Skip to main content
Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Use Storytelling to Educate Employees on Cyber Security

Do your employees know what to do in case of a security breach? According to Deloitte Australia (as reported on CIO.com), employees of 43 percent of the country’s top brands don’t even know if their company has a procedure to follow in case of a data breach.

Perhaps even more importantly, do your employees know to avoid behavior that could lead to a major security breach? The recent Deloitte Global report titled “Cultivating a Cyber-Risk-Aware Culture” describes a hypothetical spear phishing attack that plenty of intelligent and worldly employees might fall for — if good cyber hygiene is not top of mind.

In this phishing scheme, an employee receives an email promising a gift card in return for answering a survey. The employee was not maliciously sharing sensitive company information. It looked like the email was sent by someone inside the company. And who doesn’t want a gift card?

Talking about cyber-awareness isn’t enough. To many of us, the term cyber sounds dated and vaguely humorous. Like when people joke about the World Wide Net or the InterWeb.

Bring it to life by telling the story. Employees need concrete examples of what risky behavior looks like, so paint the picture of a potential scenario. What sort of information would cyber attackers be looking for? What are some of the common techniques used by cyber-attackers? What are some of the potentially disastrous outcomes? Beyond just saying “Be careful,” we need to give employees a clear picture of what being careful looks like — and what it doesn’t.

Use internal communications to tell that story in ways that are engaging and interesting, not patronizing or scolding. Rare is the employee who would intentionally do harm to the company. But innocent mistakes can do real damage. And employees can’t sidestep a security risk if they don’t recognize the situation as risky.

Interested in engaging your employees in cyber-awareness? Tribe can help.

 

Jeff Smith

Employee Communications: When stock photography is a bad idea

 

Think before you search. We all know how easy it can be to search Google or iStock and try to find the perfect picture to represent your office culture or even your employees. But nothing is more representative of employees, than searching through a library of actual employees in the actual environment they work in every day. Stock photography is cheap and easy, but it’s not always a great idea.

In this day and age, authenticity is huge. People are able to tell you exactly what’s authentic and what’s not and they may even be deterred from viewing something if they deem it unauthentic. People can spot a model a mile away, and when you try to use stock models to represent real employees, you’re not fooling anyone. That brings us to the top three reasons for shooting original photography. All three of the following benefits make it worth considering the effort and expense of original photography.

1. Building engagement. When it comes to internal communications, we always want the employees to feel engaged, and there’s nothing more engaging than seeing your best friend in the newest issue of the magazine, or on an email, or on digital signage. Chances are, if an employee sees that there are actual photos of real people in the real work environment, there’s a better chance they may engage with that publication, email, or whatever it may be.

2. Creating celebrities. Our culture is fascinated with celebrities, and when you use photographs of real employees, some of that show biz stardust falls on each of those individuals. Some of the time, the employees that work the hardest jobs, don’t necessarily get the most recognition. Shooting original photography gives those employees that are hidden, a face and really brings authenticity to the company.

 3. Connecting employees. One of the best ways to break down silos is to help employees develop human connections with the people in other silos. When you’re able to put a face on a colleague, whether that person is in manufacturing or at headquarters, you humanize them. The ability for someone in retail to see a photo of another colleague in manufacturing building something that they sell, connects those silos. Besides, employees love looking at photos of each other. It’s nice to see who works where and what they do.

 Interested in photographing your employees? Tribe can help.

Photograph provided by Chris Davis Photography // cdphoto.com

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Change Management Communications: What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

What’s the biggest mistake you could possibly make in communicating change? The absolute worst would be to tell employees something that would make them feel better, but might not be true. For instance, saying there will be no layoffs with an impending merger, before management knows for certain that there won’t be. In the midst of change, there are many moving parts, and some early assumptions may be revised as more details and numbers are fleshed out.

On the other hand, it’s also a  mistake is to say nothing because the details haven’t yet been finalized. Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them everything right now. What causes them more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something’s afoot and management isn’t telling them anything. We advise clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “We don’t know yet, but we’ll tell you when we do,” or “We can’t share that information, but what I can tell you is such and such.” In any case, you certainly want to avoid having your employees hear the news from someone outside the company, whether it’s a neighbor who’s related to top management or the business section of the newspaper.

You can also minimize stress for employees by acknowledging what we call the Two Big Fears. In the face of any major change in the workplace, employees worry about two major questions: “Will I lose my job?” If the answer to that is no, then the next concern is “Will this make my job more difficult?” Acknowledging those two issues can take some of the heat off them.

It’s human nature to imagine the worst. So in the absence of communication regarding the change, employees’ imaginations will fill in the gaps and rumours will begin seeping through your organization. Setting realistic expectations can be a relief. Most people would rather know what to expect, even if it’s not good news, than to be left in the dark.

The most important key to successfully communicating change is to begin with a foundation of respect for the employees. That means treating employees like the intelligent adults they are, as well as putting yourself in their shoes. We often talk about the Golden Rule of Change: If you were an employee impacted by this change, how would you want to be treated?

Interested in communicating change more effectively at your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What to Tell Employees About Robots Taking Their Jobs

First the good news: A recent Forrester report estimates that automation will create about 15 million jobs over the next decade. Now the bad: the same report says it will also eliminate 25 million jobs.

It’s reasonable for employees to feel some anxiety about the prospects of automation in the workplace. For many companies, from paper mills to hotels, robots are already on the job.

So what do you tell employees? What you don’t tell them is that it will never happen in your company. It likely will, and you never want to promise employees an easy answer that could prove false.

Be honest. If there are ways automation can cut labor costs, it would behoove the company to take advantage of that. It will be better for employees, in the long run, to be working for a company that’s profitable and competing successfully in the marketplace.

But honest doesn’t mean the future’s all doom and gloom. Many experts believe this will be more of a transformation than a gutting of the workplace, and that automation will create new jobs that didn’t exist before. 

What’s more, these new jobs may be more fulfilling. The grunt work that people don’t enjoy is the work that’s easy to delegate to a robot. Rather than being replaced by robots, many employees will be working side by side with them. And while there are robots being developed that can interact with humans, the most important customer service will still happen person to person.

Person-to-person interactions will also remain a primary reason employees choose to stay at a company or leave it. Their relationships with their coworkers and their bosses will continue to impact whether they’re excited to get to work or dreading it.

Stress the importance of your company culture. As always, communicate the vision you’re trying to achieve. Point to real-life examples of the values being applied to day-to-day work decisions. Celebrate and recognize the people doing the important work of the company — not just in the C-suite but on the frontlines and manufacturing line as well.

Make certain your internal communications make employees visible. Interview them, photograph them, acknowledge their accomplishments. When employees know that their individual contributions to the company’s success are valued, they may be less inclined to fear automation.

Interested in internal communications that make employees feel recognized and appreciated? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

What’s the Difference in the Employer Brand and the EVP?

That’s the question we got from a leader at a global services company this week. Whenever he tried to explain and sell the concepts to his leadership team, the words seemed to overlap all over themselves.

At Tribe, the EVP and Employer Brand are part of the daily conversation, so we quickly got to an explanation that he could use. But getting this question from a key client reminded us that it’s a great idea to clearly define these concepts whenever we’re wading into a strategic internal branding discussion.

As the importance of effective employee communications has become a hot button for so many Fortune 500 C-Suites, it’s not surprising that the Employer Brand and the EVP has found its way into the lexicon. But confusion about the two exists. We see external and internal branding as two sides of the same coin. So to define the concepts, it’s helpful to compare the internal and external branding disciplines.

If a brand promise is what the company says that it will do for its customers, it’s up to every employee within the company to come in every day and work toward that commitment. Similarly, the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is what the company promises its employees, and every day, the company has to uphold its promise.

The EVP is the sum of the benefits and values that attract, motivate and retain the best employees. It includes things like salary and benefits. But it’s also about pride in what the company does. How it’s leaders lead. How it makes the world a better place. A strong and well-defined EVP helps move the primary motivator for working at a company away from salary.

And if Brand is what the outside world thinks about a product or service – the sum, both positive and negative, of a product’s attributes – then the employer brand is what current and prospective employees think about the company. It’s their knowledge and expectations of the company.

From inside the company, the Employer Brand platform is a handy tool that communicators use to manage perceptions and align behavior of employees. Like a traditional branding campaign, the Employer Brand serves as a theme or platform that allows us to communicate and position all aspects of the EVP.

When built correctly, the Employer Brand is authentic to the existing culture of the organization. Like the external brand, the Employer Brand should be filled with nothing but the company’s existing DNA. It’s aspirational, yet realistic. It sets expectations of what prospective employees will find should they go to work at the company. It’s a differentiator that helps explain to employees why this company is the right choice for them.

When the Employer Brand is supporting the EVP, effective internal communications become easier to execute. Recruitment becomes more efficient. Employees become more engaged. Retention of the right employees is increased. The skies are blue, and the sun shines bright.

Working on an Employer Brand? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

5 Faux Pas of Internal Communications

What are employees’ pet peeves about internal communications? In Tribe’s national research with employees on a variety of topics over the years — from change management to hiring practices —  we’ve heard a lot about what people do like and what they don’t. Here are five practices that seem to consistently annoy employees:

  1. Employee surveys with no follow up: When the company fields a survey asking employees to provide feedback on engagement, workplace issues, job satisfaction or other topics, employees would like the circle to be closed. They want to hear the results of the survey, and if there are issues that need addressing, they’d especially like to see management taking some action to make the changes needed.
  2. Intranets cluttered with outdated content: One of the primary goals of an intranet is to make it easier to find the information you need, not harder. When there’s no plan for removing old content after it’s past its shelf life, or no system for a regular flow of new content, employees lose patience with the site.
  3. Too many places to check for communications: Employees making this comment might mean having one intranet for the parent company and another for their brand and yet another for their HR stuff. Or they might mean email plus Yammer plus Slack.
  4. Managers bottlenecking information: Cascading communications is a perennial favorite for companies trying to reach frontline employees, particularly those without company email addresses or dedicated computers. But everyone (internal communications departments included) knows that some managers are great about this and others never seem to get around to it. Employees don’t like being out of the loop because their managers forget to clue them in.
  5. Conflicting information about a major change: Change is stressful, but one of the things that can lower employee stress is to have clear and consistent information about what the change means. If they hear one thing from the CEO and another from their manager and still another from what they read online, that can drive them a little crazy.

Interested in avoiding these and other practices that get on employees’ nerves? Tribe can help.

 

The Internal Brand Includes Employee Email Signature

There are some aspects of business that can be improved by personal flare, but email signatures are not one of them. From neon colors to inspirational quotes, some employees can really cross a line when given too much freedom with their business signature. Each mandated email signature should include uniformity in logo, color, font, point size and format of information.

Companies who haven’t created or don’t enforce a branded company signature should reconsider, given the following benefits:

  1. Consistency in the internal brand will reflect on the external brand. It is hard to ask an employee to represent the brand well externally, when the brand is not established or enforced internally. Implementing a unified email signature helps train employees to be mindful with brand representation, which will be reflected in external business as well.
  1. Email signatures can help solidify employee roles within the company. Having to write an official title down for an email signature can help define a position or department within the organization. It can also reduce the chance of an employee misusing or embellishing their title.
  1. Employees feel more comfortable communicating with associates when they understand who they are. For companies with a few thousand employees, sometimes workers can feel intimidated when sending or receiving information from associates they don’t know in different departments. Emails signatures can help bridge that gap in making sure employees are aware of exactly who they are communicating with.
  1. Perhaps most importantly, it makes doing business internally and externally much easier. Having something as simple as a phone number at the end of an email makes it easier to reach one another so the business can run smoothly and more efficiently.

Need help creating internal brand standards for your company? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Should Your Internal Brand Guidelines Be a Mirror Image of the External Brand?

There’s a wide range in how various brands answer this question. A few companies Tribe works with use the exact same brand guidelines internally and externally. Once in a while we’ll work with a company that has a very different look internally than externally.

Our guidance is to see the internal brand as an in-the-family version of the external brand. While the external brand is how we represent the brand to consumers and the rest of the world, the internal brand is like having a conversation with your family members. It’s how we speak to each other, human to human, inside the company.

The external brand and the internal brand are two sides of the same coin. When a company makes a brand promise, the people inside the company are the ones charged with keeping that promise. Whether the brand promise is about delivering speed or quality or courtesy or anything else, the employees need to be steeped in communications that prepare them to deliver on that. In the same sense, the way those internal communications look and feel should reflect the external brand.

So when we’re building an employee brand, we start with the existing brand standards. But then we might add a few elements to make it convey a little more familiarity, in the sense that we’re talking amongst ourselves in the family rather than to the outside world. We might introduce a brighter, friendlier color palette. We might recommend including an additional font that’s more casual. We will lobby for photography of employees, so that the internal communications reflect the faces not just of leadership but also of people working in various parts of the organization. (We don’t ever advocate using stock photography to represent real employees.)

The tone of voice and choice of language might also be different for the internal brand. Of course, the vocabulary you use with consumers or clients regarding your products and services, the industry and your business should be mirrored internally. But when you’re speaking to employees, it’s more like sitting across the kitchen table than it might be for the rest of the world. The internal tone of voice might be a bit more casual, maybe even include a little more humor.

One important point that marketing folks sometimes don’t get at first is that an internal brand needs more range than the external brand. That’s an issue of context. Think about seeing a TV spot, magazine ad or online advertising for your company. It will be seen in the context of lots of other brands.

But imagine walking by the digital signage in your company. Although there may be a few dozen different slides, they’re all representing one brand. Without giving art directors some range in the brand design, those slides will all look very much the same — and won’t be very engaging.

Another example might be the employee magazine. If every article looks exactly like the others, it becomes a sales brochure. To keep employees’ attention from article to article, and to signal readers that the content is editorial rather than advertising, the brand has to allow for slightly different treatments of photography, illustration, fonts, color and maybe even icons.

That’s not to say we recommend that anything goes for the internal brand. Quite the opposite. We believe in setting internal brand standards, but having those standards include a range of options — all of which are on brand.

Interested in establishing internal brand standards? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Internal Communications Lessons from United Airlines

How should a PR crisis be communicated to employees? The United Airlines debacle this week has caused quite a stir across the globe, damaging the company’s stock and causing a loss of market capitalization in the billions of dollars. But this event is certain to have repercussions internally as well. While we don’t have an insider’s view of how UA has approached their communications to employees, we can infer quite a lot from their public relations strategy.

“We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.” This quote, penned by Warren Buffet in a memo to managers of Berkshire Hathaway, comes to mind whenever a large enterprise commits a major PR blunder such as UA’s. Buffet understands the concept of atoning for a mistake as opposed to justifying clearly wrong behavior, as his fortune and repute were on the brink during a scandal with his former company Salomon Brothers.

But Buffet’s counsel is not only relevant to public relations. A number of internal communications lessons can be drawn from this philosophy and the loads of examples of what happens when it isn’t adhered to. Consider the following tips on communicating to employees following an internal crisis in order to maintain your company’s reputation among the workforce and avoid as much internal damage as possible.

  1. Be on time with your communications. The longer it takes to inform your employees on the actual happenings of a crisis, the more time you give the court of public opinion to shape their own judgement. Buffet pens in the same memo that bad news can always been handled, but undesirable situations are made worse once the news has “festered for awhile.” Squash the rumor mill before it begins to churn by being straightforward and transparent about your internal crisis.
  1. Even though action must be swift, consider all angles before deciding how to communicate. This may seem obvious, but in the heat of a crisis it is easy to make a move you think is correct without deliberating each outcome. The end goal is for employees to feel like the situation is being handled correctly, not to think to themselves, “what were they thinking?”
  1. Don’t blame the victim. If an employee is affected by an internal crisis, coming to work is no longer a positive experience. Placing fault on an employee(s) that is not responsible magnifies the negativity tenfold. Once that loyalty to a company is damaged, there is no telling how long it can take to gain it back, if ever. This goes for employees on the sidelines as well, who are watching how their fellow associates are being treated and are wondering how long it will be until they’re next.
  1. Lastly, don’t let your apologies fall short of what is appropriate. Accept responsibility and apologize for the actual offense, as opposed to conditional or incomplete apologies. Take the opportunity to put a positive spin on your message. Include improvements in your statement and elaborate on how those changes will be reinforced. Give your employees the confidence that, while a misstep may have been made, it is being dealt with competently and will not be repeated.

Need help managing your internal communications during a crisis? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

5 Ways to Recognize the Employees Who Do the Real Work of the Company

Photo credit: Chris Davis Photography

Giving visibility to leadership is important. People want to see the faces and know the humans behind the titles at the top of the org chart.

But it can be even more powerful to give visibility to the people in the rest of the organization. Unwittingly, internal communications often focus on the folks at the top and don’t give much coverage to the employees who are manufacturing the products; delivering the service; making the sales; coding the platforms — not to mention all the employees in HR, accounting, marketing and more who support all those people.

Here are five ways to create more visibility for the people doing the real work of the company:

  1. Quote them in articles: On the intranet or in your employee publications, use regular employees as sources rather than always quoting someone from the C-suite. When you’re covering a new product or a new plant, giving examples of collaboration or innovation, illustrating how the values of the company are used at work, the rank-and-file people will have insights and comments that other employees will be interested to read.
  2. Shoot employee photography: I’m not talking about snapping someone’s headshot standing against a beige cubicle wall. Invest in talented photographers to shoot employees in context of their work. Then use that library of employee photography to illustrate everything from your intranet to digital signage to the annual report. If you have a number of locations and types of workplaces, try shooting at three to five places a year and building the library over time.
  3. Build an employee culture team: Establish a small group of mid-level employees who represent diversity across the company, and task them with being conduits for the culture. You might start with an off-site where the team can bond, and have leadership join to talk about the culture, where they company is going, what it is the company stands for. Then use this team to give culture presentations to their colleagues and to report back to leadership on employee questions and concerns, progress and set-backs. When you have a major change down the road, you’ll be glad to have this community of peer influencers already in place.
  4. Create a peer-to-peer recognition program: Top-down recognition is great, but it can be just as powerful to be recognized by one’s coworkers. Establish a monthly or quarterly recognition program in which employees drive the process of who amongst them gets recognized.
  5. Help them see the value of their roles: This is the big one — and lies at the heart of employees feeling celebrated rather than invisible. If you can draw a line, in employees’ minds, that leads directly from what they do every day to the vision and success of the company, you create a powerful shift. Help employees see how their individual roles contribute, and make sure they see leadership recognizing their contributions as well.

Interested in giving your employees more visibility? Tribe can help.