Brittany Walker

Three easy ways to improve your intranet

Your company’s intranet should be a reflection of its culture. Culture is not only about your mission, vision, values, logo and formal rituals, but it also includes employee beliefs about the company, myths and ancillary symbols that develop over time. Reviewing your intranet should shed some light on the intangible areas of your company’s culture. Analyzing your site doesn’t need to be a formal process, but by taking some time and reviewing a few basic elements, you will also gain a better understanding of your culture.

1. Site design should be reflective of your external brand and your desired internal culture.  Look at the design element of your internet and intranet.  Are they of the same quality? Do they look similar?  Does it appear that the company invested in both? Does your intranet reflect your desired culture in terms of being fun or potentially a more formal culture? If the answer to some of these questions is no, it may be a good time to improve the design.

2. If work/life balance is something your company values, give employees the opportunity to share information about their personality on the site. Rich employee profiles are a great way for employees to connect on a more personal level and improve their working relationships with co-workers. The underlying message that employees will receive is that the company cares about them as individuals, not just for the skill set they bring to the company.

3. Review your values, culture attributes and other brand elements to see if they are reflected in the site. Your intranet is a great tool to communicate and sustain elements of your brand, which in turn help develop your culture.  Look for interactive ways such as spotlighting employees that live your values or promoting events on the site that help build camaraderie.

Do you have other ideas of how to analyze your intranet for insights on your culture?  Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Communicating Vision and Values: Give Your Employees Something to Do

Businessman opening hands

Tribe does a great deal of work communicating corporate vision and values. Quite often, the vision includes a grand statement about becoming the biggest, the best, the safest, the broadest, the fastest, the most caring company in the business. And while we’re becoming the “est”, let’s have integrity, passion and be innovative. That’s all fine. We all want to be the best at what we do and exude expected values while we’re doing it.

The problem with these broad goals and statements is that it doesn’t tell your employees what it has to do with them. If we’re communicating with employees and want them to engage in the conversation, we have to give them something to do.

Employee communications should provide instructions on what employees can do to contribute to the goal. When we talk about becoming the best in our industry, we take the ball out of employees’ hands since they can’t control what the competition is doing. When we can’t control or change the outcome with our actions, we’ll tend to ignore the communication and assume that it’s someone else’s responsibility.

Achieving broader company goals – or the company vision – doesn’t magically happen. It’s typically the result of the successful execution of internal business strategies. So when we’re communicating with employees, it’s important to be as specific as possible about what they’re supposed to do. They should be able to internalize the communication to understand how their actions should change after seeing/reading the communication.

Therefore, when we’re communicating corporate vision and values, it’s not enough to print a poster with the vision or send an email from the CEO that states the values. It’s a start, but we also have to provide context of how we’re going to achieve the vision or examples of how the values show up within the company.

Need help communicating Vision and Values inside your organization? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Authentic CEO Communications That Are Super Easy On the CEO’s Calendar

tCEOs are busy. They don’t always have the time, or the inclination, to pen their own material for employee communications. Having a leadership blog or letter to employees ghost-written by someone else, whether an internal communications professional or an agency, is a commonly accepted solution to that challenge.

But employees can smell fake a mile away. I was once in an elevator in a large corporation with the CEO’s latest blog posted on the wall. It was a nicely designed piece, with a photo of the smiling executive. Two employees who happened to be sharing the same elevator were chuckling at the ruse. “Oh yeah, like he really wrote that.” I glanced at the copy, and agreed with them. It read like a press release that had been revised by committee.

Yet it’s important to employees to know what the CEO is thinking. They want to know that he or she has a vision, that there’s a plan for the company’s future, that the work that they’re doing in their individual jobs contributes to some greater plan for success.

At Tribe, we’ve found a few ways around this conundrum. They all can be achieved with a very small chunk of time in the CEO’s calendar and result in authentic communications employees can trust. They also don’t require huge budgets.

1. The Q&A: This is the simplest possible solution. Rather than guessing what the CEO is thinking, just ask. Tribe has used this method for several clients on a quarterly basis. Here’s just how easy it is to do:

  1. Book 20-30 minutes on the CEO’s calendar once a quarter for a phone call
  2. Prepare a handful of questions related to the company vision, one of the values, a current business challenge or strategic objective
  3. Have a nice conversation with the CEO and record it (We usually use an iPhone and the Voice Memos app)
  4. Have the conversation transcribed (We use a professional transcriber, but any intern could handle it)
  5. Construct a Q&A column using quotes from the transcript (Most CEOs appreciate you cleaning up any stumbles or grammar faux pas)
  6. Have the CEO review it, make any minor tweaks, and you’re done

2. Leadership Video: Tribe recently shot a year’s worth of monthly videos in one day, requiring about 20 minutes per member of the leadership team. The CEO was interviewed on all 12 subjects, but that took only about an hour of his time. We covered everything from the Vision and Values to building a customer-centric culture to the balance between people and technology. That gave us enough material for more than a dozen ninety-second videos, each featuring the CEO and several other members of the leadership team commenting on the same theme. (We have a Tribe person off camera doing the interviewing, and then of course delete all that in the edit.)

3. Podcasts: If you don’t have the budget to shoot video, or if your CEO is shy about being on camera, use the same process above to record audio rather than video. Edit into short podcasts you can post on your intranet or email to employees.

Interested in trying some new forms of leadership communications? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Connect Employees to Something Bigger by Telling the Company Story

Do your employees feel like they’re helping to write the story of the company? Perhaps the most important goal of internal communications is to help employees see how their individual roles connect to the big picture. They need to connect the dots between the work they do every single day and the success of the company.

The company story can be an invitation for employees and prospects to join the experience. Make the story relevant for corporate employees but also those in the manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and other production jobs. People on the factory floor should know that they’re creating a product that provides people with something that makes their lives better in some way.

Look for the golden thread of purpose that has always run throughout the company’s history. Although business strategies and even the organization of the business may have changed dramatically since the beginning, there’s likely a perennial purpose that’s been there year after year. For instance, an IT company may be using entirely different technology and providing new sorts of services than it was even a few years ago. But look for the reason why the company exists, the need it fills for its clients. In that example, maybe the company purpose is and was to help clients’ technology work flawlessly so they can focus on their own business instead.

What channels would you use to tell the company story? Tribe often creates what we call vision books for clients, in which we help the company articulate the vision and values of the company. This is an ideal tool for telling the company story, for a variety of reasons.

The company narrative can also be told in almost any other channel. Tell it in the employee magazine, on the intranet, as part of a company anniversary event. We’ve even incorporated colorful gems of company history in digital signage.

The importance of the story is that it connects employees to something larger than themselves. Being an integral part of the whole makes work more meaningful, and more meaningful work builds employee engagement.

Interested in telling your company’s story? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What Can Communications Professionals Do If Their Company Isn’t Already a “Chill Place?”

iStock_000088161219_skate“If your company  is a chill place, you won’t have to talk about it. It will be obvious the minute you walk in the door.” Could not agree more. The above is from Liz Ryan, author of a fantastic Forbes blog  titled “Please God, Can We Stop Talking About ‘Core Values?'”

“A lot of corporate and institutional weenies love to talk about Core Values, as though their organization’s values were somehow fundamentally different from every other organization’s values.” That’s another scathing but awesome line from her blog.

And this, perhaps, is my favorite bit: “I assume you lead your company with a human voice and choose trust over fear at every opportunity. If you do those things, you don’t need to stop and plumb the depths of your Core Values.” All of the above and more from her post is excellent advice for the CEO and his or her leadership team.

But what if you’re charged with communicating culture to employees in a company that isn’t totally chill? How can you help shift the culture towards what Ryan calls a “human place.”

The best thing you can do is to lead from where you are. Start your communications strategies from a place of respect for employees. Be the voice in the meeting that speaks up for being  honest with employees, even when it’s difficult. Put communication channels in place that give employees a way to share questions, concerns and comments — and then create systems for giving those employees a response. Advise your leadership to take the high road, even when that’s not what they want to hear.

While this is decidedly more difficult than working with a company that already has an enviable culture, it may have a more powerful impact on the world. As the bumper sticker version of Ghandi’s words says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Want a partner in helping to shift the culture at your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Making Your Vision and Values Actionable for Employees

iStock_000056231554_MediumIf your company has communicated its vision and values to employees, you’re way ahead of the game. Outlining what the company is trying to achieve and articulating the values intended to guide the business is a huge step.

But just because you’ve shared the words doesn’t mean you’ve finished the job. To truly create alignment between employees actions and the company vision, you need to go further.

The next step is to help employees understand how they, as individuals, can help make that vision a reality. Do they know what part they play? Do they see the connection between what they do every day and the business goals of the company? Do the values seem relevant to them?

One of the best ways to achieve this is through concrete examples. Instead of telling employees what they should do, try showing them what it looks like to live the values and support the vision.

For instance, if you have an internal magazine, incorporate several employee spotlights in each issue. Take three or four real employees and interview them about how they see their job supporting the vision, and how they put the company values to work in their day-to-day work. Include photography, so other employees get to see people like them, in roles like their own, being treated like heroes.

One benefit of this sort of communication is giving recognition. Employees who approach their work with an eye to how it contributes to the overall success of the company certainly deserve all the recognition they can get.

The other benefit, and perhaps the more important one, is modeling the desired behavior for employees throughout the company. When you let employees tell their stories, giving specific examples of times they’ve applied the values in their work, or explaining in down-to-earth terms how they see their work contributing to the vision, it helps other employees get it. It enables them to take the lofty language that is common to company visions and values and apply it to real-world situations.

That’s when the magic happens. When employees make that connection between what they do at work and something bigger than themselves, that’s when you get alignment. When you’ve got alignment between how employees are working and where the company wants to go, you improve on measures that really count. Engagement, productivity, retention, profitability and of course, the bottom line.

Interested in building your alignment? Tribe can help.

 

 

Steve Baskin

Being The Best In Your Category Or Industry Is A Lot Like Being A Major League Pitcher

Baseball Pic 2I’m in awe of Major League pitchers who can throw the baseball a hundred miles per hour. A few years ago, I was at an expo at a sponsorship event and stepped into a pitching cage to see how fast I could throw a ball. I’m not completely un-athletic. But for me, sport is more about endurance than bat and ball types of things.

After lobbing the ball a few times to get warmed up, I wind up for the real thing. Forty-seven miles per hour. That couldn’t be right. So I wind up and give it everything I’ve got. Forty-six miles per hour. And now I have a newfound respect for major league hurlers.

So how does a major league pitcher make a ball fly at a hundred miles per hour and consistently hit an inches-wide target that’s ninety feet away? First, he practices pitching over and over for years and years. Then coaches and trainers meticulously hone his pitcher’s movements to ensure absolutely perfect form that won’t break down under pressure. Finally, and probably most importantly, the pitcher calls on every part of his body to participate in the process.

Sportscasters say, “that pitcher has a great arm.” But it’s not just the arm that throws the ball. Fingers have to hold onto and release the ball. The shoulder has to power the arm. The spine and hips have to generate torque to whip the arm around. The legs have to provide that forward propulsion for the movement.

The lungs can’t be seen from the stands, but if the pitcher couldn’t get air in him he wouldn’t be able to throw the ball. In fact, he’d die. The same is true with veins, arteries, blood and just about every other part of the body.

It’s a very similar story when we think about how high-performing teams deliver the brand experience at the best companies. There are front-line people delivering a service or selling the product. Typically, someone with a great pitch. But as important as they are, front-line employees are just the final connection to the customer.

Without the rest of the company, the brand experience falls completely apart. Someone invented the product or service. Someone figured out the operations requirements for building the product. Some actually worked on the assembly line or sewed on buttons. Someone made sure that the plant or office is a comfortable and safe place to work. Accounting figured out how to bill the customer so that employees could get paid and everyone would actually show up for work.

While the connection is not always obvious, everyone in the company has a role in the customer or brand experience. Everyone in the company contributes to making the product as good as it can be. Companies work at their peak when every part of the organization understands how his or her individual actions contribute to the company’s success.

Interested in communications that get every employee in the company aligned with your goals? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

To Attract And Retain Millennials, Share The Company Vision

At Tribe, we like to say our highest goal is to help align employees with the vision of their company. People like to feel they’re part of something bigger, and they particularly like knowing that their day-to-day work contributes to the company’s overall success. And from a productivity perspective, there’s not much better than having everyone moving things ahead in the same direction every day.

With Millennials, this is even more important. A Deloitte study found that 60 percent of Millennials cite the company’s purpose as a reason for choosing to work for their current employer. If you look only at those Millennials who are most connected on social media, that number rises to 77 percent.

So how do you do that? The same study found that 75 percent of Millennials believe that companies are more focused on their own agendas than on the good of society. And of course, to stay in business, all companies necessarily must concern themselves with turning a profit.

The sweet spot is when a company manages to combine good business with doing good. Sustainability is a great example of this win-win scenario. As the company reduces energy usage, for instance, they’re cutting costs as well as benefiting the environment.

Those in Gen Z, the generation following Millennials, have an expectation of this win-win being relatively simple. In Tribe’s research, many of these young people mentioned in interview sessions that they expected to solve world problems their parents had not made much progress with. They cited their more global views and continuous improvement in technology as two advantages to finding those solutions.

As both Millennials and Gen Z fill more and more of our leadership positions, they’ll begin to mold the way their companies present themselves in the world. We’re likely to see a greater focus on company vision that serves the greater good in addtion to monetary business goals.  For them, this could be business as usual.

Interested in recruiting and retaining these new generations? Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

How do you determine your company’s culture?

In an ideal world, your company’s culture stems and grows organically from day one. It’s a grassroots force that spreads from employee to employee, that continues to grow and evolve to support your business.

But often, companies grow rapidly and culture gets lost in the hurried pace of business. Culture takes time to resonate with people. If a company is opening offices and acquiring new partners, especially globally, it can be hard to unite employees under a common culture.

Companies need to evaluate their culture in order to connect with employees. Elements of cultures are undoubtedly growing amongst employees. Your company can really gain an advantage from uniting what is already out there. From a cohesive culture, employees can communicate easier and more effectively. It also helps to ground your business and lets employees understand both your company purpose and their personal purpose within your company.

Here are three steps from Tribe to help discover what makes your company culture tick.

1) Leadership Interviews

Start at the top, by sitting down with members of the leadership team to discuss where they would like their culture to be. Ask about their vision for the organization, as well as their mission and values. Get them to talk about their one-year or five-year goals for the business. You can’t develop a communications plan to align employees with the vision if you don’t understand what that vision looks like.

2) Employee Interviews or Focus Groups

This can be done one on one, either in person or by phone, or in group sessions, although like any focus group, one strong personality can dominate the discussion without a skilled moderator to foster more inclusion. For a representative sample, make sure you’re including employees of different business units, geography, seniority, gender, ethnicity and from functions that cover the gamut from sales to enterprise services to manufacturing or the frontline. This is a time consuming stage, but will provide some of the most critical insights for strategic development.

3) Employee Survey

Surveys allow you to quantify the themes and issues you’ve uncovered in the qualitative stages of Discovery and to gather more general cultural statistics about the employee population. The most useful surveys are structured in ways that allow for a close look at the cultural differences between business units and other silos, geography and demographics. An effective cadence for a comprehensive survey is once or twice a year. Including a number of open-ended questions helps ferret out the intention behind the responses. But keep in mind that it’s important to build in an appropriate level of anonymity so that employees feel safe in answering openly. For a couple of reasons, employee surveys should be fielded regularly. First, these are important tools that measure changes or improvements and allow leaders to understand what’s going on inside the company. Second, if surveys only occur in the midst of major change, lots of angst and negative energy can become associated with an otherwise helpful tool.

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.