Internal communications for Millennial and Gen Z employees

Boomer and Gen X parents have learned what many workplaces still don’t get about Millennials and their younger siblings in Gen Z. If you send them an email, they might read it eventually. If you need to reach them right away, you better text.

At the moment, internal communications in many large companies are not serving this segment of the employee population very well. Yes, those static intranets are gradually being updated to provide more current and relevant content and features that allow for more social interactions.

But digital communications are just the first step. The next one is to make internal communications and enterprise-wide tools accessible on mobile devices.

Millennials and Gen Z are tethered not to their computers but to their phones. Although they may use their computers to create Powerpoint presentations or develop spreadsheets, to edit videos or add to Google docs, they do everything else with their mobile devices. In short, they create things on their computers, but they get things done with their phones.

Oddly, there’s a pervasive resistance to mobile technology in internal comms. Concerns include exposing sensitive company information; issues with non-exempt employees viewing communications outside regular work hours; and invading employees’ privacy.

There can be simple solutions to many, if not all, those concerns. The payoff for finding ways to make mobile work for internal communications is a significantly increased ability to engage employees — particularly those in the newer generations of the workforce.

It’s curious to me that adoption of mobile technology has been so slow in our industry. In companies where employees are spread across geography and time zones; where work is increasingly happening outside the office; and where the need for collaboration is greater than ever, mobile devices are one of the best tools internal communications could possibly have.

Interested in adding mobile capabilities to your internal communications? Tribe can help.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Employees Communicating Up to Top Management

True or False: Employees have little time or interest in communicating to their leadership.

False: Only 2 percent say a channel for them to communicate with corporate management is “not at all” important, according to Tribe’s national research on employee preferences in internal communications. Of the remaining respondents, 58 percent said it’s “extremely” important; 26 percent “very” important and 14 percent said it’s “somewhat” important to them.

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

3 Worst Mistakes in Leadership Communications

Employees want to hear from the big cheese. In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, 72 percent want to hear directly from top management. Over 84 percent say they hear from corporate management “not enough.”

Unfortunately, when employees do hear from their leadership teams, the communications are not as authentic as one could hope. Of course, it’s far easier for everyone – not just the busy executives also the internal communications team – to have leadership simply sign off on communications that have been prepared by others.

But that’s missing a huge opportunity to engage employees with their leadership. Help your company management understand the impact they can have by speaking directly and authentically to employees.

At the very least, try to steer them away from these three common mistakes:

  1. Ghostwritten blogs: Employees aren’t fooled by the perfectly polished prose pretending to be something the CEO actually wrote. If your leadership team shows any inclination at all to pen their own blogs, reassure them that a few paragraphs they write themselves would be far preferable to three pages that have been manufactured for them. Remind them that blogs by their very nature are supposed to be human and imperfect.
  1. Scripted videos: Not only is a video of a talking head reading from a teleprompter incredibly boring, it also casts doubt on whether the speaker really means what he or she is saying. Video can be a powerful tool for leadership communications, when the executives are comfortable speaking to camera as if they were having a conversation. Give them talking points, not a script. Remind them that they can mess up as many times as they want and you can edit those parts out. Let them know that coming across as a real human being is more important than seeming rehearsed and flawless.
  1. Cascading only: Especially in companies with lots of non-desk employees, cascading information through direct managers can be an effective channel. But it’s a mistake to rely on cascading communications alone. Particularly in times of major company changes, employees want to hear directly from top management. Even if those executive communications are prepared by other people. Start there if you have to, but keep pushing for them to do at least some of the communicating themselves.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a town hall or a tweet, a letter or a podcast. Find a channel or two that are comfortable for your CEO, president and other company leadership. Which channel is not important. What is important is that employees experience leadership communicating with them directly and authentically.

Want to find more authentic ways for your leadership to communicate? Tribe can help.

Living your company values

Your company’s values are an integral part of your business. But they also need to extend outside day-to-day operations. They need to be engrained in your culture. They need to guide your decisions and your people. In short, they need to be something more dimensional than words on a page.

Show your employees how values impact them directly. They may not realize how connected their work is to your company values. Even if they’re living them everyday, if the connection isn’t clear, they may not see how they tie-in to the overall culture and the bigger picture of the company.

It’s up to you to create opportunities for conversations around your values. If your values are stagnate, they won’t resonate with employees. They’ll remain an idea, perhaps a good idea, but if they aren’t consciously in the daily dialogue, it will be hard for them to gain traction.

Here are three ideas from Tribe about how to make your company values real to employees, so that they not only embrace them but apply them in and outside the office.

1) Spotlight employees in an internal magazine

In Tribe’s experience, we’ve found employee spotlights to be one of the most highly read features in any company publication. Focus the spotlight articles on how employees have used one or more of the values in their individual jobs. This not only serves as recognition for those employees being featured, it also models that behavior for other employees and helps them understand what it looks like to use those values at work.

2) Provide conversation guides for managers

If your company holds pre-shift meetings, that’s a great opportunity to start some discussions about the values, particularly with any frontline or other non-desk employees who have less access to other channels of internal communications. Managers, however, often feel awkward about starting these sorts of conversations, or just don’t know where to start. Prepare them by developing talking points or conversation guides that explore a range of real-work situations where the values can be applied. For instance, you might create weekly discussion topics that illustrate various ways employees might use the values in their jobs.

3) Create recognition programs based on the values

Employees need to know the company is paying attention to those who are upholding the values. By recognizing employees who are living the values on the intranet, at an annual conference, or just in a departmental meeting, management communicates the message that they’re serious about the values being important. Including values in performance reviews As Peter Drucker and many other management gurus have reportedly said, “What gets measured gets managed.” If employees know they’ll be evaluated on how well they apply the values in their jobs, they’re more likely to use to those values in day-to-day situations.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Technology and Collaboration

Q: True or False: Technology completely replaces the need for face-to-face contact in collaboration.

A: False, for 92 percent of the employees in Tribe’s national research on collaboration and silos. The remaining 8 percent believe interacting in person is “not neccesary at all.” Interview results indicated that most employees feel meeting in person at least once eases collaboration via technology afterwards.

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

Make 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.


TRIBE TRIVIA: Cascading To Non-Desk 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, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe. 

Boost trust in top management by communicating change honestly

Here’s the thing: trust is not about guaranteeing employees that nothing bad will ever happen. If building trust requires a guarantee of anything, it’s that the company will tell employees what’s really going on, even if it’s bad.

Employees are smart enough to realize that no company can promise lifetime employment anymore. Most employees don’t even want lifetime employment. They want interesting, challenging work, and in an ideal scenario, work that they find personally meaningful.

They start a new job with the expectation that eventually they’ll move on to another company, ideally when they themselves decide it’s time for a change. On the other hand, they recognize that sometimes  companies have to lay people off, eliminate positions or somehow reduce head count. They know that job security is a relative term.

Honesty, then, becomes the real building block of trust. Employees feel trust in their company — and thus do their best work and are most engaged — when they believe management is being honest with them. So how does a company go about doing that?

1. Tell employees about any significant changes in the company — and tell them fast, before the rumor mill and the media get a jump on you. Some CEOs and other leaders delude themselves into thinking that if they don’t say anything, the employees won’t notice that anything is going on. Wrong. Employees know when something is up, and in the absence of management communication, they’ll take their information wherever they can get it, often from each other.

2. Tell the truth, even when it’s bad news. Particularly when it’s bad news. If employees know that the company will be straight with them in communicating negative developments, then they tend not to worry so much. Ironically, sharing bad news makes employees feel more comfortable instead of less so.

3. Give employees credit for being smart enough to know business includes both ups and downs. Most people have experienced plenty of highs and lows in their own lives, and they have an understanding that things move in cycles. Just because the business is down today, doesn’t mean it won’t be up tomorrow.

4. Make room for employees to ask questions. You have to make this honest communication a two-way street. Provide an online forum or town  hall meetings or some venue for your people to ask management the hard questions. That gives the company a chance to respond to the issues that you have to accept are swirling around the workplace.

5. Share the management vision for the future. Most corporate management teams believe they’re doing this all the time. It’s true that the people closest to them are usually familiar with the vision. But the further away an employee is from the top, the less likely they are to know anything at all about the vision for the organization. Being aware of leadership’s vision can help anchor employees drowning in a sea of change.

Interested in communicating change in a way that can build trust? Tribe can help.

Tried and true: Engaging non-desk employees with print material

At Tribe, we’re always looking for the best ways to engage the non-desk employee population. In some of our recent client work, we’ve been dealing with some of the most innovative and exciting ways to interact with this employee demographic that is notoriously challenging to reach. While there are plenty of awesome new technologies out there that have made the process easier, one of the oldest methods is still one of top choices: print material.

From magazines to break room posters, print is an effective and time-tested solution to relay company information to employees that don’t have a computer in front of them all day. Very often, non-desk workers don’t even have a company email address, let alone enough down time during the day to peruse the company intranet. Print pieces allow these employees to absorb the information on their own time. Posters, for example can convey refreshers of company values or announce team building events in a concise and digestible way. Company magazines can be picked up, taken home and read when employees have the time to invest in reading them.

How else can print materials help build employee engagement? Here are a few ways this timeless medium can help reach your employee population.

They make executive leaders visible – and human. In Tribe’s national research, we found that employees want to know their top management team as people rather than just titles. A regular magazine feature based on a CEO interview or even a series of profiles of everyone on the executive team can help employees feel that human connection.

They help align employees with the company vision. A magazine is an excellent venue for sharing the company vision with employees and helping them see how their individual roles contribute to that vision. This is a natural topic for articles involving executive leaders.

They provide a showcase for modeling values. Company values aren’t real to employees until they see them in action. In the magazine we developed for a hotel brand, we included three employee spotlights in each issue. This did three important things: made heroes of employees, gave real-life examples of applying the values, and shared some best practices in tackling common issues in the hotel business.

They can open windows into other silos. Magazines can help employees put faces on co-workers in other business units or locations, building the sense of being part of something larger than just their specific work groups. For a global parent company owning numerous apparel brands, we highlighted one of their brands in each issue. To counteract the feeling that the company was too U.S.-centric, we featured a different global location each quarter so employees could see behind the scenes at other offices.

They help non-desk employees feel in the loop. Although many companies have opted to reduce printing costs by distributing their magazines as digital publications via email or intranet, there are numerous companies still printing magazines and even mailing them to each employee’s home. For frontline, field, manufacturing and other employees who don’t work in front of a computer, these magazines can be their only substantial communication directly from corporate – and an important element of engaging them in the company vision and the desired customer experience.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Non-Desk Workers And Company Growth

Q: What percentage of non-desk employees (those who are not sitting in front of a computer at work) have a good understanding of where the company is heading?

A: 43 percent don’t know the company’s vision for growth , according to Tribe’s national research with non-desk employees.

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