Nick Miller

Fantasy Football in the Workplace: Productivity and Legal Concerns

Engagement experts can’t agree on whether or not fantasy football is a waste of time or a valuable tool. With the NFL season kicking off on September 8, over 57 million people across the United States and Canada have drafted or are preparing to draft their fantasy football teams. Chances are a significant number of your employees are taking part. So the question is: what effect does fantasy sports, especially football, have on your company’s productivity?

Time spent on fantasy football could lead to lost profit from an hourly productivity perspective. It is estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that 66% of full-time employees play fantasy and will spend an average of 12 hours in a full week on some fantasy related activity, whether it be researching, managing a team, or following coverage. Recent research suggests that only one hour per workday per employee who plays fantasy football could result in up to $16 billion in lost wages in the US over the 17 week-long NFL season.

But that doesn’t mean fantasy football leagues are entirely negative. In fact, there are multiple benefits to allowing or even promoting involvement in a league, including boosting morale, building camaraderie, and encouraging a horizontal introduction of employees who would otherwise not interact. When done in moderation, you may even notice fantasy football leads to an increase in productivity, since it is well documented that periods of focusing on work followed by short periods of rest actually lead to higher work efficiency.

If you plan to host office-wide fantasy leagues, double check to ensure that no laws are being broken and the company’s interests are protected. Most states do not allow online gambling so a pay-to-play policy could land you in hot water. Some states allow it under murky social gambling laws, but bragging rights are generally enough of a reward. In order to avoid issues with employment law, a published gambling policy that defines parameters of what is allowed and is consistently enforced is recommended. And with everything Tribe preaches, remember that this isn’t about fantasy football, it’s about employee engagement. So it’s key to offer other opportunities that bring employees together to avoid sport-apathetic associates feeling left out.

Are you interested in more employee engagement ideas? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Writing for internal comms: Three ways to look like an amateur

This is how my great aunt would do internal communications
This is how my great aunt would do internal communications

The field of internal communications has come a long way. As more companies have recognized the business advantages of communicating with employees, investment in internal online, digital and print communications has increased along with the technology that enables their delivery.

Still, a whiff of the amateurish persists in some of the writing. We have to recognize that employees are accustomed to consuming mainstream media. Our internal communications don’t exist in a vacuum. They compete for attention with all the websites, apps and magazines that employees encounter in their day-to-day lives.

Readers make snap decisions about the trustworthiness of sources based on the professionalism of the writing. If you’re reading a website filled with grammatical and punctuation errors, you’re more likely to think it’s the rantings of a crackpot than solid medical advice from the Mayo Clinic.

It’s hard enough to create trust in company leadership and in the veracity of internal communications. Readers notice small cues, consciously or unconsciously, that indicate the professionalism of the writing. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot with these three tragically common mistakes:

  1. Incorrect use of ellipses: The dreaded dot dot dot is frequently misused by people who should know better. If you’ve deleted part of a quote, an ellipsis is warranted. It’s how you indicate to the reader that you’ve omitted something that was previously in that sentence. It’s not for creating a sense of drama. If you want to do that, maybe a long dash is what you’re after. If you’re using it to create a pause in the reader’s mind, keep in mind that it indicates confused or faltering thought. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, says “Ellipsis points suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty.” Generally, that’s not the affect you’re after in internal communications. If you’re doing it just because you think it looks nice, you might want to rethink that.
  2. Incorrect use of quotation marks. Whenever I see this, it reminds me of letters from my great aunt. Quotation marks, besides indicating actual spoken words, can be used to indicate an unusual word or term, something the reader may not have encountered before. Aunt Etta used them liberally, as in hoping I have been “hitting the books” at college or that I would postpone marriage until I found “the right one.”  She would also draw little ballpoint hearts and sunshines in her notes. And sometimes include a twenty dollar bill. She was awesome. In internal communications, quotation marks are often used  in the same way, around words and terms that anyone not living under a rock would easily understand. You don’t see them doing that in the Harvard Business Review.
  3. Overuse of exclamation marks: We once had a client who demanded at least two exclamation marks in everything we wrote for her. It kind of made sense for her, at least in her blog, because that’s the way she talked. But in most professional communications, there just aren’t a ton of occasions that warrant an exclamation mark. There’s no reason to put one (or three) after a sentence, unless the building is on fire.

Interested in improving the professionalism of your internal communications writing? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

3 Tips to Balance Print vs. Digital Communications

Many communicators have an option on high vs. low-tech solutions. Should we print? Or should we go digital? Tribe often recommends a mix of both. Especially within the same campaign. Providing messaging through multiple channels can increase the opportunity for engagement while reinforcing the communication at the same time.

Don’t always be so quick to rule out print. 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. Additionally, 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. A huge majority of employees technology daily in their everyday lives, even while they’re away from the office. Embedding printed pieces into a website, app or even on the company intranet gives employees the opportunity to reference materials whenever they want. Aside from convenience, there are many other benefits like analytic reports, adding music and photo galleries, embedding videos and more.

Reach different employee demographics. Millennials may be more likely to access an internal 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.

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

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.

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.