Nick Miller

Internal Communications: The 9 to 5 and what’s next

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Back in the early 1900s, Economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2030, most of the workforce would be clocking less than 15 hours a week. We are still a long way from such efficient standards, but 100 years ago, the 9 to 5 was still a relatively fresh concept. The notion of this schedule in the American workplace wouldn’t become the standard until the unprecedented effects of Henry Ford’s assembly line manufacturing and FDR’s New Deal had reached every corner of the country, with much of the globe following suit.

Keynes must have foreseen the affects of globalization, Millennials and an increasingly socially progressive society. The world is smaller; videoconferencing has changed the meaning of a centralized workforce; freelancing and self-employment are on the rise, as is mandatory vacation and maternity/paternity leave. Millennials are demanding more flexible work schedules and research on sleep and the difference between early- and late-risers is justifying their cause. How can a company communicate effectively with all these factors considered? What happened to the days of every employee at his or her desk by 9 am?

The concept of 9 to 5, a defining corporate characteristic that every single person living today has known since birth, is actually just a stop on the highly fluid track of industrial development. Internal communications might be viewed with the same big-picture perspective, evolving to match the needs of the times. New channels and technologies will be vetted for usefulness and their executions measured in order to draw key insights. No one wants to be the company known for ignoring the next big thing (see: Kodak).

The constant need to evolve applies to messaging as well. Millennial priorities are different from that of the generations before them, and the generations to follow will define their own. It would have seemed silly to boast about efforts to be more environmentally responsible as a corporation or encourage employees to exercise through fitness competitions only a couple decades ago. These are not efforts that are obviously connected to an increase in productivity, but through trial, error and due diligence, companies all over the world are unlocking the cheat codes to efficient communications and an engaged workforce. In a universe like our own where everything is in a constant state of fluidity, it would make sense that your communications would be as well.

Are you interested in evolving your communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Managers Want Tools to Help Cascade Communications

Do you use direct managers as a communication channel for non-desk employees? The default method for reaching employees on the production line, in the distribution centers and on the sales floor is usually to depend on their managers to communicate what corporate communicated to them.

The thing is, few managers in these settings would consider themselves communications professionals. In Tribe’s national research on non-desk employees, managers said they’d like more communications support in the form of tools and training.

When it comes to communications tools, putting them online can be best. Of those who said they wanted additional materials, 57 percent responded in favor of using online materials. Comments of respondents included,  “Printed material tend to be a waste unless you are going through them line by line,” and “I prefer [supporting materials] to be online reports.”

Other quotes included: “I would like [supporting materials] to be online resources,” “I think [support materials] should be online,” and “[I would rather] have online resources!”

 Providing tools like talking points or FAQs can be particularly effective. In fact, they address one of the few faults that the 2012 respondents found with communications delivered through direct managers: inconsistency of message.

These tools can be simple. In fact, they should be. No need for tons of paragraphs or pages. Give them a one-pager with the overall key message and a few bullet points. Maybe offer suggested responses to questions employees might ask.

Interested in developing communications tools for your company’s managers? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

3 Tips to Avoid Overloading Employees With Emails

HiResWhen someone talks too much, people tend to tune them out. By the same token, if you’re constantly emailing employees, they may not be paying attention to those messages.

Employees already get too many emails. Some of those emails are urgent; others are things they need to read to do their jobs. Many are CYA emails that copy everyone who could be even peripherally involved with the topic at hand. And then there are the internal communications emails — which often get left to open later. Which means never.

So your starting point is that your email is low priority. That means your emails need to be both engaging and easy to process to get any kind of attention at all. Here are three tips to increase the effectiveness of employee emails.

1.First of all, cut some copy. Nobody’s got time to read every possible detail you feel you need to communicate. Keep the message simple, and provide a link for more information to satisfy the few who will actually want to know more.

2. Don’t bury the call to action. Employees will be scanning the email to see what they’re supposed to do, so get that call to action in early. The first line, first subhead or even the subject line will work fine. If you think they’re going to read paragraphs of text to figure out what they need to do in response, you’re probably mistaken. Even worse is an email that tosses the call to action in somewhere in the middle of the email where it gets completely overlooked.

3. Make it visual. You know what that say, a picture is worth a thousand words. In an inbox that’s filled with text, a strong visual can be the difference in an instant delete or a cursory look. And a cursory look is the gateway to actually reading the copy.

I’m not saying email isn’t a useful channel. Especially in employee populations where people are sitting in front of computers most of the day, email is often the most direct channel — and the one most preferred by employees.

The challenge is to get your email read. Don’t make the mistake of thinking employees are sitting there waiting for the next internal communications email to pop up. And don’t be so quick to decide that email doesn’t work. It’s possible that you haven’t yet figured out how to make email work.

Want to make your internal communications more effective? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Burns

4 tips to make Podcasts your employees can actually use

itunes-podcast-app-logoTribe has always been a big proponent of Podcasts. And they’ve never been been a more effective communication tool. We covered the benefits of having a conversational tone with employees, and how Podcasts can help you make that connection and deliver pertinent information to large employee populations in a way that is easy and accessible. But simply having a Podcast does not equal more engagement. It’s a communication channel that needs to be used effectively in order to get results.

Here are a few tips to make your Podcast top notch:

1) Know your audience’s interests. What do your employees want to know about? It might help to send out a survey with possible topics, so you can see what people want to hear and create an editorial calendar. This can also act as an awareness campaign, and employees will feel more attached to the project if they feel they have had input. Above all, this is an employee resource. They don’t want to hear an executive pontificate in corporate platitudes. They want to hear about specific issues, the direction of the company and things that matter to them personally.

2) Have a plan. This tip is two-fold. First, have a subject itinerary for each show, so you don’t have “dead air”, inconsistent timing, or someone searching for what to say (umm, uhhh) on your recording. You can edit the content in post production, but if you have to go in and cut a lot, it can be time consuming. Outline what topics you want to cover and make it solid.

Second, have a plan for when you want to release the Podcast. One of the reasons the top Podcasts are so popular is because they put shows out regularly, usually on the same day every week, bi-weekly or monthly. The audience knows when a new one is coming out and will check back on their own volition. It’s helpful for you too to develop a rhythm to have that push to continue making content. But you also need to be prepared to stick to your plan if you make one.

3) Let the authority speak. It might be good to have a “host” for the company Podcast, someone who does it regularly and becomes a familiar voice, but it’s crucial for engagement for employees to hear the information straight from the horse’s mouth. If there is a financial Podcast, try and have the CFO speak about it; if it’s a marketing theme, have the CMO. You get the idea. This channel allows employees unique insight into the subjects that you cover, and having someone they don’t normally converse with speaking on such an intimate platform will make it seem like more of an insider’s view. The information will be more pertinent and valuable to employees.

4) Make it listenable. A good quality recording can make all the difference in how the Podcast is perceived and received. Loud background noises, hums, pops and breathing all detract from the content. They’re distracting, even on a subconscious level. Invest in a nice microphone, a pop filter and maybe even a shock mount to make your recordings sound as nice as possible. As we outlined in the aforementioned blog, a few companies are making USB microphones specifically for Podcasters and this would be a good, inexpensive way for you to make your recording sound as professional as possible.

Stephen Burns

Do employees like your company’s social intranet?

social-mediaImplementing a social intranet, also known as an enterprise social network or ESN, is tough for large companies. There isn’t a formula for success. Rolling out a companywide tool takes a lot of time, effort, communication and collaboration. It can be tricky, but if you pull it off, there is no limit to the benefits a solid internal communications network can bring to your culture and organization.

The social network for the office is still an evolving tool. The phenomenon is relatively new, as the latest extension of the time-tested company intranet. But enough companies have taken the leap and worked with the concept long enough to where we are finally seeing some conclusive feedback.

The wonderful folks over at Simply Communicate surveyed over 70 enterprises with a “Social Intranet Barometer” to examine emerging trends — “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Here is a summary of their findings. There were mixed reviews for certain, but there were also positive signs. And the majority of the pitfalls lay not with the technology, but adoption and rollout.

“Management increasingly understand the value of social and collaborative platforms”

“The survey results point to a growing use of social and collaborative platforms; however, they confirm… that adoption and demonstrable success are patchy.”

“…overall adoption rates reflect widespread concern that social and collaborative platforms are failing to realize the highest hopes of their most vocal advocates.”

“There is rarely adequate budget for launching and promoting use.”

The technology will evolve, but in order for a social intranet to truly work, your company has to evolve, too. And employees need to be prepared for what is and, should be treated as, an extensive company change. Internal communications can often be taken for granted, but when you’re investing so much in a tool that could be the edge you need for success, it’s worth doing the leg work necessary to make it connect with your employee base.

Still wondering an enterprise social network the right tool for your company? Maybe you’ve implemented an ESN that isn’t gaining much traction or perhaps you’ve been weary to take that first step. Tribe can help you build your own ESN survey or work with you to find the best ways to introduce these tools to your employees.

Steve Baskin

Culture Is Not The Product

new product grunge retro blue isolated ribbon stamp

It’s good to keep in mind that culture is not the end goal. It’s the means to all sorts of desirable ends. But the culture is not the thing that your company is selling.

Remember when they came out with this thing called the World Wide Web? The Boomers and some Gen X-ers among us might remember the initial confusion in the business world about what the Internet really meant for business. Companies wasted millions as they chased ideas that didn’t make sense for them. Of course, over the past few decades, the Internet has changed the way we do just about everything in business.

But for 99.9 percent of businesses, the Internet is not the product. It’s simply a channel that makes conducting business more efficient. The Internet is an enabler.

Dealing with culture has some parallels. Culture, like the Internet, is a tool that we can use to make businesses operate more efficiently.

A culture that’s aligned with the vision is the best kind of enabler. It allows the ideas to flow through the organization more freely. It allows the products to get through the production process quicker and more efficiently. It allows the kind of communications that are necessary to insure that the products we’re making or the services we deliver align with our customer and client needs.

When a culture is toxic, unstable or unpleasant, it’s very difficult for company to work efficiently. We may have dreams of Google Fiber, but when the organizational culture is broken, things can move about as fast as dial-up speeds of the 1990s. But even in companies with happy and engaged employees, culture can be used as an excuse for not evolving to more effective tools or policies.

The culture determines whether the brand promise is fulfilled. When an organization goes about building its brand, it’s making a promise about what potential consumers should expect when they purchase the product or service. Inside the company, the employees are responsible for making sure that the promise is delivered. A strong and aligned culture helps make that happen.

Interested in communications that help align your culture? Tribe can help.

Keyboard Illustration "BYOD - Bring Your Own Device"
Stephen Burns

Making BYOD work for your company

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a trend that has been building in the internal comms world for a while now. And why not? Just about everybody on the planet has a smartphone or other smart device. There are a multitude of great apps that can give your company a great channel for employees to connect and collaborate. Best of all, the apps are intuitive, and employees are becoming increasingly familiar with the interfaces, so training and other related expenses are at a minimum. Is your company taking advantage?

It might be time to do a sort of audit on your internal communication channels. In Tribe’s research, we’ve found that a lot of employees are already on board the BYOD train. It’s very likely that there are large groups in your company using one of the aforementioned apps to great effect. Surveying employees can help identify these trends that are already happening in your company, so that you can build on them and help officially promote them companywide.

Still worried about your company’s security? It could be time to stop. These apps and the information “clouds” that make them tick are becoming more and more secure. While it is important to keep a tight lid on trade secrets, personnel and customer information, you don’t need to sacrifice what could be a beneficial communication tool. You can maintain a secure, onsite channel to communicate about those topics, and reserve the mobile channel for day-to-day tasks and collaboration.

With all the options out there, it can still be a challenge to find the right way to connect your employees and their devices.  Start by having a conversation with your people. Find out what your employees want and what your company needs. And if you need someone to navigate the waters of BYOD, give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

For internal comms, choose your weapon carefully

When you’re talking to employees, should you be thinking rifle or shotgun? Marketing folks often refer to the advantages of a targeted rifle shot rather than a shotgun approach, but in internal communications, the reverse is more likely to get the job done.

You can reach some people with every channel but you can’t reach everyone with just one channel. Consider the differences in media preferences. Most millennial employees use their mobile devices more than their computers. Non-desk workers in manufacturing, retail and other industries where employees are largely offline are probably not going to be spending a lot of time on your intranet.

Besides generational differences and the physical realities of certain jobs, employees will have their own personal preferences. Just like some people prefer real books to Kindles, some employees still like to be able to touch and hold their communications. Some will welcome internal communications sent to their personal mobile devices; others will hate that. Almost all those employees with a company email address would prefer to receive less of it.

Even the same employee will prefer certain communications one way and other types of communications another. Is it urgent? Maybe a text or email is the right channel. Is the communication articulating the company vision and values? They might rather be able to flip through a printed piece for that. Is it a quick tip or nice-to-know company news? Some employees might click on that when they visit the intranet. Others, who don’t spend much time on the intranet, might rather see that information as they’re walking by digital signage.

Think also about a channel to give employees a voice. Make sure you’re providing at least one channel for employees to share a question, concern or idea with leadership. And put a process in place for employees to get a reply. Posing a question that seems to fall into a black hole is worse than not being able to ask the question at all.

Are you developing a communications plan to reach more of your employees? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

TRIBE TRIVIA: Cascading information to offline employees

Q: True or False: The cascading method of sharing communications with non-desk employees replaces the need for corporate to communicate directly with this hard-to-reach audience.

A: False, according to Tribe’s national research with non-desk employees. 72 percent of respondents said communication from their top management is important to them. 84 percent said the information they get from the top is “not enough,” and 34 percent said they hear from corporate “hardly ever.”

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe. 

Steve Baskin

TRIBE TRIVIA: Do employees want to share feedback with corporate?

Q: What percentage of employees feel it’s “extremely” or “very” important to be able to communicate with their corporate leadership?

Answer: 84%, according to Tribe’s national research on employees’ preferences in internal communications.

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe.