Nick Miller

Keeping Employees in the Loop: 3 channels to supplement your stagnant intranet

If you frequent blogs and newsfeeds that specialize in internal communications, chances are you’ve come across an article or two that put your intranet to shame. Ideally, the significance of a corporation’s information hub would be enough to gather funding for a makeover. But not every company has the resources to build or renovate an intranet to be that beacon of collaboration and conversation that some companies have the luxury of operating. So for now, here are a couple of channels that provide some of the benefits of an up-to-the-minute intranet:

  1. WordPress
    We have worked with a variety of clients that use WordPress sites either as a primary intranet or as a microsite used to announce internal brand launches or major change initiatives. The interface is relatively easy to use, allowing communications and HR departments the ability to develop a site with minimal programming experience or consulting. WordPress offers apps that make it mobile responsive and can be password protected, though we advise clients not to upload information that shouldn’t exist outside of a firewall. The beauty of WordPress is that it is scalable to whatever size or complexity suits your needs. It only requires some familiarity and a little imagination. One tip to keep in mind: you’ll want the version of the software so that you can apply your own company branding.
  2. Blogging App
    In our national research, we’ve found employees are more willing to use their personal mobile devices for company communications when it means downloading an app rather than sharing their phone number. If you are able to regularly secure blog posts from your leaders, posting a handful a week on one of a number of available apps can create an authentic two-way communication channel where employees can post comments and questions.
  3. Digital Signage
    Assuming your work environment has TV screens available, this is a simple, economic channel to keep topics top of mind, ranging from company news to culture and values. While they’re waiting for the elevator or in line at the company cafeteria, they can get bite-sized information to keep them in the loop. Plus, you omit the hurdle of building traffic to your site, since the traffic walks right by every day.

Want to explore alternatives to your stagnant or non-existent intranet? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Using Video to Humanize the Leadership Team: Five Tips to Make It Easy

Video can be a great medium for helping employees feel a human connection with company leadership. We’re not talking about an-hour long presentation on finances. Try 60 to 90 second videos on topics that have some relevance to the culture of the company, like one of the values, or a new sustainability effort. Or maybe try a video that includes all the members of the leadership team answering the same few questions, from the business-related, like: “What’s the coolest project you’re working on right now?” to the personal: “Out of all our products, what’s your favorite?” or even “What was your first job ever?”

To get the most bang for the buck, it’s helpful to plan a series of videos and shoot them together. That might mean shooting six videos that are each a conversation with one member of the leadership team about how their function supports the vision of the company. The CFO will obviously have different answers from the CMO. Or it could mean creating a dozen videos that each include responses from several different members of the management team. Using the examples above, one video could have each one answering the coolest project question. Then the next video might be the one where they each talk about their favorite product. The other 10 videos could cover anything from how they see the values playing out in their everyday work to how each of their functions helps the company be more customer-centric.

Here are a handful of tips to make leadership videos simple and affordable:

1. Prepare carefully. If you plan to produce 10 videos, you might want to develop ideas for 12 or 14, in case one or two don’t pan out. For each video you plan to produce, have the questions prepared ahead of time. Sometimes it helps to give the people you’ll be shooting the questions beforehand so they can begin formulating answers. Think through the edit and create your shot list. Know how you plan to cut the footage together so you make sure to cover everything you’ll need to shoot.

2. Position the interviewer off camera. Rather than a talk-show setup with an on-camera interviewer, keep it simple. Keep the interviewer off camera, and cut that person’s questions out later. The interviewer is there just to prompt the interviewees to cover the desired topics.

3. Use a green screen. Especially if you’ll be shooting leadership in different locations, this allows you to keep the lighting similar and slip in any background you want. Just position the green screen far enough behind the interviewee that the green won’t reflect on their skin.

4. Have a second camera. This can be a locked-down camera on a tripod without a camera operator. The purpose of this footage is to provide cutaway shots, particularly when you’re planning to use just one person in each video.

5. Be efficient with your executives’ time. Even if you’re shooting a dozen videos with six or eight different members of the leadership team, try to get the footage you need in under 30 minutes for each of them. In most cases, it should take less than that.

Interested in producing a series of leadership videos? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

It’s Not About the Pizza: Aligning Employee Actions with Organizational Vision

Slice of a Pepperoni Pizza isolated on white background

At Tribe, we work with our clients on events of all types. It didn’t take long for us to learn that food attracts the crowds. It also didn’t take long to learn the importance of not running out of pizza.

Enjoying the work environment is a large part of employee engagement. It’s a lot easier to get out of the car and walk into the office when it’s a fun place to work. When you enjoy being around your colleagues. When you get a chance to laugh during the day.

But it’s not about the pizza. The pizza, the games, the entertainment are simply lures that help attract the crowd and make it more fun to learn the things that leadership believes are important for employees to know.

We constantly look for interesting opportunities and venues that promote internal communications. But the underlying purpose is always in helping employees understand the organizational goals and how their day-to-day actions help the company get there. For us, this is the real purpose of company events and meetings. The communications subjects might be more tactical than strategic – open enrollment, introducing the new intranet or learning a new process. But aligning corporate communications with organizational goals is what Tribe preaches every day.

For Tribe, the creative process is about business. It’s not fluff. We spend time working with our clients to clearly understand their business goals and communications needs. Then we work hard at staging those communications in interesting and unique environments and in fun and engaging ways. Then we figure out a way to measure the activity to see if achieved our goals.

We love to have fun at the office. But we believe that true engagement happens when employees understand where the company is headed and their individual role in getting there.

 Interested in events that align employees with company goals? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Internal Communications: How to encourage your workforce to have more productive meetings

The late John Kenneth Galbraith, an acclaimed economist, wrote in 1969, “Meetings are a great trap. …they are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”

While we at Tribe are not quite that anti-meeting, we find that a handful of tips can reform these hour long escapes from doing actual work into sessions of decision and progress. Here are a couple pieces of advice for communicating good meeting habits to your employees:

  1. Communicate the importance of an agenda

Conducting a meeting without a list of points to cover can equate to herding cats. Simply by spelling out what will be covered during the meeting significantly increases the likelihood that attendees of a meeting will walk away with a clear plan of action. We suggest one is sent out before the meeting so that all involved have an understanding of the objective and are prepared with their input.

But telling your employees to use an agenda won’t change their bad habits overnight, so use subtle clues to encourage them. By installing an “Agenda” and “Desired Objective” section on your meeting room whiteboards or leaving blank agenda sheets on meeting tables, you are leaving a constant reminder to conduct meetings in a predetermined and organized fashion.

  1. Let employees know it’s okay to decline

It is important that associates understand that their time is their own to manage, and communicating to them that they are not required to accept every invite that comes their way will free up windows that are best spent elsewhere. Let them know that they have other options should they determine that their attendance is unnecessary. Communicate how it is acceptable to provide the input you may have on the subject by email prior to the meeting or send a substitute with similar proficiency. This is a point that can be emphasized during the onboarding process since new employees are more likely to feel discomfort declining meeting invites.

  1. Advise on how to limit wasting time in meetings

Periodic communications to associates about how to have more efficient meetings serves your workforce a benefit since most don’t know they need it. These can be in the form of dedicated communications or included in established communications such as a newsletter. Examples include:

“Try standing during meetings instead of sitting, so you are more likely to stay on schedule.”


“Recommend only one person conducts each meeting in order to avoid dysfunction.” 

Looking to communicate better meeting habits to your employees? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Engaging Financial Communications: Include Employees in the Story

Business chart with glowing arrows and world mapHow do we get employees engaged in corporate earnings announcements? The quarterly hand-wringing is loud enough to be heard outside just about every Fortune 500 company.

Short of learning if they’re more likely to get a bonus or get laid off, there’s very limited interest from the average employee without a C or VP in their job title. The language and terminology used when reporting financials to employees tends to be the same language that companies use when they’re reporting to shareholders and analysts. The trends and numbers that are reported tend to be high-level or global numbers that can be very hard for someone down in the business to understand or relate to.

Connection to the vision. Quarterly financial reporting is an opportunity to highlight progress toward company goals. If your company has a well-documented vision or business strategy, this is a great time to help employees connect the dots between the vision or strategy and financial performance.

We tend to be fans of teams. Professional baseball fans understand that their team is part of Major League Baseball, and they’re always happy to hear that the league is doing well. But they get animated about their team’s performance. Did they win last night? Will they make the playoffs? Will they finally get to the world series? Are they trading for the pitcher or batter that’s going to get them over the hump?

Companies are all about teams. Look for creative ways to bring the financial conversation down from corporate or global level to the team level. By segmenting the financial reports toward divisions or departments – smaller teams – within the organization, it becomes easier for employees to relate to the results. That can help them cheer on good news or to dig in and work harder if results were less than expected.

Connecting high-level financials to team or individual performance requires both creativity and a pretty deep understanding of company goals and departmental contributions. This doesn’t have to be an exact science. It’s simply a mindset of connecting actions and contributions of employees and team members to financial results. When you include employees in the financial conversation in more relevant ways, they’ll inevitably begin to care more deeply about the results.

Interested in connecting employee actions to financial results in your organization? Tribe can help.

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.