Mobile vs Desktop Communication: What Do Your Employees Need More and Which is Most Effective?

When it comes to non-desk workers, mobile is generally the best way to reach those employees on the frontline, the manufacturing line or employees in the field. Although, mobile can often seem like a scary thought to some companies so desktop could be the key. The truth is it just depends on your organization. It could be that the answer is both.

For example, if a hospital was trying to communicate with its nurses, the intranet might be the way to go.  (Although nurses aren’t sitting in front of computers all day, they generally do have access to a desktop while they’re at work.)

On the other hand, say an organization has delivery drivers that never encounter a computer during the day but they do have smartphones or at least a cell phone.  Companies like The Home Depot have created opt-in texting programs to give those employees wanting to stay in the loop an opportunity to do so.

In Tribe’s recent work with a large retail client, we found that roughly 95% of their store employees owned smartphones. In addition to that, roughly 70% of people in the US own a smart phone. So we decided to jump on that bandwagon and made suggestions such as linking their intranet to employees’ mobile devices.

Don’t count desktop out just yet, though. Desktop is also usually the most viable form of communication for many organizations. Mobile communications can be costly, so simply extending who has access to existing computers can cut cost in a big way. Desktop communications give you an opportunity to work with what you’ve got.

As stated above, the answer could be that you need a mix of both of these outlets to optimize your engagement. Some employees in certain departments often need to be reached differently than those in other departments. So it could be you implement desktop communications for your workers on the floor and opt-in mobile communications for your remote employees.

At Tribe we know each organization is different. Do you need help finding out how to effectively engage your employees? If so, we’d love to help!

The Power of Respect to Boost Employee Productivity

Does productivity increase when employees feel respected? An unintentional finding in the classic Hawthorne experiments points to yes. In the late 1920s/early 1930s, engineers at Western Electric tested their theory that better lighting would improve productivity of factory workers. To do so, they walled off part of the factory floor and kept working conditions the same there, except for stronger illumination.

Or so they thought. In his 1964 business classic “Managerial Breakthrough,” J.M. Juran describes the differences in the regular factory floor and the experimental space: “In the big room, the employees were forbidden to talk to each other — conversation was regarded as a drag on productivity; in the ‘laboratory’ they could talk to their heart’s content, and did. In the big room, they were subjected to a long catalogue of petty disciplines; not so in the ‘laboratory.’ In the big room, they were nobody. . . but in the ‘laboratory’ these nameless operators suddenly acquired status; engineers and managers addressed them by name, asked them how Jimmy’s cold was getting on, explained the project, and otherwise treated them as members of the team. The engineers never dreamed that these ‘little’ things might have more effect on productivity than something as important (to an engineer) as lighting.”

In fact, productivity in the ‘laboratory’ far outstripped that of the control group on the regular factory floor. When the lighting was reduced to its previous level, those productivity numbers remained impressively high.

The behavioral scientists involved noted that a major difference between the control subjects and the factory workers in the experimental space was a sense of respect. The sorts of liberties and trust that engineers took for granted represented a major step up for the work experience of those working on the shop floor.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that when you treat employees like adults, they act like adults. That sense of respect creates engaged and productive employees.



Helping Employees Adapt to Change

Handling change at your company can be tough. Whether the change is big or small, though, employees deserve to be aware and informed. Communication is key here, and good communication can be the difference between a smooth transition and a chaotic leap.

Through our research and client work, we’ve found that there are several tried and true tactics to help employees during change. Here are six Best Practices from the Tribe vault that can help you calm the masses:

1) Respect for employees

The most effective change communications are built on a foundation of respect for the individual. Think about the Golden Rule of Change: If you were impacted by this, how would you want to be treated?

2) Knowledge is power

Foreshadow the change as early as possible. You may want to wait until you know every detail before you communicate, but in our experience employees prefer to know earlier, even if there are gaps in the information. Which is why…

3) It’s OK to not have all the answers

Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them now. What causes more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something is afoot and management isn’t telling them about it. We advice clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know yet, but I’ll tell you when I do” or “I can’t share that information, but I can tell you such and such.”

4) Acknowledge the Two Big Fears

In the workplace, stress usually comes from two places: “Will the change make my job more difficult?” and “Will I lose my job?”. We encourage our clients to open dialogue about both.

5) Recognize individual differences

Each employee is unique, and they won’t have the same psychological or emotional reactions. Employees also process information differently. It’s helpful to offer communications in a wide range of channels from brochures to emails to face-to-face interactions.

6) Trust trumps all 

Your most valuable asset in any change is the trust your employees already have in company management. If your company has built a strong equity of trust in leadership, your job as a change manager is that much easier.

Three Easy Ways to Increase Visibility Across Silos

Breaking down silos is a hot topic right now, and with good reason. Reducing silos within companies can have numerous perks including increasing efficiencies, collaboration and innovation, to name a few. Beyond business improvements, the simple benefit of human connection among employees can go a long way in improving employee engagement as a whole. The game of silos can be a tough one to tackle, but certainly not an impossible feat. Here are three simple steps to take towards breaking down silos.

1. Provide insight on the work being done in other silos. Through our recent national study with employees of large companies, we’ve found that employees want a way to see into silos. If employees aren’t aware of the great work being done by their peers outside of their department/location/business unit, its much more confortable to remain in their bubbles. One Tribe-recommended method for showcasing work across silos is through an internal employee magazine. As a great source for showcasing peer work and employee spotlights, internal magazines are a great tool for building connections across silos.

2. Give employees the tools they need to identify the right collaboration partners. Through our research we also found that respondents said it’s not easy getting past the first step of figuring out who to contact as potential collaborative partners. Providing a means for determining the thought leaders and experts are in different divisions, locations and job functions are could be the fundamental first step needed for collaboration.

3. Make access to their contact info simple and reliable. The resolution to this issue can be as simple as an easy-to-access employee directory. As found in another Tribe study “Employee Preferences in Internal Communications,” 81 percent of respondents selected an employee directory as one of the features they would like to see in a company intranet. Without the deterrent of searching for contact information, visibility across silos can become a little clearer.

Need help breaking down silos or want to learn more about our recent employee silo research? We would love to help. Contact Tribe here.

How Coca-Cola and Snapchat Employees Manage Email

One of the most common troubles we see at Tribe is email management. At large companies, it’s a challenge to find a cure-all for groups of diverse employees who operate in very different ways. We work with companies to develop best practices and find a system that works for their unique situations. But there are some good practices that some Fortune 500 companies employ that can go a long way in getting your company on the right track.

At Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Snapchat’s Emily White and Coca Cola’s Wendy Clark shared some of their companies’ email protocol to streamline the communication channel. And we thought it was pretty spot-on.


  • Make the most of your subject lines. Clark said that at Coca-Cola, employees include tags in their subject lines to help manage email flow: URGENT, ACTION REQUIRED and INFORM.
  • Form habits you can keep. Recognize that you’re setting the standard for what people in your life will do, White said. If you start emailing people at night, people will expect you to be on email at night.
  • Give yourself white space during the day. Clark’s a fan of Google’s “speedy” meeting invitations, which are constrained to 50 minutes, without an option to override the system. By changing the standard for meetings to 25 or 50 minutes, the remaining five or 10 minutes can be used to check email or go to the bathroom, allowing everyone to be more present when they’re together.
  • Set boundaries. Camille Preston, author of Rewired, says having boundaries will help you with willpower. Put fences up to focus on what you want to do at that time.
  • Don’t hit send. If you want to work on the weekends, save your emails as drafts, but don’t actually send them until Monday unless they’re urgent. As a leader, you need to let people enjoy their weekends.


Need more help? Give Tribe a call. We’d be glad to help.

In Times of Change, Employees Are Watching and Listening

When changes are happening within an organization, whether it’s replacing a CEO, changing healthcare benefits, or revising your Flip-Flop Friday’s dress code policy, employees are paying attention. Perhaps they’re not all paying attention. And perhaps the segments that you intended to reach aren’t paying attention. But people are paying attention and trying to figure out the reasons behind the change.

There was a time when things could happen in the world and nobody would ever find out. Before the 24-hour news cycle, if you wanted to announce a potentially controversial change, you’d just do it on Friday afternoon or around the holidays. By the time you got back to the office, it was generally forgotten.

The communication and connectivity of today’s world means that our actions – no matter how large or small – can find an audience. This is just as true inside a company as it is on CNN or Fox News. So when management takes action or announces change, as communicators, we have to be ever more careful about who is going to notice or care.

Over the years at Tribe, we’ve been told by company leaders that since the changes would only affect the top few layers of management, there was no reason to develop specific communications for frontline sales and factory workers. Another was surprised to learn that changes in the senior management ranks over a few-year period had caused a significant level of concern about the company’s future among frontline staff.

As we’ve said in many a blog and to many clients, when there is an absence of factual information surrounding change, our human brains are wired to fill in the gaps with our imagination. The imagination feeds the rumor mill, and suddenly, we have a communications issue on our hands that’s spreading like wildfire.

So when changes are being announced, let’s be sure that our communications plans consider a broader group than those who are directly affected by that message. If a job function or department is being eliminated or consolidated into another, let’s consider who else will be impacted or might care about that change. It isn’t just the affected department. There is a group of employees who worked directly or indirectly with the people who were reassigned or let go. There’s a group of employees out there wondering if their department is next.

We’re not suggesting a need to custom-tailor messages for every employee segment within the company whenever a change is announced. When developing communications plans, we think it’s very important, however, to be as thoughtful as possible about who will be directly and indirectly impacted by the change.

And whether it’s through the company intranet, a Q&A platform or well-informed managers, when your employees have questions or concerns about a change, it’s extremely important that they have an easy-to-find, easy-to-use channel for understanding what’s going on. Because somewhere out there, somebody’s watching and listening.

Internal Magazines Can Make Heroes of Employees — And Promote the Culture You Want

Employees, like everyone else, enjoy their 15 minutes of fame. Internal magazines focused on culture, vision and values can feature employees in meaningful ways, through interviews, feature articles, Q & A columns, roundtables and employee spotlights.

For instance, in an internal magazine for Embassy Suites, we ran three employee spotlights in each issue. Our relatively simple process involved interviewing team members by phone. If the theme of the upcoming issue was innovation, we’d talk with three team members working in different locations and job functions about how they use innovative thinking in their jobs. Then we’d send out local photographers to get a photo of each team member, in some smaller markets hiring a shooter from the local newspaper.

Of course, this feature always made those three employees feel like celebrities. But it’s also powerful for housekeepers and front desk staff and breakfast chefs at Embassy Suites from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon to read about others with jobs like theirs. When a company publication turns the spotlight on those three employees, treating them as experts on topics ranging from leadership to problem solving, it also raises the importance of everyone working those jobs across the company.

These spotlights also model the desired behavior for other team members. Hearing how a shuttle van driver uses the company values in his day-to-day work inspires other team members to do the same. It shines a light on that behavior, serving as a conversation starter between managers and team members  – and a gentle reminder to all of the importance of their gracious, engaging and caring culture.

Connecting employees across silos is yet another benefit of these sort of magazine features. For a global holding company of apparel brands, our employee spotlights asked a series of questions, some about the business and others about their interests outside of work. This helps readers across the world feel a human connection with faraway employees like an accounting manager in Korea, a market director in England and a merchandising manager in Chile.

Interested in developing a magazine that showcases your employees and celebrates your company culture? Tribe can help.


Millenials and the Work/Life Balance

To Millenials, work and life aren’t mutually exclusive entities. I’m proud to be a member of the generation that is changing the face of the office. The ol’ nine-to-five, the grind, these colloquialisms exist in a world where a day at the office is synonymous with drudgery, even isolation. We don’t want work like that, and we’re proving that you don’t have to. Finding the balance of work and life throughout the day and the week is this generation’s key to a more efficient, productive and fulfilling workplace. But there are a few key misunderstandings surrounding that style of work that I want to address.

We can handle the “distractions”, and we use them to our advantage. Yes, I have twenty tabs open on our browser, and yes, I am G-Chatting with my cousin about her new baby while writing this proposal. I’m also writing a blog, reviewing a presentation and emailing a colleague. Impossible, you say? Not for Millenials. We were raised in an era where multi-tasking with technology is a must. We can move from work to life and back without losing focus and without slowing down. In fact, it’s been proven to help cognitive function. Experts say that taking these micro-breaks are crucial to keeping productivity and creativity going throughout the day. And that’s the end game for Millenials. For us, it’s not about hours spent, it’s about the results.

But that doesn’t mean we’re slackers. Just because we prefer to use social media at work, leave the office for lunch or try and get home early doesn’t mean we are lazy. Within the confines of the nine-to-five mindset, that seems to be the misconception. But within the work/life balance, work doesn’t have to end at five. An idea can come after dinner or even in a dream. If inspiration strikes, Millenials hop right out of bed and start fleshing the idea out. Personally, Sunday evenings are very productive and I regularly use the time to approach my work in a more relaxed setting. It also allows me to get ahead of the week and not get overwhelmed by an influx of work on Monday morning. Remember, just because you’re not seeing us work, doesn’t mean we are lazy.

We buck tradition, but that doesn’t mean we lack respect what’s come before us. There is a feeling that because Millenials are trying to change the workplace instead of conforming to it, we lack a certain humility and respect that is necessary in good work character. While I’ll agree that there is a definite lack of humility in my generation, it is not out of a lack of respect. We respect the leaders and innovators who have come before us, and we know that experience is invaluable in the workplace. We know we can learn. But we also believe we are capable of the same greatness. We feel like we don’t need to put our heads down for 10 years if we have the ability to achieve our goals now. We are bold, but we are not disrespectful.

By allowing and being accepting of the differences in a work/life balance, your company can harness the power of this dynamic generation. If you need tips on how to best reach Millenials or any other employee generation for that matter, Tribe can help.

Tribe’s Monthly Comic Strip: Change Management


Is email the real time waster? Or is it just poor email practices?

Employees spend 28 percent of their time managing email, according to McKinsey. If we consider email just another channel, like the phone and the intranet, then email is one of the ways people get work done. Yet in Tribe’s research and client work, employees consistently complain of email wasting their time.

The problem lies not in email itself, but in inefficient email practices. Those sending emails often make poor use of the To and CC lines, use vague subject lines and write long and rambling missives instead of clear and concise emails. Employees aren’t processing their incoming emails effectively, and find themselves bogged down in their inbox, letting messages collect there until they can figure out what to do with them or how to respond. In workplaces everywhere, employees are missing important emails because they’re overwhelmed with so many that don’t concern them at all.

It’s also easy to let email interrupt your concentration on work that requires real focus. The constant stimulation of incoming messages offers ongoing distraction from the job at hand. The studies on how long it takes to get back on task after an interruption suggest that this isn’t a very productive way to work.

In an attempt to eliminate those distractions, one company banned email completely. Fast Company recently published a story on CEO Cristian Rennella outlawing all internal emails in his South American travel company. Instead, employees sign into a custom project management site that uses absolutely no notifications. The system is what Renella describes as “pull methodology” instead of “push,” since employees decide when they’re ready to read communications and field questions and requests from their co-workers.

The cultures of most companies might not support that “whenever” approach to response time. For those companies, Tribe would recommend training on efficient email practices to quickly and efficiently communicate with colleagues internally.

Does that sound like something your company needs? Tribe would be happy to help.