When internal communications and marketing people work together, it can be a beautiful thing. At Tribe, one of the soapboxes we stand on most often is that of educating employees on the brand and its promise to customers. It’s very difficult for employees to create the desired customer experience if they don’t even know what that is.
Recently, we discovered a gold mine of potential employee engagement when we met with a client’s marketing VP. They had edited videos from their latest consumer research and had captured some incredibly moving comments from real customers. These people spoke on camera about what a difference the brand had made in their lives and about the positive relationships they had with the store employees. I’ve got to say, some of them were real tear jerkers.
If those videos don’t get you fired up about working for this particular brand, I don’t know what would. It’s excellent content for their new intranet, and will also be great for recruiting and on-boarding new employees.
Hearing about the brand from the customer’s point of view is more powerful than any messaging we can manufacture. Of course, there were also people with strong negative feelings about the brand. Video of those customers will be useful for training, and for prompting discussions about how those situations might have been handled differently for a more positive customer experience.
The internal and external brands are actually two halves of the whole. Each one is impacted by the other in an endless chicken and egg relationship. When the marketing department and internal communications teams have strong relationships across the two silos and take the time to share what they’re working on, everyone benefits. Including both the customers and the employees.
It seems the Millenial generation of workers are redefining the term. In Tribe’s research with Fortune 100-company employees under age 35, we found that these younger workers consider building a strong team and good relationships to be high indicators of leadership.
To Gen X and Gen Y employees, being a leader means:
• Inspiring others to do their best (76%)
• Helping to develop other members of the team (63%)
• Building strong relationships above and below in the company (59%)
What does that mean for your company? According to Forbes, “[The] ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.” Moving forward, think about where the strengths of Millenials lie: in technology, network building and diversity. Creating an environment centered on these ideals is key to investing in the next generation of the workforce.
How can you use this changing mindset to your advantage? The type of leadership Millenials crave is one that is rooted in transparency, open-door policies and, perhaps most importantly, building an office that thrives on teamwork. In Tribe’s research, we’ve found that these are things that most employee, regardless of generation, can identify with.
The days of “climbing the corporate ladder” are coming to an end. Corporate vernacular is moving away from the image of a “ladder”, in terms of success, instead using the lattice as a representation of the ideal. We’re no longer clambering to get to the top as individuals, we’re supporting each other and finding success together.
Need help reaching Millenials or bridging the generational gaps in your office? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.
Encourage your organization’s employees to interact on a less work-related, more personal level. This can increase productivity, efficiency and even quality of work. In Tribe’s research, employees tell us it’s easier to collaborate with people they know. Creating human connections allows coworkers to account for someone’s personality or how they might respond to certain ideas. People are just more comfortable and open when they are familiar with the people that surround them day-to-day.
It’s all about who you know. One of the most common hurdles Tribe encounters with our clients is when employees need to reach out to a different department and don’t know who to call. Employees chatting with coworkers they don’t usually work with are opening doors and creating networks within their organization.
For example, say Jeff from IT hops on an elevator with Tim from Marketing. After chatting about their weekend they realize they both like the same NBA team, live near each other, like the same beer – it could be anything. Two days later, Tim is working on a project and needs insight from IT and doesn’t know who can help him. Then he remembers his new buddy Jeff from the elevator. Now he has at least somewhat of a starting point for finding a solution.
Besides boosting collaboration, casual interactions create a stronger culture within your organization. Allowing casual conversations every now and then can lighten the mood even at the most stressful times. Everyone needs a little break throughout the day and quick “meet and greet” style conversations are a great outlet for that.
Need help boosting collaboration in your company? Tribe can help!
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 seamless solution. Here are four of our suggested tips for a successful ambassador program launch:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
If you can’t reduce the number of internal emails in your company, you can at least train people to write more effective emails. Here are five recommendations you might want to share with employees:
1. Place questions at the end of paragraphs: Burying them in the middle makes your readers work too hard to figure out what response you need from them. Give the necessary background information up front, and then ask your question. If you have more than one question, use more than one paragraph with a question at the end of each.
2. Treat the subject line as your headline: As far as possible, let the subject line tell the whole story and/or the call to action. Vague or generic subject lines are not only less helpful on the initial reading; they also make searching for the email later more difficult.
3. Use the TO and CC options correctly: TO is for the people who need to take action or respond to your email. CC is for those you merely want to keep in the loop. The reciprocal of this is to train employees to give priority to reading emails that include their name in the TO line.
4. Give multiple choice options, not open-ended questions: You’re not accomplishing much, and are asking a lot of your recipients, if you say something like “When do you want to meet?” It’s much more efficient to give a few concrete options, such as “Could you meet at 3 pm today or 9 am tomorrow?”
5. Short emails are better than long ones: There is nothing rude about a super brief email like “Let’s do 3 pm today.” If you find yourself writing a long missive, go back and try to delete several sentences or even paragraphs. Or consider this. Sometimes when we find ourselves writing a long, involved email, it’s because it’s an issue that would be more efficiently handled with a conversation. If so, walk down the hall or pick up the phone.
Interested in training your employees in email productivity? Tribe can help.
Different types of communications require different approaches. If you’re introducing a new executive or team member, perhaps a quick video interview with some accompanying text is the way to go. If you’re communicating quarterly earnings, then you’re probably better served to link to a PowerPoint or KeyNote document. It’s important to connect the message with the medium. It’s also important to understand that people consume information in different ways, so it’s nice to give them options.
An article on CNN.com or Rolling Stone or The Onion is just as likely to include video, sound or photograph as text. A USA Today article is going to have a simple infographic. Fast Company is going to give us interestingly complex graphics. And when we’re consuming this information, we don’t think twice about clicking on the accompanying video to get additional perspective on the article or linking from an email to the larger article in another location.
These folks think of media formats in terms of colors on a palette. They use the medium that will best communicate the story. And they’re sure to use complementary formats to enhance or amplify the message.
If CNN or Rolling Stone were hired to communicate to your employees, their approach would likely be different from most internal communications teams. Instead of mass emailing an important new policy or corporate direction to all employees (then consider the job done), they’d likely send a brief headline and teaser article that directs the audience to their website. They would give us the option to consume the information in multiple ways – read the article or maybe watch a video. They’d provide links to related articles. Because of inherent biases or differentiating points of view (we call these values inside corporations), the communications to would almost always lean in a specific direction.
They would organize the information on their sites in a way that allow the user to easily navigate to subject areas that interest them. Perhaps most importantly, because it’s important for them to know what their audience is thinking at any given time, they’d offer the opportunity for employees to provide feedback and become a part of the discussion.
Our experience is that corporate communicators can be very reluctant toward this more holistic approach to communicating. I have emailed, therefore I have communicated. They’re often time-pressed and are more concerned with getting to the next thing versus adequately communicating the first.
With the recent and dramatic advances in communications technology in the office environment, it’s much easier build communications structures that work more like the ones employees regularly consume outside of the office. The model’s out there.
If it’s important for employees to be aware of and in tune with what’s going on inside the company (alignment with management’s vision), it’s important to find the creativity, the budgets and the man-hours to ensure that our communications get and keep their attention.
Got questions about asking compelling use of channels? TRIBE can help.
Is your CEO planning to send that ubiquitous annual holiday email to employees? If so, see this excellent blog by Sharon McIntosh. Sharon was a client of Tribe when she was at Pepsi, where CEO Indra Nooyi, who is awesome, likely made none of the mistakes Sharon advises against.
There’s one potential footfall Sharon doesn’t mention. Unless your company is all office workers, that mass email is leaving out an important audience: all those employees who work on the manufacturing line, the frontline, the retail floor or in any other job that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer.
In Tribe’s national research, 84 percent of these non-desk employees said they don’t receive enough communication from executive leadership. And over 72 percent said communication from top management is important to them.
Don’t think that cascading communications through their managers is going to do the trick. Non-desk employees cite two major downfalls with the cascading system. One is that different managers communicate at different times, or sometimes not at all, leaving some employees more in the loop than others. The other issue is the inconsistency of the message. More than one research subject likened it to the kids’ game of Telephone, where the message becomes increasingly garbled as it’s passed from one person to the next.
Employees especially want to hear directly from C-level when the communication is about vision and values. And one would hope the annual CEO letter at least touches on where the company is heading.
So what’s a CEO to do? Reaching non-desk workers is more difficult, but that’s not a good enough reason to skip it. Here are a few channels to consider.
1. Send a letter, not an email. The simplest possible solution is an actual printed letter from the CEO, in an envelope, mailed to each employee’s home.
2. While you’re at it, send a vision book. Tribe recently developed a vision book for a large healthcare organization that was delivered by mail to employees’ home addresses, accompanied by a letter from the CEO. This vision piece can help non-desk employees better understand the vision and how their individual jobs support that vision, which in turn raises engagement.
3. Create a year-end publication to inspire pride. Another recent Tribe project is an annual magazine for a large building materials and consumer products company. A letter from the CEO opens the publication, which covers a wide range of company accomplishments over the past year, from new innovations to acquisitions, from safety milestones to product introductions. The over-sized photography features employees — many of them non-desk workers — from a wide range of their facilities and plants. The photos are shot in a style that makes the employees look like the heroes that they are, out there in their hardhats operating the equipment that makes the stuff the company sells.
4. Use mobile to communicate with non-desk. If the year-end CEO communication needs to be digital, include non-desk employees by texting a link. Better yet, develop an app that keeps them in the loop all year long. About half of all US adults own smartphones, but the numbers for non-desk employees are often higher, particularly for those employees in lower-paying jobs who are less likely to have their own computer at home. Tribe recently surveyed employees of a retail client and found that a crazy huge group of them– 91 percent — have smartphones.
Ready to find ways to communicate with your non-desk employees? Tribe can help.
Great idea. Except when it doesn’t work. In Tribe’s national research, employees share three reasons cascading communications are not as effective as we’d like to think.
The first issue is consistency of message. Ideally, employees would hear the same message, no matter who’s talking. Yet managers, being human beings like the rest of us, have a natural tendency to filter the message through their own perspective, resulting in small or large differences from the intended message.
The second drawback is timeliness. Employees of managers who are slow to communicate resent the fact that others in the company get news before they do. This is a particularly sensitive point for announcements of change. When employees don’t have the information others have, they feel a lack of control and a higher level of stress regarding the change.
Lastly, there’s no way to know if the message has been delivered. While some managers are great about sharing communications with their teams, others may never get around to it, leaving employees in the dark.
So what’s a company to do? In Tribe’s research, managers asked for two things: communication tools and communication training. If they’re being charged with delivering company communications, they deserve a little help in making that happen.
Interested in better preparing your managers to cascade messaging? Tribe can help.