Do Internal Brands Need Their Own Brand Standards?

The short answer is yes. Having style guidelines for the internal brand — differentiated by visual cues such as a color palette that’s distinct from the external brand palette and possibly an additional font or two — can help make communications more efficient.

It provides a visual shorthand for employees to recognize communications that are in the family, as opposed to those meant for the wider world. Employees are flooded with communications during their workday, and anything we can do to help them differentiate those messages is helpful.

That being said, the internal brand still must relate to the external brand. They are two parts of the same whole, not two completely different animals. The internal brand colors will usually overlap with the external palette, but also include additional colors that may be less formal. The fonts might be a little friendlier. The tone of voice will often be more conversational, more human. Overall, the internal brand standards will generally be more casual than the external ones.

We’ve developed a number of internal brand identities for clients, although many already have well-established internal brands. UPS, Target and Intercontinental Hotels Group, for instance, have highly developed internal style guidelines. This becomes particularly important for companies using numerous outside sources for internal projects, so that regardless of the agency doing the work, all internal communications look and feel the same.

In many of these comprehensive internal brands, individual departments or functions are assigned their own visual cues. Target, for instance, uses blue for health, green for pay, yellow for perks. For Coca-Cola Enterprises, everything we did had to be Coke red, but we developed icons for their human resources department: a Monopoly-like money bag for paychecks, a tissue box for sick days, an electrical plug for engagement, a speedometer for performance.

Occasionally Tribe  has been asked to develop a brand identity for a specific department, which becomes sort of a brand within a brand. When the Coca-Cola Company acquired Coca-Cola Enterprises, their largest global bottler, we worked with CCE’s IT department to brand them in a way that would help them break through to their internal clients. The project resulted in a visual identity, but we didn’t get to that identity until we’d done the underlying strategic work to support this new brand. That strategic work led us to new principles for the IT department (We anticipate; we champion; we sustain) that supported the larger business objectives of the company.

That underlying strategic work is important to give the brand identity meaning. When we can go beyond just the brand identity to build an internal brand, we’re able to articulate vision, values and other cultural constructs. That helps employees identify with the company. It builds community. It helps employees feel part of something bigger.

That something bigger is the company purpose. When employees are engaged with the company’s vision, with what it offers to the world, it increases their sense of doing meaningful work. It also builds alignment towards achieving those overall business objectives.

 

Publishing Your Company’s Internal Communications

The upcoming Tribe Report deals with the issue of taking a company intranet to a mobile platform. Throughout our research and in the interviews we conducted for this volume, we encountered a common theme of security worries. There is a perception that conducting any sort of corporate communications on the intranet outside the office holds a significant risk of sensitive information or negative correspondence being leaked.

There are security solutions. Sure you can encrypt the messages, we even heard about a James Bond-esque tactic of self-destructing videos, but the fact remains: if an employee wants to expose a part of the intranet there is nothing stopping them from taking a screenshot and emailing it to whomever they choose. It’s time to face a modern reality. There isn’t really a 100% secure way to take corporate communications outside the office.

Yet we all have email on our phones. The newness of the mobile intranet, one of our interviewees suggested, is what really scares companies. Email has been established, tested, and it provides a reasonable amount of security. But it certainly isn’t fool-proof. It’s becoming a common contention that mobile intranet access is just as safe as email.

The real solution to security concerns? It sounds obvious, but the real solution is simply not publishing sensitive company information or anything that could be potentially damaging on the intranet. We found that companies who sat down and actually looked at what would be published had most of their worries alleviated. Legal departments are quite cognizant of the lack of real privacy and security and simply wouldn’t sign off on something that could harm a company’s public image.

A company called MyNewsDesk is putting that to the test. Anna Rydne, their head of internal communications, decided that the best solution was complete transparency from the get-go. She decided to publish the company’s internal communications. Her rationale?

“What we have done is that we consider openness as a normal condition and everything else as deviations. And if there’s anything that can’t be communicated externally (very few things are, but for example certain numbers since we’re a listed company), we’ll find other channels.”

Is it worth the risk? Rydne is certainly putting it all on the line with this move. Theoretically, all it would take is a single gaffe to ruin this whole initiative. But it’s an interesting experiment, and so far it’s paying off. The system is getting a lot of attention, and MyNewsDesk employees are responding positively. This will be one to keep an eye on in the future. It could be the new industry standard.

Check out what Rydne says about this new take on internal communications.  And let us know what you think about this in the comments below.

Bucking the Manager Stereotype

The day-to-day relationship between managers and frontline employees is crucial to your organization’s functionality. Whether it’s cascading information down from your C-level or implementing a companywide change, your managers have to communicate what’s happening to their employees.

The quality of work your employees give is dependent on the amount of respect they get. It helps when a manager’s communications are delivered in a positive way. It’s rare to find people that perform better with some type of negative reinforcement. We’re not all John McEnroe.

Forbes recently published an article highlighting things bad managers say and do. Some of the statements included:

-       “I don’t pay you to think.

-       “It’s work – it’s not supposed to be fun.”

-       “I don’t care what your priorities are – this is your new priority.”

-       “I don’t make the rules. I just enforce them.”

Often, it’s easy for managers to fall into a habit of micromanaging and undervaluing their workers. Having a lack of trust in your employees can slow down their work and can keep your manager’s hands tied with too many tasks, which adds to their stress that they then project onto their employees. It’s a vicious cycle.

One thing that helps this relationship between employees and managers is to provide communication tools for your managers. Toolkits are one useful supplement. These can include talking points, additional communication channels, FAQs and instructional cards. Even something as simple as a well-crafted e-mail can make all the difference when communicating with employees.

At Tribe we strive to make life better for people. Need a better way to communicate with your managers and employees? Let us know. We’d love to help!

The Two-Question Employee Engagement Survey

Some employee engagement surveys include up to 75 questions. Two of the most commonly used engagement surveys, developed by Gallup and by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) have 12 questions each. How many questions do you really need?

It stands to reason that the more questions you ask, the fewer people you’ll have completing your survey. ”Too many questions” is one of the leading reasons employees give for skipping their companies’ engagement surveys. Others include fear of being identified and skepticism about employee feedback leading to any real changes. And of course there are always employees who say they weren’t aware there was a survey to take.

The industry standard for participation in employee engagement surveys is 60 to 75 percent. That leaves out a huge part of the employee population. Wouldn’t it be great if we could raise that participation rate to include more employees? Perhaps more employees would be willing to answer if the survey consisted of only a few questions.

If you could ask only one or two questions, what would they be? Tribe recently conducted a survey for a client in the financial services industry as a baseline measurement for the introduction of a comprehensive cultural initiative.

We snuck in one employee engagement question unrelated to the initiative. We did this partly as a way to look at how the cultural initiative impacts engagement across time, but also as a shorthand measurement for engagement that could be repeated via pulse surveys.

Our one question was this: How likely are you to encourage a friend or family member to apply for a job at our company? Available responses were Extremely Likely, Very Likely, Moderately Likely, Slightly Likely, Not At All Likely.

Engagement is subjective, and what matters to one employee may be less important to another. This one question can do a good job of reflecting how an employee feels about the mission of the company, the work environment, the trustworthiness of management, the growth opportunities, the life balance — or whatever else is most important to that particular employee.

The other question we would add is: When you wake up in the morning, how do you feel about coming to work? Those people who say they’re excited about coming to work are not only satisfied employees, but highly engaged. In the contrast, you can be pretty sure that those who say they dread it are not.

The Continuing Relevence of the Business Card

I remember getting my first business cards like it was yesterday. Plain white, sans sarif type, accented with the Tribe blue. This was more than a card with my name, job title and contact info. There was a regality, a real importance about it. It was immediate, a physical reminder of my occupation. My picture had already been on the website for a month, I had an official email signature, I’d even changed my job title on my Linkedin profile, but those were nothing compared to the business card. I just kept thinking, “Patrick Bateman was really onto something

The business card is your representative.  And they are a much better representative than an email signature or change on a website. There is a permanence to them. Your card could float around someone’s desk or in their wallet for months before they get a chance to throw it away. In those months, a job or an opportunity might arise, and your card could be that immediate reminder that your services are available.  It sounds silly, and while I obviously don’t hold as much stock (card stock, as it were) in the cards as Mr. Bateman, I really felt that there was a unique power that these little cards held.

Turns out, I’m not alone. There is a new trend emerging that rethinks the traditional business card. People are recognizing that power, that immediacy and that permanence, and they are taking new creative approaches to harnessing the full potential of the card. There are companies etching out cards on metal, making foldable designs, even MeatCards . Yes, those are business cards etched onto beef jerky.

Tribe has always been about making human connections in the workplace. Business cards are a way to do that effectively. In our tech-driven world, something physical like a card can be an incredibly personal gesture. Perhaps it is a subconscious nostalgia, but giving someone your business card stands out in that person’s mind. It’s not an email follow-up that can be deleted or dismissed. It’s not a Linkedin request that only adds to your 500+ connections. It’s an immediate, physical reminder of a connection, and that makes a big impact.

Giving your employees a business card allows them to wield that power. It also can be a great way to engage them as ambassadors. Having their name and information right next to your company’s logo allows employees to identify with your culture, your company and your brand. An empowered employee will be proud to distribute their business cards. They’ll be making connections for your company and creating awareness for your brand, while simultaneously connecting and aligning themselves with your culture. It’s a win-win (-win).

Find a way to stand out from the crowd. Business cards may not be the most effective approach for your company, but Tribe can help you find out what works best for your brand. Give us a call.

 

Amplify your company vision through cultural communications

Communicating your organization’s long-term vision is a critical element to building and maintaining a strong culture. In other words, building understanding and consensus among your employees about where the company is headed (and why that direction is right) will help your employees build confidence, instruct them on how they should approach their job, and help them manage everything more effectively.

Having your employees aligned with your executive leaders ensures that everyone is moving in the same direction. This is how top companies meet and exceed their goals and benchmarks along the way to achieving that stated vision. To get there, the leadership of the organization has to be crystal clear on a couple of items:

  1. Defining a clear vision.
  2. Understanding the kind of culture are you trying to cultivate.

In a recent Tribe survey, we learned that 68 percent of our respondents said they want to learn about the vision of the organization directly from corporate. Some commented additionally:

  • “How can I do my job well if I don’t know the goals of my organization?”
  • “Knowing executive management’s vision for the company is important because it helps me understand the company’s long-term and short-term goals and helps me identify my personal goals.”
  • “Not knowing the vision will lead to working groups focusing on the wrong things.”
  • “Comforting and encouraging to know that we have a vision.”
  • “Understanding the corporate vision helps employees understand where they fit in the organization and how their actions contribute to the success of the company.”

Of course, communicating the vision isn’t just about scheduling a company meeting and having the CEO read from a power point presentation. Company meetings and open forums should be a part of the conversation. But if that’s all you do, it’s likely to come off as more corporate blah, blah, blah and get lost in the mix. In order to drive understanding, communicating the vision should be part of a longer-term communications plan. Here are some ideas:

  • Develop a culture book – a document that clearly and elegantly defines the company’s vision and leadership’s expectations of all employees. Best if the book is of a quality that would motivate employees to hang onto it and refer to it from time to time.
  • Put on an event or throw a party- draw a line in the sand with an event that draws attention to the vision and culture.
  • Find examples throughout the organization that positively of achievements that support the vision. A number of Tribe clients have in-house culture magazines. Each article in these issues represent and opportunity to illustrate and area of the vision that supports the culture.
  • Leadership blogs are a great way to regularly reinforce the vision and culture while communicating progress or changes in the organization.

The key to this conversation is that there are numerous ways we can communicate the corporate vision while supporting and building a cohesive culture of the organization. We just have to take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves.

In Defense of Millennials: Our Now and Future Employees

Generation Y, or Millennials, are a maligned bunch. Labeled lazy, narcissistic, entitled and coddled, they’re not always welcomed with open arms into the workplace.

Yet by 2015, over 75 percent of our workforce will be composed of this generation. The general consensus seems to be that under Gen Y’s direction, the world will be going to straight to hell in a hand basket.

At Tribe, our experience of this generation — both in our own company and in our client companies — is actually quite positive. Millennials do indeed approach the world differently from their older co-workers. They bring strengths that Boomers like me only wish we had been able to apply to our early careers.

For one thing, they are fearless. They come to the table assuming that they’re capable of doing whatever anyone in the company can do. Occasionally this strikes older colleagues as devaluing their own years of experience and the wisdom garnered over the course of a long career. Yet it’s a huge business advantage to have these kids just jump right in and tackle things that might have stymied some older employees.

Some other strengths of this generation are:

• Collaboration: This generation knows how to work together as a team. Rather than a pyramid with a leader at the top, they see a team as more of a circle of peers. In a business environment of increasing specialized knowledge, this model is what we need.

• Community: They’re also an inclusive group. We’ve found them more accepting of a diverse workforce, not just in terms different groups of people but of quirky p. In a marketplace where innovation can be the most important competitive advantage, the engineers and programmers and others who are sometimes considered socially quirky are often the ones with the big ideas.

• Global: Having grown up with the world wide web, they are more apt to consider their neighborhood as the world itself. Online, whether that’s on Instagram and Twitter, or scrolling Reddit and playing Minecraft, they’re having casual interactions with people across a vast geography. In a global economy, that’s useful experience.

At Tribe, we sometimes joke about Millennial job seekers expecting an entry-level CEO position. Occasionally they do overestimate what they can offer a company, or they confuse the workplace with a school, thinking the company’s objective in hiring them is to provide them with further education.

But it’s tough to sustain a feeling of entitlement in a job market that often relegates them to a series of unpaid internships. Millennials are accused of not being willing to grow up because they live at home with their parents. Yet the reason they’re all down there in the basement is because they’ve taken low-paying or no-paying jobs to gain the experience that they hope will eventually launch their careers. As the most educated generation in our history, they’re also struggling to pay off all those student loans.

What we’ve seen at Tribe is a willingness to do what needs doing. They may not love the menial tasks that are left to those at the bottom of the totem pole, but who does? They may not routinely work 60-hour weeks just to prove they’re serious about the job, as some of us Boomers might have done, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pull some long hours when necessary. Otherwise, most Gen Y employees seem to maintain a work-life balance that makes them less likely to burn out and more apt to bring sustained energy to work over the long haul.

The long haul is what it’s all about. Although Millennials are the youngest in the workforce at present, eventually they’ll be the ones running the world. And their strengths might be just what the world needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual hiring is on the rise. What does that mean for Internal Communications?

The interview process is a delicate dance. A delicate dance where you never know what your partner’s next move will be. You want to try and lead so you don’t want to seem too timid, but you can never step on their toes. Each step is an impression and each move makes an impact. And I’m not just talking about the interviewee. People often forget that a job interview goes both ways. That, like a dance, both parties need to sync in order work together. The interviewee is traditionally the one in the hot seat, but they’re analyzing the person behind the desk. They are looking for signals and red flags just as much as the interviewer. So, what if you’re not a good dancer?

Technology is your friend. PGi.com recently created an infographic around their findings concerning video and virtual interviews. Six in ten HR representatives say they now use online interviews to vet candidates. To some, that is a shocking statistic indicative of the distance technology is driving between us. To others, it’s a welcome change that levels the playing field. With this new platform comes new social mores, new ways to promote yourself and highlight your best attributes.

But let’s go back to that statistic. 60% HR reps now prefer to conduct interviews online, and that is up 49% from 2011. This doesn’t just change the interview game. It indicates a whole new level of comfort with this technology, and that opens up potential for a whole new channel in the workplace. Tribe has always been an advocate of employee face time with executive teams, and we have championed virtual face time in the past based on our research and client work. But this nationwide statistic shows that this is more than a trend.

There’s a new sheriff in town. Video meetings are becoming the new norm, and while they can be great for interviews and client presentations, they are beginning to make a case for themselves in internal communications, too. This, in our opinion, is where the true potential lies. It minimizes time restraints and removes the logistical barriers of travel. Executives are short on time and are often headquartered in locations far away from where the majority of the company’s employees work. If HR reps are embracing this technology in such an overwhelming majority, then it’s only a matter a time before this solution seeps into the C-level suites.

Get ahead of the curve. Give us a call. Tribe can help your company set up and promote successful virtual Executive leader meetings that will engage your employees and kickstart your business.

Instilling Your Internal Brand Throughout the Entire Employee Cycle

Tribe understands the work that goes into developing and executing everything involved in creating an internal brand. Defining an internal brand and living by its inherent values is something to strive for, but for it to be truly successful and used to its fullest, we’ve found that your internal brand must be integrated throughout the entire employee cycle.

Don’t under-use the tools and guidelines you’ve created. Sure, it’s easy to introduce your vision and values during the onboarding process, but they should be embedded in every aspect to be successful. From recruiting and hiring to performance reviews and recognition to retirement, your internal brand should touch every part of your employees’ progression within the company.

Need help getting started? Use leadership. Tribe recently attended a client’s leadership meeting where we led breakout sessions brainstorming how to introduce their internal culture into all parts of the employee cycle. If leadership and managers played a part in the concepts behind the brand, they’ll be likely to champion it and encourage their team to integrate it into every day work.

Build ambassadors before the hiring process. From our research on hiring practices, we’ve found that 87 percent of survey respondents said if they had a positive experience, such as a very personal or courteous treatment, even if they weren’t hired they would be “likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.” This shows just how important it is for a successful brand to introduce your values right from the start.

What are you waiting for? Call Tribe to start building your successful internal brand today.

Where Does Your Company Fall on the Employee Anniversary Recognition Spectrum?

While some companies mark long-time employee anniversaries with Rolex watches, others celebrate with cake and a party in the break room. In a recent benchmarking study Tribe performed on behalf of a client, we noticed some interesting patterns.

Companies participating in the benchmarking included Gap, Ikea, Disney, Coca-Cola, Target, Johnson & Johnson, Staples, Smucker, Zappos and more. There was a wide range in both the effort and expense of how companies mark employee anniversaries, but one solution was more common than any other. About 40 percent of our respondents take the no-fuss approach of having employees choose from a pre-selected collection of gifts, either online or from a catalog.

Some companies stick to money, or gift cards that spend like money. Retail companies tend to give gift cards to be used in their own stores, in at least one company for amounts up to $2,500. Other companies award American Express gift cards to be used anywhere employees like.

There’s also a contingency that chooses to give company swag and branded gifts. These are generally of minimal monetary value but reinforce pride in employee tenure. In some cases this might be a lapel pin or badge marking the anniversary year; other awards include framed certificates or acrylic cubes for desk display.

In a few companies, the selection of anniversary gifts is an involved process with plenty of room for imagination. One large apparel retailer has a concierge work one-on-one with employees of 30 years or more to select their dream gift. That might be a trip to Hawaii or a designer bag or a new roof or a tractor. Actually, tractors, plural. Apparently one of the guys in a distribution started a trend, and now several long-timers have requested a John Deere of their own.