Four Tips For Improving Your Internal Communication

If you asked each employee what the corporate mission statement is, or if they feel appreciated, what do you think they’d say? The answer isn’t an obvious one, especially if your business crosses state or country lines, not to mention continents. The further away employees are from headquarters, the less connected to leadership they seem to feel.

 Internal communications is so much more than just updating employees with business information. It can be used as a way connect with and build up each department. Employee engagement increases productivity and retention, and creating that connection doesn’t have to be hard. Here are four ways to improve the way you communicate within your company.

  1. For starters, encourage employees to speak up. They should know they have a voice and that their opinion matters. If they believe a process or meeting can be handled more efficiently, provide a way for their feedback to be heard. They just might be right.
  2. Be clear with your communication. Don’t just inform people of change. Tell them why change is coming, and how it will help the supply chain, reduce overhead, or eliminate redundancies. Change is always scary at first, but addressing concerns before they have time to manifest helps reduce some employee stress.
  3. Be creative in the ways you communicate. Don’t always rely on walls of text to get your message out. Just because you can summarize your message in an email doesn’t mean that’s the best way. Mix up your content with videos, or introduce friendly employee competitions. Just don’t be boring.
  4. Give recognition where recognition is deserved. This is particularly important when your business has many different hands involved in the creation of your product. Make sure your warehouse workers know how they fit in with the business, as in, there is no business without them. Each piece of the company is integral to the work flow, make sure people in sales, marketing, or engineering know that.

Some of this might be new, and some of it might be a reminder. The goal is to follow through with these guidelines and be consistent. A constant employee complaint is always receiving mixed messages—or no message at all— from corporate.

Interested in improving communications within your company? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Note to internal communicators: We’re drawn to human faces even before birth

New research with third-trimester fetuses indicates that we are drawn to human faces, even before we’re born. Scientists in the U.K. used light to shine patterns of red dots into the womb while observing babies’ reactions. When the patterns represented human faces, the babies responded by moving their heads to keep watching the “faces.”

In internal communications, we talk frequently about the power of face-to-face interactions. When CEOs and other leadership show up in person — at offices across the world or the manufacturing floor or in a retail location — they’re able to build a stronger human connection with employees. When employees in far-flung locations or different business units are able to meet face to face, they find it easier to collaborate with each other later, even if it’s via email or phone.

But actual face-to-face interactions aren’t always feasible, especially for large workplace populations. That’s why we look for technology and other methods to reap some of those benefits without actual proximity.

For instance, a streaming Town Hall can allow employees all over the globe to hear what the leadership team has to say. When those are held monthly or quarterly, that human connection (as well as important information about the company’s achievements and plans for the future) can be reinforced over time.

At Tribe, we often use video to bring that human connection to life. For one client we do a series of monthly videos that give employees a chance to see the faces of their leadership team — and hear them discussing a wide range of topics, from values and vision to acquisitions and business strategies. A headshot on the company website can’t build that connection in the same way.

We also urge our clients to invest in photography of real employees doing their jobs. The objective is to show the people doing the real work of the company in a way that makes them look heroic. Employees respond to people like them being treated like celebrities — but they also respond to seeing those real faces.

This recent research indicates that our attraction to faces is innate. By the time the babies in this study are old enough to be employees, internal communications may be using holograms or telepathy rather than video and photos. But my money is on human faces continuing to be a unifying force in employee engagement.

Interested in building human connections with your internal communications? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Corporate Tone: Four ideas to increase readership of internal communications

“Why was that last email from corporate so cold and dry? I could almost hear the winds coming across the tundra.” One of the most common complaints we hear at Tribe is how impersonal corporate communications can be.

It’s important to be clear in internal communications. A company-wide email will reach an incredible diversity of audiences. There’s geographic diversity. Different levels of education. Silos based on job functions. The list goes on. Even the most carefully crafted messages can be interpreted in many different ways.

But that doesn’t mean corporate communications need to be watered down and filled with legal speak. Here are a few thoughts on how to ensure that communications remain engaging:

  • Be normal. Strive to write in a conversational manner. If you typically use Hereto and Wherefore in normal conversation, perhaps you should have someone else do the communications work.
  • Target your communications. If there’s an option to sending out an all-company memo, send a memo to the audience that is impacted by the communication. And have a designated location where interested employees can find all corporate communications.
  • Target your approach and message. If you have such a diverse workforce that a message that makes perfect sense to one part of the company is Greek to another, write separate communications to each. Figure out where the value is in the information and ensure that each audience gets something out of what you’re saying.
  • Humor helps. Advertisers use it all the time to engage the audience long enough to hear their sales message. In internal communications, a little wit can help humanize communications and sidestep the offputting qualities of legalese.

But be careful. Humor that offends will backfire. Often in humor, there are winners and losers. And people tend to take offense when they’re rounded up with the losers. While people being offended is pretty universal, your chances increase in larger, more diverse organizations.

Interested in striking the right tone in your internal communications? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Engraining recognition into your corporate culture

Communicating appreciation in the workplace, both top-down and peer-to-peer, is critical to building engagement. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” can often hold the same value to an employee as a monetary reward. Creating a culture of appreciation will let your employees feel valued and know that their efforts are appreciated, but it is something that happens over time and involves all levels of employees.

It starts at the top. Regardless of the type of culture a company is trying to create, leadership sets the tone for the entire organization. Culture cascades through the organization just like tangible communications, so appreciative behavior is likely to be mimicked as employees observe their managers. From there, they set the example for the next level of employees and this trickledown effect permeates throughout all employee groups.

Change how employees view recognition. Many companies make the mistake of treating recognition programs as a box to check without considering the requirements of keeping the program fresh, effective and sustainable. Launching a recognition initiative should be strategic in order to ensure that associates aren’t jaded by “just another program” that falls by the wayside. You might tie recognition to the company values or other objectives that you want to reinforce over the long haul.

Consider using perks to encourage recognition. Intranets and microsites are great solutions to track who is being recognized and why. We at Tribe promote gamification of your recognition program, such as points-based systems that can translate into giveaways or drawings. Engagement for programs like these are often higher – as it’s hard to beat free stuff.

Publicize recognition to the whole company. Part of fostering recognition within your corporate culture is to communicate it to everyone. Take specific examples and print them on posters, post them on digital signage or include them in your newsletter. Employees value seeing their peers recognized on a broad scale and will use the indirect appreciation as motivation to be the next one. Make sure to spotlight all levels of employees – down to the part-time, hourly workers. In doing so, you’re promoting equality and inclusion, key aspects of an appreciative culture.

Interested in showing your employees how much they mean to your company? Tribe can help.

 

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.