Steve Baskin

What’s the Difference in the Employer Brand and the EVP?

That’s the question we got from a leader at a global services company this week. Whenever he tried to explain and sell the concepts to his leadership team, the words seemed to overlap all over themselves.

At Tribe, the EVP and Employer Brand are part of the daily conversation, so we quickly got to an explanation that he could use. But getting this question from a key client reminded us that it’s a great idea to clearly define these concepts whenever we’re wading into a strategic internal branding discussion.

As the importance of effective employee communications has become a hot button for so many Fortune 500 C-Suites, it’s not surprising that the Employer Brand and the EVP has found its way into the lexicon. But confusion about the two exists. We see external and internal branding as two sides of the same coin. So to define the concepts, it’s helpful to compare the internal and external branding disciplines.

If a brand promise is what the company says that it will do for its customers, it’s up to every employee within the company to come in every day and work toward that commitment. Similarly, the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is what the company promises its employees, and every day, the company has to uphold its promise.

The EVP is the sum of the benefits and values that attract, motivate and retain the best employees. It includes things like salary and benefits. But it’s also about pride in what the company does. How it’s leaders lead. How it makes the world a better place. A strong and well-defined EVP helps move the primary motivator for working at a company away from salary.

And if Brand is what the outside world thinks about a product or service – the sum, both positive and negative, of a product’s attributes – then the employer brand is what current and prospective employees think about the company. It’s their knowledge and expectations of the company.

From inside the company, the Employer Brand platform is a handy tool that communicators use to manage perceptions and align behavior of employees. Like a traditional branding campaign, the Employer Brand serves as a theme or platform that allows us to communicate and position all aspects of the EVP.

When built correctly, the Employer Brand is authentic to the existing culture of the organization. Like the external brand, the Employer Brand should be filled with nothing but the company’s existing DNA. It’s aspirational, yet realistic. It sets expectations of what prospective employees will find should they go to work at the company. It’s a differentiator that helps explain to employees why this company is the right choice for them.

When the Employer Brand is supporting the EVP, effective internal communications become easier to execute. Recruitment becomes more efficient. Employees become more engaged. Retention of the right employees is increased. The skies are blue, and the sun shines bright.

Working on an Employer Brand? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

5 Faux Pas of Internal Communications

What are employees’ pet peeves about internal communications? In Tribe’s national research with employees on a variety of topics over the years — from change management to hiring practices —  we’ve heard a lot about what people do like and what they don’t. Here are five practices that seem to consistently annoy employees:

  1. Employee surveys with no follow up: When the company fields a survey asking employees to provide feedback on engagement, workplace issues, job satisfaction or other topics, employees would like the circle to be closed. They want to hear the results of the survey, and if there are issues that need addressing, they’d especially like to see management taking some action to make the changes needed.
  2. Intranets cluttered with outdated content: One of the primary goals of an intranet is to make it easier to find the information you need, not harder. When there’s no plan for removing old content after it’s past its shelf life, or no system for a regular flow of new content, employees lose patience with the site.
  3. Too many places to check for communications: Employees making this comment might mean having one intranet for the parent company and another for their brand and yet another for their HR stuff. Or they might mean email plus Yammer plus Slack.
  4. Managers bottlenecking information: Cascading communications is a perennial favorite for companies trying to reach frontline employees, particularly those without company email addresses or dedicated computers. But everyone (internal communications departments included) knows that some managers are great about this and others never seem to get around to it. Employees don’t like being out of the loop because their managers forget to clue them in.
  5. Conflicting information about a major change: Change is stressful, but one of the things that can lower employee stress is to have clear and consistent information about what the change means. If they hear one thing from the CEO and another from their manager and still another from what they read online, that can drive them a little crazy.

Interested in avoiding these and other practices that get on employees’ nerves? Tribe can help.

 

Nick Miller

Internal Communications Lessons from United Airlines

How should a PR crisis be communicated to employees? The United Airlines debacle this week has caused quite a stir across the globe, damaging the company’s stock and causing a loss of market capitalization in the billions of dollars. But this event is certain to have repercussions internally as well. While we don’t have an insider’s view of how UA has approached their communications to employees, we can infer quite a lot from their public relations strategy.

“We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.” This quote, penned by Warren Buffet in a memo to managers of Berkshire Hathaway, comes to mind whenever a large enterprise commits a major PR blunder such as UA’s. Buffet understands the concept of atoning for a mistake as opposed to justifying clearly wrong behavior, as his fortune and repute were on the brink during a scandal with his former company Salomon Brothers.

But Buffet’s counsel is not only relevant to public relations. A number of internal communications lessons can be drawn from this philosophy and the loads of examples of what happens when it isn’t adhered to. Consider the following tips on communicating to employees following an internal crisis in order to maintain your company’s reputation among the workforce and avoid as much internal damage as possible.

  1. Be on time with your communications. The longer it takes to inform your employees on the actual happenings of a crisis, the more time you give the court of public opinion to shape their own judgement. Buffet pens in the same memo that bad news can always been handled, but undesirable situations are made worse once the news has “festered for awhile.” Squash the rumor mill before it begins to churn by being straightforward and transparent about your internal crisis.
  1. Even though action must be swift, consider all angles before deciding how to communicate. This may seem obvious, but in the heat of a crisis it is easy to make a move you think is correct without deliberating each outcome. The end goal is for employees to feel like the situation is being handled correctly, not to think to themselves, “what were they thinking?”
  1. Don’t blame the victim. If an employee is affected by an internal crisis, coming to work is no longer a positive experience. Placing fault on an employee(s) that is not responsible magnifies the negativity tenfold. Once that loyalty to a company is damaged, there is no telling how long it can take to gain it back, if ever. This goes for employees on the sidelines as well, who are watching how their fellow associates are being treated and are wondering how long it will be until they’re next.
  1. Lastly, don’t let your apologies fall short of what is appropriate. Accept responsibility and apologize for the actual offense, as opposed to conditional or incomplete apologies. Take the opportunity to put a positive spin on your message. Include improvements in your statement and elaborate on how those changes will be reinforced. Give your employees the confidence that, while a misstep may have been made, it is being dealt with competently and will not be repeated.

Need help managing your internal communications during a crisis? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Company Presentations: Who’s Doing the Work?

If you’re the person in charge of putting together the company meeting, there are a number of boxes you have to check off. Stage. Crystal clear sound. Big video screens. Excellent, up-to-date branding in the room.

You’ll organize the presentation to ensure that C-Suite leaders mirror their roles and seniority. They’ll cover the successes that occurred over the past fiscal period. Their vision for the near future. The challenges ahead. They’ll have a section on change. They’ll give the right nods to diversity and culture. And they’ll let employees line up and ask questions.

While it’s the easiest and most obvious approach, focusing solely on the most senior execs can give employees a feeling of exclusion and distance from the results that they’ve achieved. It works. But the approach most often misses an important opportunity. While the C-suite execs are certainly on the hook for the success or failure of the operation, the presenters at these meetings typically aren’t the ones who did the work being discussed. Thousands of arms, legs and minds contribute to the success of the company.

It pays to shine a light on the stars that did the work – not corporate leaders. Provide recognition. Give awards. Have employees from the ranks participate in the presentation. There are many ways to do it. But whenever possible, it pays dividends to make heroes out of employees who went above and beyond and found success.

Company presentations are a prime opportunity help employees understand how their individual roles contribute to the success of the organization. You had a successful product launch? Let the team talk about what made it work. You’ve struggled through some major change management issue? Let the folks talk about the benefits of the change. Someone had an innovative thought that helped a product succeed? Let that person talk about what sparked the idea.

And it’s important that leaders show evidence that they’re listening and walking the walk. Point out when employee comments helped drive decisions. Don’t just talk about diversity, show diversity. Recognize remote offices or support organizations that might not have client-facing roles.

It’s a lot easier to have seasoned execs stand up on the stage and present. Every time another speaker is added to a presentation, the presentation becomes more complicated. To come off in a seamless manner, this approach requires planning and practice. But with some preparation, companies can get a lot more bang for their buck from company meetings.

Looking for ideas for your corporate meetings? Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

Get Out of Your Own Head: Evolving Ideas through Collaboration

Before you start reading this, watch this clip of Paul Simon on the Dick Cavett showCool, right? Now, think about how hard it is to share ideas with others. How often have you wanted to voice your opinion, but couldn’t collect your thoughts perfectly so you didn’t? Listen to how Simon completely, almost nonchalantly, surrenders his incomplete work, his sketched thoughts, to a national TV audience. That is bravery, you say.

But imagine if he hadn’t shared. Without his transparent process, we might never have gotten that brilliant key change into one of the most phenomenal bridges in songwriting history. Am I exaggerating? Maybe. But there are some big lessons that you and your team can take from his boldness. Sharing your ideas with others shines a new light on them, and it can open up a world of possibilities.

Collaboration is imperative to finding answers that work for everyone. When you put an unfinished idea out into the room, you allow others to have input early on. You don’t quite have everything defined, so you can change and evolve the idea as it works with the group. Together, you can shape a solution that will work for everyone. You also get the benefit of alternate perspectives, and this can really only improve your original thoughts.

Stop Editing. Start Creating. As songwriter Darrell Brown so eloquently wrote, “The ego of perfectionism will cut you off from the very cup you long to drink from.” Editing should occur well after ideation takes place. Separate these two processes as much as possible. Editing in your head to get a thought “more complete” is one of the biggest detriments to your idea flow. You’re stunting your own creative growth, firing down your own ideas, and undermining your methods.

Don’t let yourself get stuck. If you start to think you have a mental block, you’ll begin believe it’s there, and it will manifest itself in a matter of seconds. In writing workshops, instructors always tell you, “There is no such thing as writer’s block.” So, if you can’t think of anything, just starting moving your pen. Try an collaboration exercise to clear the cobwebs. Bukowski said it best when he said, “Even writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

Give yourself time. Don’t come to a brainstorm cold. The longer you start thinking about a concept, the more you can bring to the table when the time comes to meet with your team. This allows your Eureka moments to happen, and it lets you develop ideas on your own to feel more comfortable speaking up with your team.

Need a hand building up your collaborative culture? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.

How to Strengthen Internal Communications with Home-Based Employees

Sometimes water cooler talk can be more productive than an hour-long meeting, but unfortunately, employees who work from home can be out of the loop. Strengthening communications with employees who work remotely can lead to improved collaboration, productivity and fulfilled deadlines.

Here are three ways you can increase communication with this employee population:

  1. Update your intranet. If nobody goes to your intranet, it’s not working for you. A strong social intranet can become a Main Street for the company, where employees can bump into each other. That doesn’t mean you have to spend the time and money for the huge undertaking of a new SharePoint site. Check out all the SaaS platforms available now, such as Igloo, Interact and Jive.
  1. Explore Collaborative Software Platforms. Advancement in technology is the main reason that companies are able to allow more of their employees to work from home and technology can help bridge the communication gap with off-site employees as well. Between Asana, eXo Platform, Slack, and Yammer, there are plenty of collaboration software platforms for work related discussion. Utilizing different technology can promote better collaboration between team members, associates and upper management alike.
  1. Prioritize On-Site Interaction. Hosting on-site employee events or finding other opportunities for remote employees to be onsite is a great way to reengage them in company culture and build bonds with coworkers they don’t see, but may work with every day. Making connections with the company and employees can reinforce a sense of purpose within their role and make them more comfortable when engaging with coworkers remotely in the future.

Interested in improving internal communications with home-based employees? Tribe can help.

 

Brittany Walker

Does Your Culture Support New Moms?

Brittany had planned to post a blog today on best practices in workplace lactation rooms — covering the issues that are important to breastfeeding mothers and how companies can best accommodate their needs, as well as the importance of a culture that offers the flexibility to make it easier for women to return to …

BUT SHE WENT INTO LABOR BEFORE POSTING!

Want to stay in the loop? See Tribe’s Facebook page for the latest news.

Steve Baskin

5 Cultural Issues to Keep in Mind When Companies Merge

For corporate executives, there’s nothing like the excitement of acquiring a new company. It’s a moment in time when the company can speed towards its overall goals. Most often a merger or acquisition is the result of months or years of due diligence and getting past hundreds or thousands of hurdles. For the executives of companies that are the target of an acquisition or merger, it can be just as exciting.

Mergers generally mean that a company will suddenly have improved resources. Improved capabilities. Expertise in a new market segment. Expanded geography. Efficiencies that they had not previously had access to. For those who have a thirty-thousand-foot view, the advantages and promise of a merger or acquisition are generally very clear.

For most employees, though, mergers and acquisitions can be a time of great anxiety. Will I like the new company? Will I have a new boss? Will my role become redundant? Will I lose my job?

There is no exhaustive list of things that corporate execs should check to ensure that a merger occurs sans the calamity. But here are a handful of things that can help the vast majority of your employees get through the process with a greater sense of excitement toward the future.

  1. Know thy culture. It’s critical to have a deep understanding of the culture of your organization. It’s also critical to have a deep understanding of the culture of the company you’re acquiring. Most importantly, it’s important to understand the differences between the two cultures and try to anticipate places where the two organizations may fit well and where they may not.
  2. Embrace benefits of the culture of the acquired company. There are things about the new company that made it attractive enough to acquire. There are reasons the company attracted and retained talent. Try to understand those things and adopt the most positive elements that might enhance your existing culture.
  3. Celebrate the vision for the new organization – not just the transaction. A merger of companies is the result of a ton of work. But all of that legal and financial rigmarole only gets you to the starting line. The heavy lifting that faces the new organization is about realizing the strength of the combined entity. This is a great opportunity to help employees understand how their individual roles will contribute to success of the new organization.
  4. Be transparent and move quickly regarding potential negative impacts on employees. Your employees are smart. They’ll soon understand where the redundancies are in the combined organization. As with any organizational change, in the absence of facts, employees will be more than happy to fill in the blanks with their imagination. Most often, our imagination will be much worse than the reality.
  5. Don’t forget that a merger affects legacy employees too. Often, companies are acquired because they’re in a desirable market or have some unique technology or process. Find ways to pay attention to and celebrate legacy employees – especially if the merger has disrupted their roles in any way.

Looking for help with change communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Thread the vision and values through all your internal communications

Communicating the company vision is one of the most important roles of internal communications. We often recommend a vision and values book and/or a vision and values event to put a stake in the ground to launch or reinforce these cultural underpinnings.

But that’s only the beginning. Just because you’ve told employees once, doesn’t mean the job is done. In fact, the job of communicating the vision and values is never done. To truly embed those things in an organization, to have employees internalize them so that they use the vision and values as guidance for the actions they take and decisions they make in their day-to-day work, will require an ongoing effort.

It also requires using more than one channel. Or even more than one facet of each channel. The goal is to thread the vision and values through everything you do.

We recommend a simultaneous top and bottom approach.
Look for channels for leadership to communicate these topics in an authentic way. That might be through video, magazine articles, intranet updates, town halls and/or any other available channel.

At the same time, find ways to showcase employees using the vision and values. That could be through a recognition program. It could be employee spotlights on the intranet or in your employee publication. It might be digital signage, video, blogs, social media or any other channel at your disposal.

You can also look for ways to tie topics back to the vision and values. When you’re communicating news about the volunteer program, frame it with one of the corporate values such as teamwork or community. When you introduce a massive IT overhaul, maybe you can link it to the value of innovation or efficiency. In an article on two different manufacturing plants working together to revamp the order system, point to the value of collaboration.

We often calendarize the stream of communications to reflect the vision and values. Each issue of a quarterly magazine, or each video in a monthly series, for instance, might be themed with one element of that messaging. Not only does this help thread the vision and values through multiple channels over a quarter or a year, it also allows for a closer look at one element at a time and drives more interesting content.

Interested in incorporating the vision and values into more of your communications?
Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

3 Tips for Making Digital Communications More Engaging

The landscape of digital communications is continuously evolving. When it comes to engagement, thinking strategically and creatively will make all the difference. Here are three tips to thoughtfully increase engagement through your digital channels.

  1. Keep it short and to the point. We’re not saying that text-heavy channels can’t have a place in your IC arsenal, but communications consumed on-screen should generally be concise and direct. Whether you’re revamping your intranet, introducing digital signage or updating your corporate email strategy, a big differentiator in reaching employees in a meaningful way is to mirror the digital consumption trends they experience in their personal lives. Think bite-sized, easy-to-consume information, with a direct call-to-action to learn more.
  1. Shine the spotlight on employees. Make heroes of the people behind the hard work though employee spotlights. Simply put, employees love reading about other employees. Spotlights are a great way to feature frontline and field workers and celebrate their contributions, through regular Q&A’s in a newsletter, online recognition programs or contests that highlight employee performance. Spotlights also succeed at humanizing leadership by giving them a venue to share their vision and expertise.
  1. Make it move. From professionally produced videography, to quick-hit smart phone videos, to two-second GIFs, switching out still pictures for their moving counterparts can automatically enhance the employee experience. Video can be a great tool for engaging employees and breaking down silos because it truly gives an authentic face to employees and leadership alike, which is difficult to capture through picture or text alone. For a cost-effective solution for high-quality video, prepare material for eight to ten videos that can be shot in one day. If shooting leadership, we generally ask for 45 minutes on the CEO’s calendar and less than 30 minutes with other members of the executive team.

Need help with your digital communications strategy? Tribe can help.