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.

Steve Baskin

Fire Hose Communications? A Smarter Approach to Internal Communications

Fire FightingJust to be clear, the fire hose approach isn’t working. Let’s stop with that nonsense.

People go to work to do a job. This job tends to make them quite busy. This limits our ability to communicate with these people.

The problem is that there’s a lot of important information that employees need in order to effectively do their jobs. They need to understand their job responsibilities. They need to understand the company’s vision and how their role supports that vision. They need to understand how to sign up for benefits. They need to know about things that are going on around the company. And many people are trying to tell them these things.

Because of this time conundrum, the common reflex is to try to cram the largest possible number of subjects and words into whatever time we have. Whether it’s an on-boarding conversation, a quarterly town hall or a weekly huddle, it sometimes feels like there were just five or six too many things on the agenda. And the PowerPoint slides always seem to be filled to the gills with dense paragraphs and numbers.

Normal human beings can’t learn everything about everything in a day. Subjecting employees to half-day meetings and an onslaught of communications and expecting them to retain any of it is pointless. Subjecting them to two thousand word emails that provide every detail of their health care offering is equally pointless.

From the employee’s point of view, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. There’s too much coming too fast to comprehend even half of what’s heard. Soon those quarterly meetings or daily huddles become a waste of time as employees learn to tune out before they even arrive at the meeting.

So how do we communicate all of this information in a way that it might actually stick? Here are four ideas:

  1. Build a plan and calendar-ize your communications. Map out your communications objectives and build a schedule that includes all of the communications that an employee is going to need over a quarter, a year, whatever.
  1. Dole out the communications in bite-sized chunks and with a dependable cadence. For example, allow an on-boarding program to last 60 or 90 days versus one day or a week. Slot in the various subjects and schedule out a weekly conversation while they’re getting hands-on experience in their role. Keep the initial conversation as simple and straightforward as possible. And always provide access (links or directions) to the details for those inquisitive and fast learners.
  1. Peel back the onion (Shrek, 2001). Start out with the broad strokes. If you’re communicating the company’s vision, go ahead and announce the goals and strategies. But know that the work has only just begun. Over the next several months, explain why the company’s strategy is a winner, and explain how employees’ individual roles will bring the vision to life. Do this by painting vivid imagery with concrete examples of people around the organization who are walking the walk.
  1. Be interesting. If your folks are going to take the time to watch your videos or read your articles, please don’t bore them to death. Reward the people who pay attention to the communications by providing something that they care about. Why do Facebook posts go viral? Because they move people in some way. They’re funny or they’re heartbreaking or they unearth a truth that you’ve always known, but never knew how to express. Go ahead and be interesting with your communications.

If executed appropriately, by the end of that period, employees will know more of what they’re supposed to know. And over time, they’ll learn how to apply corporate communications to their roles and responsibilities. Importantly, they’ll understand how they’re contributing to the success of the company and will have a much better shot at being deeply and actively engaged.

Need help figuring out a communications strategy? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

What’s in it for Me: 3 Ways to Incentivize Employee Engagement

67857321_thumbnailThink you can’t buy employee engagement? Think again. Even while being cost-conscious there are plenty of ways to increase engagement by enticing your employees. Bringing the WIIFM factor to light, here are three ways to increase engagement through incentives.

1.  Hook them with a prize they actually want. Bringing an enter-to-win activation to an employee request can have a big result without a lot of cost. Prizes can range from a free lunch, to gift cards, to high-end electronics, to all-inclusive trips, all while having a big impact. When asking an employee to take time out of their busy day to pay attention to corporate communications, it helps to have a hook.

2.  Make them work for it. Scavenger hunts are a popular engagement method activated by Tribe, particularly when launching new intranets. Sounds elementary, but the concept of having employees find the information we’re communicating on their own is a great method for comprehension. It’s also a great way to build habits of using specific communication tools to find information. Getting them there is often half the battle, and when getting them there has a potential return, it’s a win-win.

3.  The way to the heart is through the stomach. Or at least food gives them a reason to show up at an event. Using food as an incentive is one of the oldest tricks in the book and absolutely applies when it comes to employee engagement. Especially while encouraging social activity, as food tends to do.

Building the groundwork doesn’t have to come at a huge price. Whether it be an employee survey, intranet launch or new initiative rollout, Tribe often promotes using bait to get them there. “If we build it, they will come” only applies in the movies. It’s up to us as communicators to get them there.

Interesting in improving your employee engagement activation? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

TRIBE TRIVIA: Translations For Internal Communications

Question: Do most companies translate their internal communications?

Answer: In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, 42 percent said their companies don’t translate company communications. Of the employees whose companies do translate internal communications materials, the vast majority, at 85 percent, are translating into Spanish. French was the next most common language translated, at 20 percent, followed by Mandarin (20 percent) and Arabic (14 percent).

For more information about this and other studies, see Tribe’s white papers and internal communications resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot us an email.

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.

 

 

 

Nick Miller

3 Tips For an Engaging Intranet Homepage

illustrationCorporate intranets can be a company’s most valuable tool if properly implemented, but they are often a drain on resources and manpower because of a poorly thought out design that results in little return on investment. A layout that is going to keep your employees coming back requires many things, but the most important of all is a proper homepage design. The homepage is the gateway for all of your employees’ needs, but it should also be the keystone in your internal brand communications, and for these reasons it needs to be both engaging and practical. Here are three tips to get the most out of your homepage design:

 

  1. There is no need to scroll down. Scrolling is so in right now. The popularity of never-ending feeds on widely used sites like Facebook and Twitter inspire some employers to design an intranet that scrolls for days, but this is the most detrimental design element when founding or renovating your homepage. When an employee visits the corporate intranet, it is generally because they are driven by the completion of a task, not because they are there to browse. Help them achieve that goal by giving them what they need at the get-go. There are proven psychological effects behind the design of a webpage, and studies show that users feel overwhelmed when they visit a site that overloads them with information from the start. By designing a homepage without housing information “below the fold”, you are rewarding your readers two-fold. Firstly, they will immediately feel the successes of processing all of the information on the page quickly, and secondly, they will complete their task without the stresses of filtering through an overload of content. This tip is especially applicable to mobile functionality, since a homepage that does not scroll is likely to transition to mobile more fluidly.
  1. Make sure the first thing the eye is drawn to is constantly fresh. If your employees are expected to visit the company intranet everyday, give them a reason to come back. Design your homepage to feature some sort of company news, imagery or video that is updated frequently. Since employees are visiting the intranet on a task-driven initiative and will generally only glance at the homepage, call the content out by making it larger than the rest or more brightly colored. Take advantage of this brand touchpoint by communicating vision and values. Try to use photos of actual employees instead of stock photography (they can always tell!). Make sure that content is written for internal readers as opposed to repurposing language intended for customers. Make it fun!

This is especially important when it comes to launching a new intranet. You can avoid overwhelming your employees by periodically rolling out new functionalities. The homepage should be where these features are announced and explained.

  1. Design your layout to be tool-centric. Always prioritize business needs over creative impulse. Sure that carousel looks nice, but if it takes away from the practicality of the intranet, you are threatening your ROI. Like we’ve already discussed, it’s all about helping your employees do their jobs more efficiently, so give them the tools to do so. Provide an effective search bar, easy to locate policies and links that are both strategically grouped and start with the most relevant keyword. Don’t over format, exclude icons if they aren’t necessary, and let your employees Google search the weather and sports scores on their own. Usability is key, and by not focusing your intranet on the tools that make it an assistive asset, you are defeating the entire purpose.

Looking for more advice on how to build or manage your intranet? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

TRIBE TRIVIA: Employee Communications on Personal Mobile Devices

PrintTrue or False: Employees are unwilling to use their personal mobile devices for internal communications.

False: Although asking employees to weigh in on how to structure mobile communications seems  to be important to the success of such a program. In Tribe’s survey with over 100 large companies, 78 percent of those with successful mobile employee communications asked for employees’ input beforehand.

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

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.

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.