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.

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Communicating corporate values

Start by identifying values that are easy to understand and remember. It is a formidable task to take a leader’s vision for the company and narrow it down to a few words employees should use to guide their efforts. On the flip side, if you want employees to truly adopt the company’s values, they need to be able to remember them and easily discuss their meanings. At Tribe, we recommend no more than three to five values written in language a third grader would understand.

Target recurring occasions and communications to acquaint and connect your workforce to your values. Values shouldn’t live exclusively on the poster on the break room wall. When planning any communications calendar, think of opportunities to incorporate the values into existing internal communication pieces, company events or programs. Rotate your values as the themes of your newsletter content or publish value-focused blogs and leadership videos. We especially like desktop tchotchkes such as Legos that reinforce values while also giving employees something to tinker with while working. The more instances your workforce happens upon corporate values, the better.

Designate values champions throughout the organization. Review your organization chart and identify middle-level managers in each department who have a passion for and exemplify the values. Charge them with ensuring the values are included in internal communication pieces, events and programs. Ask them to recognize other employees who are using or living the values and highlight those associates as heroes of the business. Involve your champions in the gap evaluation process of the values and reward them for the extra work and commitment they are giving to the company.

Integrate the values into your hiring and employee evaluation process. It is easy to say that your values are integral to your company’s success but to show employees the true importance you place on them, they should be included in the hiring and evaluation process. Include values-based questions during the interview as well as a checklist for hiring managers to use to ensure a prospect exemplifies them. A pre-boarding package that introduces values prior to an employee’s start date allows them to feel familiar with the values before their first hour is logged. It can also communicate that company values are of equal importance as other included elements, such as corporate policy. Incorporating your values into your evaluation process will both fortify the significance of values and offer supervisors the opportunity to coach an individual on how they can better employ those values within their work.

Looking to communicate corporate values to your employees? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Building Leadership at All Levels

Does your company encourage leadership at every level in the organization? In some ways, this seems an oxymoron. If everyone gets to be a chief, who will be the Indians?

But leadership can be seen as a sense of responsibility for moving things forward. Leading, as opposed to following, may not have anything to do with one person bossing a group of people around.

One crucial aspect of leadership is this quality of taking the lead — not of people, necessarily, but in making things happen. Some companies think of this in terms of generating ideas, and they go so far as to call these people innovators or catalysts or even the big-company lingo for entrepreneurs: intrapreneurs.

A spirit of entrepreneurship is difficult to achieve in most large companies. Some corporations like to boast they have the structure and resources of a large company, yet are as nimble and innovative as a startup. Sounds good, but in reality, that’s tricky.

To promote this type of leadership, a company has to be able to give employees a large degree of autonomy. In many large company cultures, each level hesitates to make a move without the level above them — not only to tell them how to do it, but whether or not it’s okay to do it.

Perhaps a more attainable goal is to nourish a sense of leadership in one’s own work. To encourage employees to approach their own jobs as entrepreneurs. To figure something out and propose a solution, rather than waiting to be told what to do.

From the C-suite to the frontline, the people doing the work are best equipped to create new solutions. The drive-thru attendant might see a better way to organize condiments; the salespeople might discover a faster method of processing returns; the receptionist might suggest rearranging the furniture, after noticing that waiting visitors are seated where they look straight at the break room garbage.

How do you get employees at all levels to take the lead? It starts with the C-level folks demonstrating that they respect employees — especially the oft-ignored frontline people — and value their input. Then you open channels of two-way communication so employees can share their ideas with management. You demonstrate that direct managers — and those in the C-suite — are listening. And you showcase the results of this type of leadership.

That all starts with the right internal communications. Need help with that? Tribe‘s ready when you are.

Steve Baskin

Fire Hose Communications? A Smarter Approach to Internal Communications

Fire FightingJust to be clear, the fire hose approach isn’t working. Let’s stop with that nonsense.

People go to work to do a job. This job tends to make them quite busy. This limits our ability to communicate with these people.

The problem is that there’s a lot of important information that employees need in order to effectively do their jobs. They need to understand their job responsibilities. They need to understand the company’s vision and how their role supports that vision. They need to understand how to sign up for benefits. They need to know about things that are going on around the company. And many people are trying to tell them these things.

Because of this time conundrum, the common reflex is to try to cram the largest possible number of subjects and words into whatever time we have. Whether it’s an on-boarding conversation, a quarterly town hall or a weekly huddle, it sometimes feels like there were just five or six too many things on the agenda. And the PowerPoint slides always seem to be filled to the gills with dense paragraphs and numbers.

Normal human beings can’t learn everything about everything in a day. Subjecting employees to half-day meetings and an onslaught of communications and expecting them to retain any of it is pointless. Subjecting them to two thousand word emails that provide every detail of their health care offering is equally pointless.

From the employee’s point of view, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. There’s too much coming too fast to comprehend even half of what’s heard. Soon those quarterly meetings or daily huddles become a waste of time as employees learn to tune out before they even arrive at the meeting.

So how do we communicate all of this information in a way that it might actually stick? Here are four ideas:

  1. Build a plan and calendar-ize your communications. Map out your communications objectives and build a schedule that includes all of the communications that an employee is going to need over a quarter, a year, whatever.
  1. Dole out the communications in bite-sized chunks and with a dependable cadence. For example, allow an on-boarding program to last 60 or 90 days versus one day or a week. Slot in the various subjects and schedule out a weekly conversation while they’re getting hands-on experience in their role. Keep the initial conversation as simple and straightforward as possible. And always provide access (links or directions) to the details for those inquisitive and fast learners.
  1. Peel back the onion (Shrek, 2001). Start out with the broad strokes. If you’re communicating the company’s vision, go ahead and announce the goals and strategies. But know that the work has only just begun. Over the next several months, explain why the company’s strategy is a winner, and explain how employees’ individual roles will bring the vision to life. Do this by painting vivid imagery with concrete examples of people around the organization who are walking the walk.
  1. Be interesting. If your folks are going to take the time to watch your videos or read your articles, please don’t bore them to death. Reward the people who pay attention to the communications by providing something that they care about. Why do Facebook posts go viral? Because they move people in some way. They’re funny or they’re heartbreaking or they unearth a truth that you’ve always known, but never knew how to express. Go ahead and be interesting with your communications.

If executed appropriately, by the end of that period, employees will know more of what they’re supposed to know. And over time, they’ll learn how to apply corporate communications to their roles and responsibilities. Importantly, they’ll understand how they’re contributing to the success of the company and will have a much better shot at being deeply and actively engaged.

Need help figuring out a communications strategy? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Four tips to launch a successful ambassador program

You’ve got a great new communications channel, now what? In most cases the next step is to start producing news and information to keep employees informed. Establishing a successful internal communications platform like a well-rounded intranet, newsletter or digital signage is great, but the content shared through these channels is what keeps employees coming back for more.

Tribe recommends an ambassador program. Gathering, sorting and editing content from all segments of a company is a seemingly impossible feat, but we’ve got a solution. Here are four of our suggested tips for a successful ambassador program launch:

  1. Recruit the right team. A program of ambassadors positioned throughout the company can be a natural source of news across functional silos, business units or geographically scattered locations. However, the right employee is key. A successful ambassador is often a more junior employee eager to make a name for themselves. Energy level is more important than experience.
  1. Spread the word. Tribe usually recommends an announcement from management to reveal their team’s new ambassador(s). Communicating the news of the new ambassadors will have two purposes: letting employees know who they should go to with their news, and giving the ambassador the recognition they deserve.
  1. Provide the tools they need to be successful. Before ambassadors can become content managers they will need some guidance. Introducing training tools such as ways to find news, how to connect with newsmakers and what makes information newsworthy will go a long way in the successful launch of your program.
  1. Emphasize the WIIFM factor. The role of ambassador adds to the workload, so clearly outlining what’s in it for them is important. Good news for you, becoming an ambassador is a great opportunity for employees. Not only will they have the chance to stretch beyond their current job descriptions, they will be able to connect and learn from some of the people doing the most important work in the company.

Need help getting your ambassador program off the ground? Tribe would love to help.

 

Nick Miller

Engaging Employees: 4 ways to get the most out of your interns

Group of happy business people

For companies across the country, May marks the onboarding of summer interns as campuses empty and students prepare for their first taste of the corporate world. Here is some advice on how to engage your interns in order for both parties to get the most out of the summer months.

  1. Include them in your corporate culture. Interns are temporary employees, but they are still employees. Treat them like you would any other employee and engage them in the company’s culture. Illustrate to them how their role is important in attaining the company vision like any other associate. Introduce them at town halls, feature them in the company newsletter, and invite them to after-hour events. You will get more productivity out of interns who feel like they are part of the company rather than fringe employees, not to mention benefits like future applications and positive word-of-mouth recommendations to friends.
  2. Allow them the opportunity to collaborate across silos. Internships are a good time for students to prove to themselves they are in the right field. Allow them to work with multiple departments in order to get a feel for what they want to do. There is often a large discrepancy between what a student will learn in class and how to apply that knowledge in a corporate setting. They may find that what they want to do is, in reality, very different. Communicate to them how that’s okay and help them hone in on what they are passionate about doing by giving them the chance to dip their toes into other departments and job functions. You may find that having a cross-departmental intern will improve general communication and collaboration between silos, even after they have returned to school.
  3. Send them away with tangible skills. An intern is always looking to bolster their resume. While general workplace skills are a valuable acquisition over the course of an internship, they won’t be able to put “fluent in corporate email lingo” on their resume. Depending on the field of work, give interns a chance to become an expert in a relevant software or trade such as Salesforce, Adobe Suite, or coding HTML. Even something as fundamental as basic Excel competency can make or break a future job application and take up a little more white space on their resume.
  4. Pay them. While it is perfectly acceptable to host unpaid interns, cover your bases to make sure that your internship program is legal. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, it is against the law to employ interns in a manner that their work is a substitute for regular workers without paying them at least minimum wage and overtime compensation. Unless the employer is a non-profit organization, a company can only employ unpaid interns if their employment program is akin to an educational or training course. They can shadow employees and be taught workplace skills, but any production by the intern that leads to a direct profit without properly rewarding their efforts can land your company in hot water and is unfair to the intern.

Looking for more advice on how to engage and communicate to interns? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Five ideas for engaging employees with wellness programs

HiResCompanies often launch employee wellness programs because of the health benefits, but these programs also can increase employee engagement. By activating the programs with initiatives that focus not just on the individual but help employees connect with their co-workers, build departmental and cross-departmental relationships and feel part of a group, wellness can foster a much higher level of employee engagement. Here are five ideas for how to make that happen:

1. Start a competition: This could be an annual fitness competition, based on sticking to individual exercise goals; it could be a weight loss challenge; it could be collecting miles walked or run to reach a collective mileage goal. 

2. Use your intranet to add a social element: Let your employee intranet make individual wellness efforts visible and create both a competitive spirit and a venue for support. Employees can establish individual fitness profiles with goals and report their progress against those goal; they can post their planned workout for the day; they can track their mileage or time,; or they could even find tennis partners or running buddies from the ranks of their colleagues.

3. Create a partner program: Whether employees are working on weight management or smoking cessation or just general fitness, studies show having a partner can increase success rates. That could mean pairing two people both working on the same sort of goals, or assigning a mentor who’s had success in that area to someone just beginning to make a change in their life. For instance, you might have an experienced runner mentor a co-worker just beginning to train for their first 5K. Or you might pair two people trying to quit smoking as support for each other. These partnerships can be established and maintained via the intranet.

4. Launch a virtual competition across locations: This can be a particularly strong program for companies with locations spread across the country or around the world. Competing against other locations helps employees realize they’re part of something bigger than just their own office, and can build great awareness of and engagement with far-flung business units and colleagues. 

5. Host a healthy lunch contest online: People love to post shots of whatever they’re eating online. Why not harness that same impulse for an employee competition? Employees snap a picture of what they brought for lunch, post it on the intranet, and then other employees can vote for it or simply “like” it. This could also include a recipe element, but doesn’t need to. Shots of hummus and raw vegetables or a healthy chili or big salad need little explanation for others to emulate — and could prompt some spontaneous online conversation as well, which can connect employees who might otherwise never have had any reason to interact.

Interested in more ideas for employee engagement? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Time management tip: Start with a jar and some rocks

Here we are, looking at twelve fresh new months. There’s no telling what you can get done in 2016. Just as a little New Year’s door prize, I want to offer one of my favorite time management analogies. I’ve heard it from several sources, so I’m not sure who originated it, but it’s pretty darn brilliant.

Imagine you’ve got a jar in front of you. Into that jar, you want to fit several large rocks, a few handfuls of smaller stones, and a bunch of sand.

What happens if you put the sand in first? Maybe it fills up the first few inches of the jar. Then you put the stones in. And finally, you’re ready to add the big rocks on top.

The big rocks might not fit. That’s what happens when we run our days like that jar.

Your day is a jar, a finite space. Okay, not space, but time. It is what it is and cannot stretch beyond what it is.

The big rocks are the really important things you want to do. The stones are the less important but big things. The sand is all those little things that need to get done. Scheduling that meeting. Calling the plumber. Responding to that email. Sending that birthday card.

Put those big rocks in first. Make sure you find space for them in your day and your life. Don’t let them be an after thought, or an “if there’s time” item. Then you can fill up the rest with the stones and the sand. There’s almost always room for a little sand at the end. Just don’t let the sand be your first priority.

Interested in getting some big rocks in place for your 2016 internal communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

CX depends on EX: The link between Voice of Customer and Voice of Employee

To improve your CX, work on your EX. The employees are the ones delivering that customer experience, so it makes sense to check in with them to see how it’s going. Do they have the tools and processes in place to make customers happy? Are there issues that come up again and again as customer complaints? Maybe they are frustrated by their inability to solve customer problems because they’re not empowered to make the decisions that could make it right.

Just like the company depends on Voice of the Customer, it’s helpful to listen to the Voice of Employee. When Tribe begins work with a large company, we often find that the top layer of management is a little out of touch with the rank and file employees. This isn’t because they don’t care – far from it – but because they don’t rub shoulders with frontline employees on a regular basis.

In our Discovery phase of a strategic communications plan, we recommend talking with employees as well as management. In focus groups, one-on-one conversations or phone interviews, we ask employees about their experiences. What do they love about their jobs? What are the challenges? How does the typical day unfold for them? What’s the culture like, compared to other places they’ve worked?

Hearing about the employee experience can reveal easy fixes and larger challenges. Most importantly, it suggests and informs strategies for closing the gap between the desired culture and the current reality.

A stronger culture and a better EX lead naturally to more engaged employees and thus an improved CX. In a 2014 study by the Temkin Group, highly engaged employees were “more than three times likely to do something good for their employer, even if it’s not expected of them; almost three times as likely to make a recommendation about an improvement at work; more than 2.5 times as likely to stay late at work if something needs to be done; and more than two times as likely to help someone else at work.” Those are exactly the sort of things that lead to above-and-beyond service and improved customer experiences.

It’s a logical chain of events. If you listen to the VOE, and improve the EX, then you’re more likely to hear from the VOC that you’ve created a better CX.

Interested in learning from the voice of your company’s employees? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Gen Y employees and the pressure of finding one’s passion

Younger employees just entering the workforce are often preoccupied with finding their passion. Gen Y (not to mention Gen Z, which is right on their heels) has been told — by their parents, teachers and our culture in general — that this is what they should look for in a job.

But that’s a lot of pressure. Identifying one’s passion requires more self-knowledge than an entry-level employee might be expected to possess. It places a tremendous importance on choosing the exact right position. For some, this expectation can be paralyzing, or at the very least intimidating.

It also promotes what might be called belly button gazing. By definition, searching for one’s passion means focusing heavily on the self. Extreme self pre-occupation is probably not the best way to be happy, which would seem to be the whole point of finding one’s passion.

Instead, maybe we could encourage these younger employees to look for ways they can help. That puts a whole lot less pressure on finding a passion-filled job, and switches the emphasis to a willingness to be useful and a heart that’s open to opportunity.

The irony, of course, is that by looking for ways to help, one is apt to discover passion. By following the path that appears when one looks for a void to fill or a problem that needs solving, one can become fully engaged and find a personal passion exists where it might have been least expected. Accepting a job where one has the chance to be useful can lead unexpectedly to meaningful work.

Interested in engaging younger employees in your company? Tribe can help.