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Brittany Walker

4 Reasons Not to Give Up on Communicating to Frontline Employees

Many companies with great internal communications have trouble reaching their non-desk employees. Why? Because communicating to employees who aren’t behind a desk all day can be hard. Whether it’s your sales force, retail team, physicians, manufacturing line or delivery drivers, frontline employees are often those who need to hear from corporate the most. Here are four reasons why sticking with a non-desk communications strategy could benefit your business.

1. You can’t expect employees to be aligned with the vision if they don’t know what it is. It’s no secret that many companies overlook communicating with non-desk employees. But it could be a big miss not to engage your frontline employees in the vision of the company to make them feel part of something bigger. In fact, Tribe’s national study on non-desk workers underlines the importance of communicating the company’s vision and values to this employee population.

2. Consistent corporate communication builds engagement. Many companies leave most – if not all – internal communications with frontline employees to their supervisors. While cascading communications can successfully deliver messages when executed correctly, our research indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top leadership interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

3. Frontline employees can have a tremendous impact on the customer experience. Whether the customer is an individual consumer or a business, they’re probably interacting with those non-desk workers. It is up to these employees to deliver on your brand promise.

4. Visibility from corporate is often something they crave. Just because many companies aren’t talking to non-desk workers doesn’t mean they don’t want communication from top management regarding the internal brand. Trust us, employees who work the overnight shift often appreciate these communications more than anyone else. We know because they’ve told us.

Need help with your non-desk communications strategy? Tribe can help.

 

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement in an Age of Uncertainty

For the first time since 2012, global employee engagement took a negative turn in 2016. A study recently published by Aon shows that 2016 saw a -2% drop in employee engagement, following significant advances across the globe since the start of the decade. Trends vary by continent, with Asia experiencing the biggest drop at -3% and Latin America experiencing an increase of 3%. Countries within each continent vary as well, with the Philippines trending downward the most at -9% and Nigeria trending upward at 9%.

Across the world, 2016 was a year of discord. Few of the world’s leading countries avoided some major conflict or uncertainty, whether it’s in the form of terror attacks, elections with rising populist sentiments, effects of Brexit, or the weight of refugee resettlement. There’s no doubt that people all over the world have faced the difficult realities of a changing landscape with concern, but so have the companies that comprise the global economy.

So, the question is: Is the effect of these concerning distractions causing employees to be less engaged at work, or are organizations allocating less resources to engagement and communications in a time of uncertainty?

It doesn’t appear there is a clear answer. For example, both the United States and the United Kingdom experienced divisive national campaigns that captured the airwaves for many months. The U.S. experienced a slight drop in engagement, but the U.K.’s overall engagement increased a point. Another great example is Brazil, which experienced a year of both significant economic and political conflict, impeaching their president and decreasing their GDP by -4%. Yet their employee engagement increased more than any other country besides Nigeria.

Regardless of cause or correlation, insights can be drawn. Employees are a company’s greatest asset. In a year like 2016 where events outside of work cause your workforce to feel unsettled, having leaders overly engage employees can ease any negative feelings related to work.

By making their jobs the least uncertain aspect of their lives, you’re doing them a favor that pays off for both the individual and the organization. If your company is going through major change, out-performing last year’s numbers, or just at status quo, keeping your employees in the loop and communicating their role in the company’s mission will always yield positive results.

Are you interested in increasing your employee engagement measurements? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

It will take more than a new CEO to change the culture at Uber

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

I didn’t find it particularly sexist when Uber board member David Bonderman commented that more women on the board would mean more talking. Before reading Susan Fowler’s blog about her time as an engineer at Uber, I assumed the culture there was  no worse than any company run by a bunch of smart-ass guys. Something along the lines of the ad agency world back in the day, like when my boss would flip through Playboy while I read my work aloud to him.

But Fowler’s account reflects a maddening experience in a culture of gender bias that’s deeply systemic. Ousting CEO Travis Kalanick is not going to instantly eradicate a pervasive attitude of permissiveness toward sexual harassment and discrimination. The board at Uber has a long uphill slog ahead if they’re hoping to change the culture in a meaningful way.

Having more women in top leadership positions would help, but high-level women have been leaving the company in droves. According to Fowler’s calculations, the Uber workforce was 25 percent female a year ago and now is at less than six percent. Whether women have left because of sexism or due to the chaotic state of the business, they’ve left a vacuum that may need to be filled by women coming from outside the company.

At Tribe, we often work with large companies interested in shifting their cultures. I’ve been thinking lately about what we would recommend Uber do now, and I have to tell you, just the thought of the work ahead of them makes me feel exhausted.  So much real change would have to happen, from new leadership all the way through operations, before the culture even begins to budge.

Communicating that cultural change will be easy enough — once the change is real. But slight improvements or superficial changes won’t move the needle. In this case, there will have to be a seismic sea change to change the reality of the culture at Uber.

It will be difficult, and it’s possible the board will decide such an uphill battle isn’t worth it. Maybe they’ll just let boys be boys and take the lumps.

The worst mistake they could make would be to claim the culture has shifted when it hasn’t. That would only backfire — and undermine whatever trust in leadership remains.

Have a cultural issue that’s not quite as bad as Uber’s? Tribe can help.

Four Tips For Improving Your Internal Communication

If you asked each employee what the corporate mission statement is, or if they feel appreciated, what do you think they’d say? The answer isn’t an obvious one, especially if your business crosses state or country lines, not to mention continents. The further away employees are from headquarters, the less connected to leadership they seem to feel.

 Internal communications is so much more than just updating employees with business information. It can be used as a way connect with and build up each department. Employee engagement increases productivity and retention, and creating that connection doesn’t have to be hard. Here are four ways to improve the way you communicate within your company.

  1. For starters, encourage employees to speak up. They should know they have a voice and that their opinion matters. If they believe a process or meeting can be handled more efficiently, provide a way for their feedback to be heard. They just might be right.
  2. Be clear with your communication. Don’t just inform people of change. Tell them why change is coming, and how it will help the supply chain, reduce overhead, or eliminate redundancies. Change is always scary at first, but addressing concerns before they have time to manifest helps reduce some employee stress.
  3. Be creative in the ways you communicate. Don’t always rely on walls of text to get your message out. Just because you can summarize your message in an email doesn’t mean that’s the best way. Mix up your content with videos, or introduce friendly employee competitions. Just don’t be boring.
  4. Give recognition where recognition is deserved. This is particularly important when your business has many different hands involved in the creation of your product. Make sure your warehouse workers know how they fit in with the business, as in, there is no business without them. Each piece of the company is integral to the work flow, make sure people in sales, marketing, or engineering know that.

Some of this might be new, and some of it might be a reminder. The goal is to follow through with these guidelines and be consistent. A constant employee complaint is always receiving mixed messages—or no message at all— from corporate.

Interested in improving communications within your company? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Note to internal communicators: We’re drawn to human faces even before birth

New research with third-trimester fetuses indicates that we are drawn to human faces, even before we’re born. Scientists in the U.K. used light to shine patterns of red dots into the womb while observing babies’ reactions. When the patterns represented human faces, the babies responded by moving their heads to keep watching the “faces.”

In internal communications, we talk frequently about the power of face-to-face interactions. When CEOs and other leadership show up in person — at offices across the world or the manufacturing floor or in a retail location — they’re able to build a stronger human connection with employees. When employees in far-flung locations or different business units are able to meet face to face, they find it easier to collaborate with each other later, even if it’s via email or phone.

But actual face-to-face interactions aren’t always feasible, especially for large workplace populations. That’s why we look for technology and other methods to reap some of those benefits without actual proximity.

For instance, a streaming Town Hall can allow employees all over the globe to hear what the leadership team has to say. When those are held monthly or quarterly, that human connection (as well as important information about the company’s achievements and plans for the future) can be reinforced over time.

At Tribe, we often use video to bring that human connection to life. For one client we do a series of monthly videos that give employees a chance to see the faces of their leadership team — and hear them discussing a wide range of topics, from values and vision to acquisitions and business strategies. A headshot on the company website can’t build that connection in the same way.

We also urge our clients to invest in photography of real employees doing their jobs. The objective is to show the people doing the real work of the company in a way that makes them look heroic. Employees respond to people like them being treated like celebrities — but they also respond to seeing those real faces.

This recent research indicates that our attraction to faces is innate. By the time the babies in this study are old enough to be employees, internal communications may be using holograms or telepathy rather than video and photos. But my money is on human faces continuing to be a unifying force in employee engagement.

Interested in building human connections with your internal communications? Tribe can help.

How Employee Experience Can Help Increase Employee Engagement

Employee experience is getting a lot of attention in the internal communications world lately. One reason may be that we continue to see studies indicating lower employee engagement, which means less motivated employees, lower retention rates and poor company performance. Companies are struggling for an answer and don’t know where to turn to next.

Looking at the employee experience can provide a fresh perspective. The term goes beyond employer brand and the employment life cycle to encompass all aspects of employees’ work lives. When organizations are able to step back and view employee experience as a whole, and to go beyond the basics to see a bigger picture, it can help frame internal communications in a new way.

As the competition for top talent increases, ping pong tables and free lunches may not be enough to attract and retain employees. Associates no longer want just office perks, they’re looking for development, training and technology that keep them growing in their careers. They appreciate companies providing support in terms of wellness programs, financial planning and volunteer opportunities. When organizations start to focus on all aspects of an associates employment, it CAN lead to more genuine, improved engagement that will be sustainable over longer periods of time.

Need help improving your employee experience? Tribe can help.

 

Steve Baskin

Corporate Tone: Four ideas to increase readership of internal communications

“Why was that last email from corporate so cold and dry? I could almost hear the winds coming across the tundra.” One of the most common complaints we hear at Tribe is how impersonal corporate communications can be.

It’s important to be clear in internal communications. A company-wide email will reach an incredible diversity of audiences. There’s geographic diversity. Different levels of education. Silos based on job functions. The list goes on. Even the most carefully crafted messages can be interpreted in many different ways.

But that doesn’t mean corporate communications need to be watered down and filled with legal speak. Here are a few thoughts on how to ensure that communications remain engaging:

  • Be normal. Strive to write in a conversational manner. If you typically use Hereto and Wherefore in normal conversation, perhaps you should have someone else do the communications work.
  • Target your communications. If there’s an option to sending out an all-company memo, send a memo to the audience that is impacted by the communication. And have a designated location where interested employees can find all corporate communications.
  • Target your approach and message. If you have such a diverse workforce that a message that makes perfect sense to one part of the company is Greek to another, write separate communications to each. Figure out where the value is in the information and ensure that each audience gets something out of what you’re saying.
  • Humor helps. Advertisers use it all the time to engage the audience long enough to hear their sales message. In internal communications, a little wit can help humanize communications and sidestep the offputting qualities of legalese.

But be careful. Humor that offends will backfire. Often in humor, there are winners and losers. And people tend to take offense when they’re rounded up with the losers. While people being offended is pretty universal, your chances increase in larger, more diverse organizations.

Interested in striking the right tone in your internal communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Boost collaboration with a culture of respect for expertise

Want to build collaboration across departments, disciplines or business units? The first step is to raise the visibility of the work being done and the expertise of the people doing the work. For employees to value ideas contributed by someone from another discipline or with a different expertise, they first need to respect what others bring to the table.

We’ve seen this connection between respect and collaboration with a couple of clients recently. Each of these two companies depend on innovation and bringing new ideas to market in order to remain competitive. Both involve manufacturing and technology. Both are incredibly impressive in the way they collaborate across silos to create better solutions for customers in their industries.

When interviewing high-level engineers at both companies, they speak with great excitement about their collaborative efforts. They heap praise on the expertise of partners from other business units or functions and stress how lucky they are to be able to work with the collaborative team they’ve formed.

How does that happen? These two companies have developed their shared admiration for differing expertise organically. But if that’s not already the climate at your company, you can use communications strategies and tactics to sow the seeds of respect.

Providing visibility is the catalyst. Employees can’t respect each other’s expertise if they don’t know about each other. One of the most important elements of collaboration is awareness of the work being done in other areas of the company.

Develop a channel or two that provide windows into other silos. There are numerous ways you can do this, including your intranet. One of the tactics Tribe often recommends is an employee culture magazine that features the work of individuals and teams across the range of functional divisions or business units or geographical locations.

A magazine can turn employees into celebrities. A feature article can explore a project or initiative in some depth, quoting several of the employees involved and sharing their successes and solutions. A spread of employee spotlights can showcase the work of three or four or even more employees in various functional areas. A roundtable article that includes management from several different silos can share their perspectives on topics like innovation or team building or leadership.

Shining the limelight on employees supports a culture of respect. A magazine or another channel with the same intention of showcasing the talent in your company communicates to all employees the value that each individual can bring to the company’s success. And a culture of respect helps create a work environment that fosters collaboration.

Interested in increasing collaboration in your organization? Tribe can help.

 

Brittany Walker

Three tips to optimize your employee survey

Employee surveys can be a great source of valuable insight into your company. Obtaining honest feedback from employees is an important step to improving overall engagement. However, a lot of the legwork comes after the survey is complete. Here is a list of our top three tips to get the most out of your employee survey.

1.  Slice and dice your findings. Asking demographical questions at the beginning of your survey like age, gender, tenure, work function, etc., will allow you to take your analysis to the next level. Knowing that 20 percent of your employees are unhappy with their work-life balance is good to know, but being able to pin point a specific department or office location where the problem is occurring could help solve the issue even faster.

2.  Keep your word on the survey’s anonymity. If the survey was advertised to employees as anonymous, it’s important that it is treated that way. Employees are much more likely to respond candidly and honestly if they know you won’t be able to trace their answers back to them. Working with a third-party vendor like Tribe can also contribute to employees feeling more secure in their responses.

3.  Deliver on your promise. One of the worst things you can do afterdeploying a survey is not following up. Communicating that your survey will affect change will empower your employees and managers to speak openly about their challenges and suggestions. Think of the reasons you are administering the survey and be prepared to take action on what you uncover. If nothing else, you can share the survey results with your employees.

Tribe specializes in crafting, executing and analyzing employee surveys. If you need help with your next survey, Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Engraining recognition into your corporate culture

Communicating appreciation in the workplace, both top-down and peer-to-peer, is critical to building engagement. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” can often hold the same value to an employee as a monetary reward. Creating a culture of appreciation will let your employees feel valued and know that their efforts are appreciated, but it is something that happens over time and involves all levels of employees.

It starts at the top. Regardless of the type of culture a company is trying to create, leadership sets the tone for the entire organization. Culture cascades through the organization just like tangible communications, so appreciative behavior is likely to be mimicked as employees observe their managers. From there, they set the example for the next level of employees and this trickledown effect permeates throughout all employee groups.

Change how employees view recognition. Many companies make the mistake of treating recognition programs as a box to check without considering the requirements of keeping the program fresh, effective and sustainable. Launching a recognition initiative should be strategic in order to ensure that associates aren’t jaded by “just another program” that falls by the wayside. You might tie recognition to the company values or other objectives that you want to reinforce over the long haul.

Consider using perks to encourage recognition. Intranets and microsites are great solutions to track who is being recognized and why. We at Tribe promote gamification of your recognition program, such as points-based systems that can translate into giveaways or drawings. Engagement for programs like these are often higher – as it’s hard to beat free stuff.

Publicize recognition to the whole company. Part of fostering recognition within your corporate culture is to communicate it to everyone. Take specific examples and print them on posters, post them on digital signage or include them in your newsletter. Employees value seeing their peers recognized on a broad scale and will use the indirect appreciation as motivation to be the next one. Make sure to spotlight all levels of employees – down to the part-time, hourly workers. In doing so, you’re promoting equality and inclusion, key aspects of an appreciative culture.

Interested in showing your employees how much they mean to your company? Tribe can help.