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Steve Baskin

How different should your culture be?

Chimp Pic

Just about every company that Tribe works with is concerned with its culture. More specifically, they’re concerned about the degree to which the culture supports or inhibits achieving the goals of the organization. Of course, it’s important that companies are focused on this issue. Among many other issues, the culture can add to or detract from recruitment efforts. The culture impacts morale and potential productivity. And the culture certainly has an impact on retention.

Very different, but very similar. Tribe works with companies of all sizes – from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of employees – and in many diverse industries. As you’d think, the cultures of these companies can vary dramatically. Still, the issues that we’re asked to help with are surprisingly similar from company to company. Our experience is that companies often overthink the issue of differentiating their internal culture.

At a glance, humans and chimpanzees are extremely different creatures. Among other things their height, size, shape, facial features, hairiness (often), agility, linguistic choices and clothing choices are all very different. Interestingly, humans and chimpanzees share 98.8 percent of their DNA. Even more interesting is that in the 1.2 percent that they do not share, there are 35 million differences. (According to the internet and the American Museum of Natural History)

Like humans and chimpanzees, companies (particularly those in related industries) share many more similarities than differences. In those differences, though, dramatically different cultures will emerge.

Being different shouldn’t be the focus of your efforts. Instead of focusing on being different, focus on providing employees the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Focus on helping employees realize their full potential. Focus on strong inter-personal relationships. Most of all focus on helping employees understand how their individual efforts contribute to the company’s success.

Take the time and effort to figure out your company’s DNA. That DNA will ultimately define the culture. More importantly, ensure that the culture you have supports the vision of the company’s leadership.

By the way, from one human to the next, 99.5 percent of the DNA is the same. Doing quick math from the chimpanzee example above, there would be almost 15 million differences. Business being business and humans being humans, you’ll probably find that your culture is different from 98.8 percent of the other companies.

Interested in building your culture? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

TRIBE TRIVIA: Print Versus Digital Publications

iStock_000009356598_LargeTrue or False: Older generations are more likely to opt for a print newsletter or magazine over electronic publications, while younger workers prefer the opposite.


False: While all generations prefer digital publications to print, according to Tribe’s national survey of preferred employee communication channels, it is the older generations (Baby Boomers and Gen X) that prefer digital to print by a much wider margin than Millennials.


Exactly 44% of both Baby Boomer and Gen X respondents expressed interest in digital, whereas 20% and 19% respectively expressed interest in print publications. Millennial interest in digital publications came in at 36% and 25% for print. The differential for Baby Boomers and Gen X in preference of print versus digital is 22%, but only 11% for Millennials. Tribe’s findings are consistent with recent studies that have uncovered a Millennial preference for print books over digital, one of the main factors in the phoenix-like rise in popularity of the bookstore with companies like book-sales giant, Amazon, beginning to open brick-and-mortar locations.


For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of, or shoot me an email.



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.

Jeff Smith

Graphic Design: Why Slack Became the Messaging App of Choice For Employees

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Tribe has been a believer in Slack for a while now. Last year, we were looking for a better way to communicate in our office. We heard some great things about a few apps, but Slack stood out for one big reason. Employees around the world were adopting it independently and using it for work voluntarily. That type of phenomenon warrants investigation, so we tried it, and immediately, we understood the hype.

Today, Slack is being used by thousands of teams, from Al Jazeera to NASA’s Mars Rover team. The messaging app has caught on like wildfire. Why? It’s no real secret, but the answer might still surprise you: good design. It’s something that a lot of people take for granted, but it can make or break an application like this. It can be hard to distinguish yourself with features alone. Anyone can have video capability, @mentions, cloud storage, etc. But when you make all of those features easy to find, easy to use and fun to incorporate into a work routine, that’s when you really have something special.

 The intuitive, yet unexpected graphic design of the program is what helps Slack easily adapt to your daily work. According to Andrew Wilkinson, the founder of MetaLab, the company that did the design work for Slack, they initially weren’t necessarily aiming for anything in particular with the design.

 “Figuring out why something is successful in retrospect is like trying to describe the taste of water. It’s hard,” he says. “We aren’t big on process. We prefer to just put our heads down and design stuff, iterating over and over again until something feels right. Slack was no different —there wasn’t any magic process we used”

But MetaLab was using another messaging app, and they saw opportunities to improve existing apps simply through better graphic design. Where the old app would have grey borders, black type and blue links, they gave Slack a “confetti cannon” color scheme. Where the old apps had a loading screen, they put funny, inspirational quotes. In short, their design gave Slack a personality, and in so doing, they didn’t just give employees another messaging app – they gave them an ally.

 The lesson? Good design gets things done. This is battle that people in creative fields fight every day. Companies can’t seem to justify a budget for design because it’s just “making things look nicer” or adding color or a logo, but as we can see clearly here, design has made all the difference in Slack’s success. There isn’t some unattainable formula. It’s the hard work of talented individuals who find real solutions through good design. They understand the trials and tribulations of the workplace because they’ve been there, and their education and background allows them to approach the problem in a different way.

Could your workplace communications use a graphic design overhaul? Give Tribe a call. We know the value of good design, and we’d love to help.

Nick Miller

TRIBE TRIVIA: Communication and Growth

Success business concept: arrows hitting the center of Blue Email target on wall background, 3d render

Question: Does a lack of corporate communication correlate with a disconnect between employees and the company’s vision for growth?

Answer: Yes. According to Tribe’s national survey of associates of companies with more than 1,000 employees, there is a very strong correlation between how often a company sends out corporate communications and whether or not employees feel like they know the executive leadership’s vision for growth. When asked if they knew the company’s vision, only 22% of respondents said they did and that they understood the importance of their role as an element of that vision, whereas 32% did not know the vision and felt that it did not concern them.

Of those who felt they had a good idea of the company’s vision for growth and the role their own job played in that vision, 45% worked for companies that sent out corporate communications on a daily or weekly basis, whereas 13% rarely received communications. For employees who had no concept of the company’s vision, 39% could not remember the last time they received any sort of corporate communication, whereas only 6% received frequent communications.

While communications that are too frequent can render negative results, well-channeled and precise messages are a mandate for an informed and included workforce. These results demonstrate how important corporate communications can be in including employees in the company’s vision, a crucial element of success and a unified brand experience for customers.

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of, or shoot me an email.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Communicating culture starts with the hiring process – even with the applicants you reject

SquareMost onboarding programs place an emphasis on sharing the company culture from the very first day an employee shows up for work. But that’s not where the process begins.

Exposure to the company culture begins with the hiring process. Whether you’re doing it intentionally or not, you’re communicating the culture to every single applicant, even those you don’t pursue.

How you treat the candidates you don’t end up hiring is just as important as the ones you do. No matter what the specifics of your culture may be, being rude is probably not a value you promote. Yet that’s what many companies are communicating, rejected applicant after rejected applicant.

In Tribe’s research on hiring practices, many companies let rejected job candidates fall into a black hole. Respondents reported that even after several interviews, they often received no notice that the job was filled with another applicant. Their calls and emails to their hiring contacts went unanswered. Understandably, this made a poor impression on job seekers.

Why should you care? Because of those who had a negative experience in the hiring process with any particular company, 78 percent of respondents said they would be “likely to discourage others from applying to that company in the future.” Just as your company places a high value on word of mouth amongst consumers, it should take what job hunters say seriously as well.

Here’s the kicker though. Treating rejected applicants well can turn them into ambassadors for you company as a workplace. Over 87 percent of respondents said that in situations where they were not hired, but had a positive experience such as very personal or courteous treatment, they would be “likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.”

This is low hanging fruit. By simply establishing hiring processes that treat all job applicants like they matter, you can potentially improve your ability to recruit top talent.

For instance, incorporating this one small step into your process can make a difference: If a candidate has taken the time to have an interview, even a phone interview, make sure you close the loop when you give the job to someone else.

Don’t worry so much about being the bearer of bad news. In our research, respondents overwhelmingly preferred knowing they didn’t get the job to being left hanging.

Interested in improving your hiring practices? Tribe can help.




Stephen Burns

Find your company communications champion

bigstock-Cheering-Crowd-25662716Internal communications campaigns are some of the hardest to get off the ground. This is, in part, because they often require an extra effort from employees in order to be effective. Even if you have a dedicated communications team, a successful campaign, be it the launching of a new intranet, digital signage for employees or a new weekly newsletter, requires employees from all departments to take action above and beyond their normal, everyday duties.

You need to hit the ground running with a big launch, but there is also the issue of sustaining the message. The key to creating an impactful campaign is creating a resource that employees need and want to use in their daily work. Ideally, you would do this right off the bat, the resource would be adopted completely, people would start using it in their everyday work, and boom, you’ve got a success on your hands. But it is never that easy. You’ll always have some sluggish adoption, some resistance for one reason or another. If you want to plant the seeds for a successful campaign, there is a huge factor that a lot of folks tend to overlook.

Your campaign needs champions out in the field. These are your seeds, your hype people, your go-getters, people who can get excited about new initiatives and spark the imaginations of others. If you are introducing a new technology or channel, they get a beta version. If you’re launching a new digital signage campaign or newsletter, they are your content managers. They are natural momentum builders, because they spread the word about the project or initiative in a way that doesn’t seem forced. They give a word-of-mouth element to your campaign that truly stirs something up in the employee population.

So, how do you find your champions? At Tribe, we always joke that you should look for the person in the craziest Christmas sweater, and essentially that’s not too far off. Your champions are going to be extroverted, influential, individualistic and open-minded. And they can’t be a part of the traditional communications team. They need to be proof that this new initiative can work for everyone in their daily routines no matter the department. They also need to be able to make the benefits of your initiative apparent to employees around them.

This makes the growth of your initiative organic and that’s what makes things stick. You want your new campaign to have grassroots strength and to be a natural progression in your company’s internal communications. You can have all the support you need from the executive team, managers and budget, but if the employees aren’t convinced, it’s going to fall short. Having an employee champion your initiative is a key part to building that momentum early on, so by launch day, you’ve already created something that employees want to have and use.

Who are your champions? With surveys, discovery and unique engagement strategies, Tribe can help you find out. Give us a call.

Brittany Walker

3 Ways to Improve Internal Comms for “Free”

Custom communications solutions for free? You heard it right. In an industry where new technologies and services are sprouting up daily, and the options for subscriptions and add-ons seem endless, it can be difficult to navigate which solution is right for your team and your budget. Here are three Tribe-approved recommendations when going in free.

1.  Take a strategic approach. Before investing time in researching platforms, first determine the strategy behind why it’s needed. Whether it be reaching non-desk employees through a non-traditional channel, or grabbing the attention of employees in their already-overloaded inbox, it’s important to be clear on your goal. Different solutions are available to serve a multitude of needs, so defining the strategic plan is typically a great place to start.

2.  Invest in great design and development. When it comes to most basic, entry-level plans, custom design can take almost any resource from ordinary to engaging. And even more importantly, become cohesive with your brand. Tribe recommends resources like MailChimp and WordPress, which enable complete design freedom as part of their free subscriptions. With options like “code your own” and custom templates, you’ll be able to achieve the look, feel and functionality you’re after, all within the trusted portals of these established programs.

3.  Customize a template for future use and consistency. Measurement and analysis are important elements in communications strategy. Especially when it comes to capturing and quantifying employee engagement. Free surveying tools like those offered by SurveyMonkey can be a great resource for surveying employees, but can be a hassle when it comes to analyzing your results. Tribe recommends building custom spreadsheets and graphics to filter, analyze and showcase your results, based on your individual goals.

Know when to settle and when to splurge. Sometimes free options really are too good to be true, so it’s important to know where to draw the line. It’s all about knowing your need, and a lot of the time there are great, affordable options out there.

Need help navigating, sourcing and producing your communications tools? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

TRIBE TRIVIA: Foot the Bill and Gain More Interest

HiResQuestion: Does paying for employees’ mobile phones lead to a greater interest in what’s happening around the company?

Answer: Possibly. According to Tribe’s national research on using personal devices for corporate communications, respondents whose phone bills were covered by their company are 15% more interested in what people in other parts of the company are working on than those whose phones were not paid for by their company. Additionally, the former group of respondents is 11% more interested in communications regarding top management’s vision for the company than the latter.

One potential explanation is that high-level managers and executives are more likely to have their phones paid for and they are also more involved in the company.

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of, or shoot me an email.

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.