Brittany Walker

Managing Manager Communications: The Art of the Toolkit

Providing leaders with the resources needed for cascading consistent messaging is important. In many cases, the responsibility of delivering company news falls on managers. Without the proper guidelines and tools in place, it’s easy for information to be filtered through the lens of each individual. The problem comes in when their interpretation of the message changes, slightly or vastly, from the message the company intended.

Make it easy. The answer to this common communications strife may be easier than you think. Providing managers with simple communications tools, like talking points and FAQs, can go a long way towards keeping them on-message while also making their job easier. And making communications easier for managers will increase the likelihood of the message being delivered.

Everyone communicates differently, and that’s okay. Particularly for major initiatives, a communications toolkit can be an efficient solution. A range of communications styles can be accommodated by providing an electronic compilation of email templates, flyers they can print themselves, PowerPoint presentations, talking points, training guidelines and more.

Give managers a head-up. Communicating with managers in advance will allow them to process the announcement before cascading information to their teams. They should have a solid grasp of the upcoming change and how it impacts the company, their role and the individual roles of their employees. Providing information in advance will also give these leaders a chance to get onboard with the change. Once a manager is embracing the change, they can act as informers, as well as reinforcers.

Need help with manager toolkits? Tribe can help.

Four Tips to Make Internal Communications Human

How are you communicating with your employees? Small companies have the benefit of easy, face to face interaction, but corporations with hundreds, or thousands, of employees can’t rely on a game of telephone. Communicating with a workforce that large means removing the personal touch a conversation gives. Making mass communication personal isn’t difficult, but it requires focus and effort. Here are four tips for adding a personal touch to your internal communications.

 

  1. Email is a popular avenue for internal communication, and for good reason. The majority of office employees have a company email, and in today’s world, emails are expected to be read. The issue is how the information is presented. A block of text is unappealing and won’t command anyone’s attention. Art directing your emails is a simple way to catch the eye. If the message is coming from someone in a leadership position, include their picture in the communication. Let employees connect a face to the message they’re receiving.

 

  1. Depending on the message, words alone might not be the answer. Shooting video of the CEO or an EVP delivering the message makes the communication more distinctive and puts a spotlight on the information. Just make sure the person talking on camera is comfortable with public speaking. If the confidence level of the speaker is low, employees will tune the news out. Admittedly, this is a riskier option, but done correctly, video is a refined way to communicate internally.

 

  1. Launch an anonymous employee feedback tool. Allowing employees the opportunity to provide critiques or compliments opens the door for honest communication. Their experiences are exactly what leadership needs to hear about — daily life in the company. To show employees that you’re listening, have a quarterly roundtable giving managers the chance to address employee concerns.

 

  1. Produce a podcast of executive or investor meetings. Giving all levels of associates an inside look at the company’s future and inner workings puts everyone on the same page. Providing that information helps promote transparency, and corporate transparency should always be at the forefront.

 

A successful communications strategy doesn’t have to include all of these tools, but it should incorporate elements of each to effectively reach your workforce. If these steps are implemented efficiently, your employees should feel like they’re working with you, not for you.

 

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

What Does your Office Say About your Culture?

No matter how your company describes its culture, job candidates and new hires will make snap judgments the second they walk in the door. The physical appearance of the work place provides several clues to what it’s really like to work there.

Consider what your office may be communicating about your culture:  

  • How is the space used? An office designed as open concept with public work spaces and lots of casual meeting areas might signal a team-oriented culture that promotes collaboration and a younger, more modern approach to business. In contrast, an office filled with row after row of cubicles says something else entirely. One is not necessarily better than the other; some employees actually prefer cubicles.
  • Is the place a hoarder’s delight? If someone walks into an office and finds that the hallways are filled with stacked file boxes and the flat surfaces filled with clutter, they may feel a sense of inefficiency and disorganization within the company. An office that’s well maintained and well organized gives a more professional, efficient vibe.
  • Do the furnishings accommodate various employee needs? A company with standing desks, treadmill desks, specialized back support chairs, or even larger monitors can show that the culture values employees enough invest in their health and wellbeing.
  • What color are the walls?  Vibrant colors can portray a creative driven and upbeat company. Muted and neutral tones will signify simplicity and focus. But dingy beige walls that haven’t been painted since the company moved in a decade ago will communicate a message as well.

Whether it’s intended or not, the physical appearance of an office will speak to your culture. It’s an interesting exercise to compare your stated culture with the state of the workplace.

 

 Interested in better ways to communicate your culture? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

The Second Pancake Theory of Design

Good design is like making pancakes. Most times, the first pancake gets thrown away. It’s burned or gooey, flipped too soon or too late. To get to the pancakes that are golden brown and perfectly fluffy, you’ve got to let the first one or two go.

 It’s another way of saying Fail Fast. We’ve all heard those tired clichés about how if you don’t fail you won’t succeed, and how the best thing for everybody is a good old-fashioned failure. And guess what: that’s absolutely true when it comes to design.

The first idea you have is rarely the best. You start with a blank piece of paper or an empty computer screen. And you take for granted that your first several tries will be bad. Or at least not great. And if you want to get to great design, you have to do the bad stuff first.

Let’s say you come up with something brilliant, but the client rejects it. That’s failure, in a sense, but it’s okay. It’s also an opportunity. Getting a fresh look at a project that you’ve already spent hours on is sometimes the best thing that could happen to your work.

 There’s always more than one right answer to a design problem. Even if the creative work rejected by the client was brilliant, there’s another brilliant idea out there just waiting for you to discover.

When you step back and reevaluate, you begin to see other design solutions. And sometimes, you might even like that solution better than the first. More importantly, your client might like it better. Put in the time, trust the process, and let the work speak for itself.

 Interested in better design solutions for your internal communications? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Employee Photography: Why it’s worth the investment

An important contributing factor to successful employee engagement is human connection. Employees can smell inauthenticity from a mile away, especially if it’s in the form of a model posing as an employee.

Nobody’s hair is that perfect while driving a fork lift. Employee photography is one of the easiest ways to connect employees based in different locations, busting silos and creating instant assembly. Used in tandem with thoughtful stock photography, original employee photography will quickly elevate your library to a successful engagement tool.

In our opinion, the three benefits below are well worth the investment.

1. Turn employees into celebrities. Enlist a quality photographer who will be strategic in their shots. Photography is a great way to make heroes of your employees. The objective should be to show the people doing the real work within the organization in a way that makes them look heroic. If you have a multiple locations and functions, try shooting a few places a year to become inclusive over time.

2. Show your desired culture in action. When the goal is to communicate certain values like collaboration or innovation, what better way to showcase that behavior than show your employees living it. Tribe recommends capturing real working photos of employees doing what they do best, their jobs.

3. Increase engagement across a variety of channels. It’s no secret that visual messaging gets more consumption. Whether your photo shoot is for an upcoming internal magazine, vision book, annual report or just to stock the visual library, be sure to shoot for many different scenarios to stretch your content usage. To create even more assets, snap a few behind-the-scenes shots of the shoot itself to build excitement. Employees enjoy seeing their peers, and themselves, celebrated by the company, providing an immediate connection to the bigger picture – pun intended.

Need help with employee photography? Tribe can help.

 

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Training & Development can lead to higher employee retention

Professional development programs can be a key element in employee retention. From a company perspective, training and development programs are meant to improve overall performance. But a well-designed program can do just as much for the employee. By providing employees an avenue through which to build upon their skills, it shows them the company has a vested interest in them as individuals, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll take those talents elsewhere.

The type of individual to partake in career development programs is one who welcomes more engagement. Take advantage of this desire to learn. By engaging this group in a meaningful way, they are likely to communicate these opportunities to employees that may not seek them out on their own. It’s a win-win situation for both the company and the employee base by increasing engagement levels. An engaged workforce is a happy workforce, and this too decreases the turnover rate.

Of course, it’s also important to ensure that training programs themselves are engaging. It will be hard for an employee to see the benefits of training if the material isn’t meaningful, or if the presentation is boring or poorly organized. The first step is to make the training materials and format appealing and motivating, while not coming across as cheesy or self-serving.

Communicate the “why.” Employees need to know that the time taken away from their regularly scheduled jobs is for a purpose. If they know up front what the training will entail and how it will improve their day-to-day operation or advance their career, they will be much more likely to see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Bake in your corporate vision and values. The opportunity to get your brightest workers in one room with the hunger for learning doesn’t happen every day. Take advantage by reinforcing what is most important to your organization. By illustrating their role in the big picture, you are creating internal brand ambassadors, whether they know it or not. This too will increase engagement, and thus increase retention.

Structure your program to create a feedback loop. These are the leaders in your workforce, and they are a valuable source of information. Tap into this wealth by providing them a channel to express their opinions, not just on the development program, but the operations of your company. Show them that their voices are important and act on their suggestions. If they understand that their perspectives are valued, it will only benefit the organization.

Need help developing an engaging training program? Tribe can help.

A Non-Comprehensive Guide To Implementing Change

No one likes change. It’s scary, it’s unknown. But market conditions and other business factors sometimes require large-scale, organizational change. You might be targeting an increase in sales, better trained staff, or even a complete culture shift. Regardless, there are four simple steps that can guide you down the path of smart, lasting change.

 

Do Your Research

Not only do you have to identify what you want changed, but you also have to know what’s causing the problems. If you’re in need of a personnel shift, more training might not be your answer. Achieving your best results doesn’t include glossing over problems. Identify your issues, and your solutions will come to light.

Have A Plan

Who is going to take charge in this battle for change? Battle is a bit harsh, but there will be people who resist. If you’re bringing in a consultant or agency to take the helm, it’s best that they have experience in your industry. Nothing kills momentum like no one believing the leader. Whoever’s in charge needs to have credibility. That’s also true if the leader comes from inside.

Provide Value

This goes back to not glossing over problems. Holding additional training sessions just for the sake of being able to say you did something, isn’t going to cut it. Lasting change doesn’t come from checking off boxes — you need to add value to the employee experience. They need to believe that changing will benefit them. Making their job easier, more efficient, or more secure is a great way to get everyone buying in.

Evaluate

There’s only one way to know if you’re going in the right direction. Give your change team short term goals, and listen to feedback. It’s important to know what’s working and what’s not. This also gives you insight in to who is taking change seriously. Bottom line, you need to be able to compare where you started to where you ended, and measure the progress.

Sometimes the road is short and wide, and other times you have to walk the straight and narrow. But no company every stayed the same and also stayed in business. The key is to steer everyone toward beneficial change, and this non-comprehensive guide is a great way to do that.

Interested in improving communication change within your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What retail employees, airline attendants, hotel workers and other frontline people know that corporate doesn’t

Valuable customer insights go unrecognized in companies across almost every industry. Although large brands may expend considerable budgets on customer research and voice-of-customer initiatives, they may overlook the most direct source of knowledge regarding what customers want.

That source of knowledge is the frontline employee. The customer-facing employee can be a rich resource of ideas for small and large improvements.

In quick service restaurants, staff may notice a trend of customers mixing two packets of different sauces. That observation might lead to a product idea for a new sauce flavor. In the hospitality industry, hotel housekeepers might know that guests often remove a scratchy bedspread and toss it on the floor. That knowledge could influence the choice of fabrics in the next design prototype for room interiors.

The frontline employee also has firsthand knowledge of customer complaints. They see things corporate can’t, which not only stymies customer solutions but also frustrates these employees.

In Tribe’s research with non-desk employees, this frustration was a prevalent theme. They often see corporate as out of touch and ineffective at solving common issues. Respondents reported that corporate often doesn’t understand the realities of the business due to being so removed from customers.

In most companies, this valuable field intelligence is lost. Without a clear channel of communication between the front line and those back in the corporate office, none of this knowledge becomes actionable.

Establishing such a channel takes some doing. Communication to field employees generally flows in one direction only, cascading from managers to the front line. Although individual managers may be aware of these frontline insights, there are rarely established communications processes for sharing up the ladder.

An effective channel will be specific to the physical realities of those frontline employees. What works for hotel housekeepers may not work for garbage truck drivers. A solution appropriate for a high-end jewelry retailer may not suit furniture rental store employees.

Interested in collecting the field intelligence of your frontline? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Internal Communication is Change Communication – Or Should Be

We talk about change communication as a category of internal communications. In fact, Tribe’s capabilities presentation has a page on Change Communications. But perhaps we should evolve our thinking on this a bit.

Every email, announcement, blog, post, recognition, video or podcast should be signaling some type of change. I read the email or watched the video. I learned something I didn’t know. I changed my behavior because of the communication. I’m now able to do my job better. That’s the real purpose of internal communications. Right?

Internal communications should be written to change behavior. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be wasting people’s time with yet another email, blog or article. What’s the point of asking someone to spend time reading or seeing what you’ve developed if it’s not designed to change behavior or help employees do their jobs more effectively.

I suppose this might add a bit of complexity or challenge to our jobs as communicators. To develop effective change communications, we need to know a few things. 1) What we want them to think or do after reading the message. 2) The gap between the existing and goal knowledge. 3) What the result will look like if we can get everyone to change a behavior.

If I read an article in the company newsletter or culture magazine, it should be more than just an interesting read. The article should educate me on what’s going on around the company and perhaps offer insights on things that I could be doing to help the company achieve its business goals or vision – and potentially change my behavior.

“I just need to make an announcement. How is announcing the winners of an internal contest change communication?” Quite often it may seem like there’s no opportunity to elevate a message beyond its basic points. In this example, instead of just announcing the contest winners, there’s an opportunity to revisit the original purpose of the contest. What were you trying to get employees to do? And how does that behavior support the goals of the company? There’s almost always an opportunity to tie the conversation back to the company’s goals.

But let’s be careful not to load these communications up with so much stuff that they stop communicating. There is beauty in simplicity. There are lots of important emails that communicate that something must be done before some date. And that’s a form of change. I didn’t know the date before I read the email. Now that I do, I’ve made a note in my to do list to have a conversation with my spouse and sign up for benefits before the window closes. That’s change too.

And keep having fun. Making your communications consistently strategic doesn’t mean they can’t also be fun. It’s important to be engaging and entertaining with your communications. But cute for the sake of being cute at the office can be quite a waste of time. We prefer strategically fun.

It doesn’t matter what you call your communications. What’s important is not missing the opportunity to affect change.

Want to make sure your communications affect change? Tribe can help.

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.