong equity of trust in its leadership, your job as a change manager becomes much easier.

What makes a company’s communications authentic?

This week, I heard an interesting discussion concerning authenticity in social media. Mark Schaefer, in his podcast “Marketplace Companion“, took a look at how companies carry themselves on social media, what appeals to viewers and customers as far as a company’s “character,” and if it was even possible to be “strategically authentic.”

This authenticity is key to connecting with customers, Schaefer asserts, and creating a celebrated brand. They described social media as a company’s public resumé, something that will stay visible as public record, track your behavior and exist as something you’ll always be measured against. With your brand in the public eye, everything you say, every conversation you have reflects on you. And, as Schaefer says, “You’re never off.”

It’s one thing to create a more personified company brand to consumers, it’s another entirely to create one that is internally-facing.  You can create a social media brand for your company, but consumers only see that side of things and it’s easier to control. Employees, on the other hand, see all sides of the company and understand all the dimensions of the business. Transparency is key, and inauthenticity is easier to spot.

What is the difference between transparency and authenticity? Schaefer describes transparency as your “words and actions being congruent with how things actually are.” That’s not entirely dissimilar from authenticity. The distinguishing factor, though is being intellectually honest versus simply disclosing everything.

How do you create an authentic company “persona”? Think about the public resumé precedent Schaefer sets. Having a smaller audience within a company, this record is going to be even longer, so consistency is key. To create a trusted internal brand, you have to pick a voice and a cadence and stick with it. That means maintaining thorough communications throughout company changes, but it also means keeping up with correspondence during down times.

It’s important to consider the source. In order to be authentic, your company communications need to come straight from the horse’s mouth. If your HR team is handling all internal communications, at times it will seem inauthentic. Let HR communicate HR issues, let the finance team relay financial news, encourage marketing to speak about their latest initiatives, and perhaps most importantly, let the executive team speak about company news and issues. If you have an executive blog, don’t allow someone who has never even met the CEO create his voice. Employees pick up on this kind of stuff fast, and once you lose their trust, it’s incredibly hard to re-gain.

Aligning your company’s internal communications with your business goals

Odds are, your company started out with a mission in mind. This is the reason you set out. It defines what makes you unique, what separates you from the competition and it gives you a purpose for your work. Your business as a whole needs an end goal in order to be successful. It’s crucial for you and your employees to be on the same path with their eyes on the same prize. Internal communications is what helps this initiative come together.

Your mission is your destination, but it’s also your foundation. A business goal is not something that one day you’ll achieve and your quest will be over. A business goal is the way that you’ve chosen to define your journey. It’s also the basis on which you should communicate with your team. How and when you reach out to your team should reflect the goals you’re trying to achieve.

Here are three benefits to starting with the end in mind:

1) You need a road map to know where you’re going. The strategic communications plan helps to keep everyone moving in the same direction. It’s what provides the structure on which you can build employee engagement in reaching those business objectives. As an example, let’s say one of your company’s business objectives is to increase innovation through collaboration. When you know that’s a focus, you can choose channels that support that goal, like an idea-vetting site or collaborative features on your intranet. Even before you start developing your messaging, you’ve begun to pave the way for changing employee behavior.

2) It allows you to be more proactive. There will always be late breaking news or changes that require turning on a dime, but with a plan in place, you’ll minimize your need to be reactive or tactical. A clear plan provides you with the luxury of being proactive. For instance, perhaps somewhere in the company’s future, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll be bought by another company. Well before you reach that juncture, you can lay the groundwork for smoother change by building employee trust in management. You might decide to add a weekly CEO blog to your mix, to provide two-way communication channels or even to find opportunities for leadership to share some bad news as well as the good, to assure employees that management communicates honestly and transparently.

3) It helps you create synergy. A well-developed plan helps your communications become larger than the sum of their parts. You can use some channels to build traffic to other channels, or look for places you can weave in underlying messages. Perhaps you’ll realize your recognition communications are a good place to include messaging on the company vision and values. There are any number of ways your communications can support or build on each other.

Avoiding the trap of treating employees like a second-class audience

Why would we treat employees any differently than we’d treat prospective customers? If it’s important to communicate a message to employees, then it’s worth putting the same attention to detail and quality of execution into the work as we would with external communications.

Tribe’s experience is that many companies don’t make this a priority. After getting to the finish line recently with a fairly complex internal communications piece, the timing of some of the marketing elements had shifted which rendered some of the details incorrect. Because of the expense of reprinting the physical piece, a decision was made to send a note accompanying the piece explaining the last-minute changes and that some of the information was incorrect.

The company wouldn’t send a note along with a TV spot explaining that some of the details are wrong. If the piece had been intended for consumers, you can be sure the materials would be revised – whatever the cost. I’ve been there and done that. Heads might roll, but the company would never knowingly send out consumer marketing that’s wrong.

Companies typically spend tens of millions, hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars per year to reach consumers. Research and results in the marketplace tell these marketers that this is money well spent. After all, we don’t know exactly who these consumers are, so it takes a large investment to find those consumers in order to build demand and loyalty for our products.

However, the inverse argument is a weak one. Some would say that since we know exactly who our employees are, we don’t need to assign the same importance, or budgets, for internal communications and the employee brand. This supports the view that employees are second-class citizens and a fine place to cut corners and costs whenever necessary.

At Tribe, we see the employer brand as the intersection of the consumer promise and whether that promise is kept. Employees are consumers. They’re bombarded with brand communications every day. They can discern thoughtful communications from boring mumbo jumbo. As internal communications professionals, our job is to understand what’s being promised externally and ensure that we’re matching that promise step for step internally.

We recommend the same high standards for internal communications as the company’s external marketing. As communications professionals, we need to understand the business need and objectives behind any internal campaign. It should be interesting and engaging. It should involve multiple channels to ensure that our audience is reached. We should be able to measure the effectiveness of the campaign in order to improve our efforts the next time around.

The great news is that we don’t need tens of millions of dollars to execute effective internal communications plans. We know who our target audience is. But effective internal communications does require a focused and intense effort to ensure that what we’re living internally matches what we’re saying externally.

Interested in improving the caliber and effectiveness of your internal communications? Maybe Tribe can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CX depends on EX: The link between Voice of Customer and Voice of Employee

To improve your CX, work on your EX. The employees are the ones delivering that customer experience, so it makes sense to check in with them to see how it’s going. Do they have the tools and processes in place to make customers happy? Are there issues that come up again and again as customer complaints? Maybe they are frustrated by their inability to solve customer problems because they’re not empowered to make the decisions that could make it right.

Just like the company depends on Voice of the Customer, it’s helpful to listen to the Voice of Employee. When Tribe begins work with a large company, we often find that the top layer of management is a little out of touch with the rank and file employees. This isn’t because they don’t care – far from it – but because they don’t rub shoulders with frontline employees on a regular basis.

In our Discovery phase of a strategic communications plan, we recommend talking with employees as well as management. In focus groups, one-on-one conversations or phone interviews, we ask employees about their experiences. What do they love about their jobs? What are the challenges? How does the typical day unfold for them? What’s the culture like, compared to other places they’ve worked?

Hearing about the employee experience can reveal easy fixes and larger challenges. Most importantly, it suggests and informs strategies for closing the gap between the desired culture and the current reality.

A stronger culture and a better EX lead naturally to more engaged employees and thus an improved CX. In a 2014 study by the Temkin Group, highly engaged employees were “more than three times likely to do something good for their employer, even if it’s not expected of them; almost three times as likely to make a recommendation about an improvement at work; more than 2.5 times as likely to stay late at work if something needs to be done; and more than two times as likely to help someone else at work.” Those are exactly the sort of things that lead to above-and-beyond service and improved customer experiences.

It’s a logical chain of events. If you listen to the VOE, and improve the EX, then you’re more likely to hear from the VOC that you’ve created a better CX.

Interested in learning from the voice of your company’s employees? Tribe can help.

Pairing digital and print pieces for maximum engagement

Many internal communications teams are minimizing print in favor of digital materials. At Tribe, we often include print publications in our communication plans for clients, partly because employees receive so much digital communication. Print now breaks through just by being a different medium.

There are also some obvious advantages to print. For example, you don’t have to worry about your print magazine getting below 10% battery. And for communications intended to inspire company pride, communicate vision and share values, there’s something powerful about the relative permanence of print. People like to be able to hold the physical piece.

Digital has its advantages as well. Whether it’s Wi-Fi, your smart phone’s hotspot or an LTE signal, a huge majority of employees access the web daily in their everyday lives. Embedding printed pieces into a website, app or even on the company intranet gives employees the opportunity to reference materials whenever they want.

What if you pair both technologies? We believe this is one of the most powerful ways to display say, an internal magazine. Printed pieces can be sent out individually or placed strategically throughout your organization to increase impressions. Creating a digital publication of the same magazine can also help increase readership but grants access to it at anytime (as long as you have internet access).

This is good for targeting different employee demographics. Millennials may be more likely to access the magazine from iPads and smartphones. Generation X and Boomers might prefer to view on their laptops or reach for a printed piece. Giving your employees flexibility and increasing convenience shows respect for them as individuals.

We’ve recently reviewed a number of options for refreshing the way we provide digital versions of our internal communications magazine, the Tribe Report, on the Tribe website. After considering Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, FlipCreator, and FlipSnack (just to name a few) we decided on Joomag.

Joomag is extremely cost efficient compared to programs like FlipCreator and Adobe DPS, which come with costly licensing fees. It’s also very user friendly. All you need is a pdf of your publication. You don’t need any design background or skill to use the software. Although, it can help and they do offer magazine templates and an online editor which give you the option of creating a magazine entirely with Joomag.

There are many other benefits like analytic reports, charging subscription prices, adding music and galleries, embedding videos, and more. To view the published Joomag of the most recent Tribe report, follow this link.

Interested in finding a balance of print and digital for your internal communications? Tribe can help.