Brittany Walker

How to Turn Post-Meeting Behaviors into a Productive Culture

It’s not about the meeting. It’s about what happens after. Establishing a culture of being productive before, during and after meetings can work wonders on efficiency. In this post, we’ll cover the behaviors that should immediately follow the meeting.

Encourage smart scheduling. Meeting times and scheduling can help or destroy productivity. We understand that calendars get booked and squeezing in those one-hour meetings can be the only way to move things forward. But instead of blocking calendars full and tackling the to-dos later, establish a culture of shorter meetings to leave time for the important steps that should follow immediately after. Tribe recommends scheduling 50 minute meetings instead of the traditional – and often default – 60 minutes. Getting those precious 10 minutes back to regroup and establish next steps can vastly improve output.

Capture action items. A great meeting just wrapped with a lot of deliverables for multiple parties. Instead of letting those tedious scribbles collect in a notebook, encourage employees to immediately record action items to get their team to the next milestone. At Tribe, we use Action Cards, a great low-tech solution that works well for us. Our Action Cards include due dates, details and the person responsible, taking the guess work out of what’s next.

Communicating decisions. The act of making decisions while in a meeting is as triumphant as important, but what’s next? Communicating the news of decisions to the appropriate person or team is just as significant as making the decision itself. Just as there should be clarity about who’s in charge of capturing the action items, make sure your post-meeting communicators know their responsibility in keeping everyone on the same page.

Interested in developing your productive culture? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Manager Communications: Coaching managers to engage employees

Coaching managers to empower and positively interact with their subordinates leads to higher morale, and therefore increased productivity and positive intention rates. Teaching managers to give their employees the freedom to make decisions also allows them to grow, resulting in a generation of future leaders. Here are four ways to increase the empowerment level of employees within your company:

  1. Encourage employees to take ownership of their jobs. Properly engaged employees will approach their job like they are working for their own company. When people take ownership of a job, they work with a higher level of dedication and deliver solid results. This also allows employees to take ownership of their mistakes, a very important step in professional growth.
  2. Don’t be a micromanager. A level of trust should be established that allows for an honest relationship with your employees. When people are trusted to do the job they are assigned to do, they generally rise to the occasion, increase performance levels and develop more respect for their leadership. Employees who are aware that a supervisor is constantly looking over their shoulder are much less likely to maintain high morale and will feel discouraged from offering their own ideas, both of which are detrimental to company growth.
  3. Present expectations clearly. When employee expectations are plainly presented, they are able to relax and focus their energy on the tasks at hand. Clear and established expectations between employee and employer allow people to not waste time worrying about job security or second-guessing their decisions.
  4. Balance coaching with listening. Creating an environment that allows people to share their opinions benefits the company as a whole. When leaders and employees are able to enter into a dialog, that is part listening and part coaching, both parties are able to educate themselves on the intricacies of the project and discover new solutions.

Are you interested in helping mangers engage employees? Tribe can help.

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 WordPress.org 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.”

or

“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.