Brittany Walker

Four tips to launch a successful ambassador program

You’ve got a great new communications channel, now what? In most cases the next step is to start producing news and information to keep employees informed. Establishing a successful internal communications platform like a well-rounded intranet, newsletter or digital signage is great, but the content shared through these channels is what keeps employees coming back for more.

Tribe recommends an ambassador program. Gathering, sorting and editing content from all segments of a company is a seemingly impossible feat, but we’ve got a solution. Here are four of our suggested tips for a successful ambassador program launch:

  1. Recruit the right team. A program of ambassadors positioned throughout the company can be a natural source of news across functional silos, business units or geographically scattered locations. However, the right employee is key. A successful ambassador is often a more junior employee eager to make a name for themselves. Energy level is more important than experience.
  1. Spread the word. Tribe usually recommends an announcement from management to reveal their team’s new ambassador(s). Communicating the news of the new ambassadors will have two purposes: letting employees know who they should go to with their news, and giving the ambassador the recognition they deserve.
  1. Provide the tools they need to be successful. Before ambassadors can become content managers they will need some guidance. Introducing training tools such as ways to find news, how to connect with newsmakers and what makes information newsworthy will go a long way in the successful launch of your program.
  1. Emphasize the WIIFM factor. The role of ambassador adds to the workload, so clearly outlining what’s in it for them is important. Good news for you, becoming an ambassador is a great opportunity for employees. Not only will they have the chance to stretch beyond their current job descriptions, they will be able to connect and learn from some of the people doing the most important work in the company.

Need help getting your ambassador program off the ground? Tribe would love to help.

 

Jeff Smith

Graphic Design: Why Slack Became the Messaging App of Choice For Employees

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 3.56.52 PM

Tribe has been a believer in Slack for a while now. Last year, we were looking for a better way to communicate in our office. We heard some great things about a few apps, but Slack stood out for one big reason. Employees around the world were adopting it independently and using it for work voluntarily. That type of phenomenon warrants investigation, so we tried it, and immediately, we understood the hype.

Today, Slack is being used by thousands of teams, from Al Jazeera to NASA’s Mars Rover team. The messaging app has caught on like wildfire. Why? It’s no real secret, but the answer might still surprise you: good design. It’s something that a lot of people take for granted, but it can make or break an application like this. It can be hard to distinguish yourself with features alone. Anyone can have video capability, @mentions, cloud storage, etc. But when you make all of those features easy to find, easy to use and fun to incorporate into a work routine, that’s when you really have something special.

 The intuitive, yet unexpected graphic design of the program is what helps Slack easily adapt to your daily work. According to Andrew Wilkinson, the founder of MetaLab, the company that did the design work for Slack, they initially weren’t necessarily aiming for anything in particular with the design.

 “Figuring out why something is successful in retrospect is like trying to describe the taste of water. It’s hard,” he says. “We aren’t big on process. We prefer to just put our heads down and design stuff, iterating over and over again until something feels right. Slack was no different —there wasn’t any magic process we used”

But MetaLab was using another messaging app, and they saw opportunities to improve existing apps simply through better graphic design. Where the old app would have grey borders, black type and blue links, they gave Slack a “confetti cannon” color scheme. Where the old apps had a loading screen, they put funny, inspirational quotes. In short, their design gave Slack a personality, and in so doing, they didn’t just give employees another messaging app – they gave them an ally.

 The lesson? Good design gets things done. This is battle that people in creative fields fight every day. Companies can’t seem to justify a budget for design because it’s just “making things look nicer” or adding color or a logo, but as we can see clearly here, design has made all the difference in Slack’s success. There isn’t some unattainable formula. It’s the hard work of talented individuals who find real solutions through good design. They understand the trials and tribulations of the workplace because they’ve been there, and their education and background allows them to approach the problem in a different way.

Could your workplace communications use a graphic design overhaul? Give Tribe a call. We know the value of good design, and 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.

Brittany Walker

3 Ways to Improve Internal Comms for “Free”

Custom communications solutions for free? You heard it right. In an industry where new technologies and services are sprouting up daily, and the options for subscriptions and add-ons seem endless, it can be difficult to navigate which solution is right for your team and your budget. Here are three Tribe-approved recommendations when going in free.

1.  Take a strategic approach. Before investing time in researching platforms, first determine the strategy behind why it’s needed. Whether it be reaching non-desk employees through a non-traditional channel, or grabbing the attention of employees in their already-overloaded inbox, it’s important to be clear on your goal. Different solutions are available to serve a multitude of needs, so defining the strategic plan is typically a great place to start.

2.  Invest in great design and development. When it comes to most basic, entry-level plans, custom design can take almost any resource from ordinary to engaging. And even more importantly, become cohesive with your brand. Tribe recommends resources like MailChimp and WordPress, which enable complete design freedom as part of their free subscriptions. With options like “code your own” and custom templates, you’ll be able to achieve the look, feel and functionality you’re after, all within the trusted portals of these established programs.

3.  Customize a template for future use and consistency. Measurement and analysis are important elements in communications strategy. Especially when it comes to capturing and quantifying employee engagement. Free surveying tools like those offered by SurveyMonkey can be a great resource for surveying employees, but can be a hassle when it comes to analyzing your results. Tribe recommends building custom spreadsheets and graphics to filter, analyze and showcase your results, based on your individual goals.

Know when to settle and when to splurge. Sometimes free options really are too good to be true, so it’s important to know where to draw the line. It’s all about knowing your need, and a lot of the time there are great, affordable options out there.

Need help navigating, sourcing and producing your communications tools? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Being The Best In Your Category Or Industry Is A Lot Like Being A Major League Pitcher

Baseball Pic 2I’m in awe of Major League pitchers who can throw the baseball a hundred miles per hour. A few years ago, I was at an expo at a sponsorship event and stepped into a pitching cage to see how fast I could throw a ball. I’m not completely un-athletic. But for me, sport is more about endurance than bat and ball types of things.

After lobbing the ball a few times to get warmed up, I wind up for the real thing. Forty-seven miles per hour. That couldn’t be right. So I wind up and give it everything I’ve got. Forty-six miles per hour. And now I have a newfound respect for major league hurlers.

So how does a major league pitcher make a ball fly at a hundred miles per hour and consistently hit an inches-wide target that’s ninety feet away? First, he practices pitching over and over for years and years. Then coaches and trainers meticulously hone his pitcher’s movements to ensure absolutely perfect form that won’t break down under pressure. Finally, and probably most importantly, the pitcher calls on every part of his body to participate in the process.

Sportscasters say, “that pitcher has a great arm.” But it’s not just the arm that throws the ball. Fingers have to hold onto and release the ball. The shoulder has to power the arm. The spine and hips have to generate torque to whip the arm around. The legs have to provide that forward propulsion for the movement.

The lungs can’t be seen from the stands, but if the pitcher couldn’t get air in him he wouldn’t be able to throw the ball. In fact, he’d die. The same is true with veins, arteries, blood and just about every other part of the body.

It’s a very similar story when we think about how high-performing teams deliver the brand experience at the best companies. There are front-line people delivering a service or selling the product. Typically, someone with a great pitch. But as important as they are, front-line employees are just the final connection to the customer.

Without the rest of the company, the brand experience falls completely apart. Someone invented the product or service. Someone figured out the operations requirements for building the product. Some actually worked on the assembly line or sewed on buttons. Someone made sure that the plant or office is a comfortable and safe place to work. Accounting figured out how to bill the customer so that employees could get paid and everyone would actually show up for work.

While the connection is not always obvious, everyone in the company has a role in the customer or brand experience. Everyone in the company contributes to making the product as good as it can be. Companies work at their peak when every part of the organization understands how his or her individual actions contribute to the company’s success.

Interested in communications that get every employee in the company aligned with your goals? Tribe can 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.

Steve Baskin

TRIBE TRIVIA: Getting manufacturing and retail employees to the intranet

Question: Will non-desk employees take time after hours to visit the company website?

Answer: In Tribe’s recent national research with employees of large companies, more than 21 percent of non-exempt employees said they’d be likely to use their smartphones to visit the intranet when they’re not at work. And 36 percent said they’d be likely to use their home computers to go to the intranet.

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot me an email.

Steve Baskin

TRIBE TRIVIA: Communicating Via Mobile Devices

Q: True or false: If your intranet is accessible via a mobile device, you’ll reach those non-exempt employees.

A: True and false. Over half (55%) of non-exempt employees would access the intranet on their device – either while working, on break or away from work. They are more likely to access the intranet on their personal devices than their exempt colleagues, who tend to be older an more affluent. Unfortunately, non-exempt employees are also 54 percent more likely than their exempt brethren to say that they wouldn’t take the time to read the information.

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot me an email.

Stephen Burns

Asking the age-old question: Should your company values stay the same?

In a perfect world, your company would start from day one with a firmly-rooted set of values. These values would be strong enough to sustain you through the first few stages of your business, and adaptable enough to apply as your company expanded and changed. After all, consistency is key in values and culture. Right?

But that’s a tall order. It’s hard enough to predict business from year to year. Foreseeing how your company will evolve five, ten years in the future is nearly impossible. Businesses, even entire industries, can alter in their trajectory in unpredictable ways. Your values need consistency, but they shouldn’t be written in stone.

Not all big changes in the company warrant a shift in values. There are a few times, though, when you may need to reexamine your company values and tailor them along the way. Here are a few questions Tribe recommends asking yourself if you’re considering a change in values:

Is there a new company vision?

Many companies reinvented themselves during the recession. Market conditions forced some reevaluation and that closer look often revealed new opportunities to redefine the business model — and a new vision for the future.

Do the employees understand the new vision and the role they play in reaching it? Do they know how they’re expected to change their behavior to meet this new vision? Values will be an important part of that equation. A new company vision may require slightly different values from the ones that were appropriate for the old way of doing business.

Has there been a change in leadership?

A new CEO will also generally mean a new vision for the company. A change in top leadership is a prime time to take a close look at the values and how they align with management’s vision for the future.

Has there been a merger or acquisition?

Since values are at the core of the company culture, merging two cultures will usually require some revamping of values. Occasionally, the acquiring company’s values will prevail, but it’s sometimes easier to create a cohesive culture if both companies are becoming part of something new. Evolving your values is a process that begins with defining and articulating what those values are and then moves to actually launching those values company-wide. But the job’s not done once the values are launched. In fact, it’s never done. For values to truly become guidelines for how business is done at your company, they have to be made relevant and meaningful to employees at all levels. Employees will need to see examples of their management putting the values into action. And those values must be communicated with sustaining efforts over a long period of time.

You’ll know you’ve succeeded when you see employees using the company values as the basis for the decisions they make in their work, day after day.

Want more insight? Whether you’re trying to call more attention to your current values or rewriting them completely, give Tribe a call. We would love to help your company communicate.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Five ideas for engaging employees with wellness programs

HiResCompanies often launch employee wellness programs because of the health benefits, but these programs also can increase employee engagement. By activating the programs with initiatives that focus not just on the individual but help employees connect with their co-workers, build departmental and cross-departmental relationships and feel part of a group, wellness can foster a much higher level of employee engagement. Here are five ideas for how to make that happen:

1. Start a competition: This could be an annual fitness competition, based on sticking to individual exercise goals; it could be a weight loss challenge; it could be collecting miles walked or run to reach a collective mileage goal. 

2. Use your intranet to add a social element: Let your employee intranet make individual wellness efforts visible and create both a competitive spirit and a venue for support. Employees can establish individual fitness profiles with goals and report their progress against those goal; they can post their planned workout for the day; they can track their mileage or time,; or they could even find tennis partners or running buddies from the ranks of their colleagues.

3. Create a partner program: Whether employees are working on weight management or smoking cessation or just general fitness, studies show having a partner can increase success rates. That could mean pairing two people both working on the same sort of goals, or assigning a mentor who’s had success in that area to someone just beginning to make a change in their life. For instance, you might have an experienced runner mentor a co-worker just beginning to train for their first 5K. Or you might pair two people trying to quit smoking as support for each other. These partnerships can be established and maintained via the intranet.

4. Launch a virtual competition across locations: This can be a particularly strong program for companies with locations spread across the country or around the world. Competing against other locations helps employees realize they’re part of something bigger than just their own office, and can build great awareness of and engagement with far-flung business units and colleagues. 

5. Host a healthy lunch contest online: People love to post shots of whatever they’re eating online. Why not harness that same impulse for an employee competition? Employees snap a picture of what they brought for lunch, post it on the intranet, and then other employees can vote for it or simply “like” it. This could also include a recipe element, but doesn’t need to. Shots of hummus and raw vegetables or a healthy chili or big salad need little explanation for others to emulate — and could prompt some spontaneous online conversation as well, which can connect employees who might otherwise never have had any reason to interact.

Interested in more ideas for employee engagement? Tribe can help.