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Steve Baskin

5 Cultural Issues to Keep in Mind When Companies Merge

For corporate executives, there’s nothing like the excitement of acquiring a new company. It’s a moment in time when the company can speed towards its overall goals. Most often a merger or acquisition is the result of months or years of due diligence and getting past hundreds or thousands of hurdles. For the executives of companies that are the target of an acquisition or merger, it can be just as exciting.

Mergers generally mean that a company will suddenly have improved resources. Improved capabilities. Expertise in a new market segment. Expanded geography. Efficiencies that they had not previously had access to. For those who have a thirty-thousand-foot view, the advantages and promise of a merger or acquisition are generally very clear.

For most employees, though, mergers and acquisitions can be a time of great anxiety. Will I like the new company? Will I have a new boss? Will my role become redundant? Will I lose my job?

There is no exhaustive list of things that corporate execs should check to ensure that a merger occurs sans the calamity. But here are a handful of things that can help the vast majority of your employees get through the process with a greater sense of excitement toward the future.

  1. Know thy culture. It’s critical to have a deep understanding of the culture of your organization. It’s also critical to have a deep understanding of the culture of the company you’re acquiring. Most importantly, it’s important to understand the differences between the two cultures and try to anticipate places where the two organizations may fit well and where they may not.
  2. Embrace benefits of the culture of the acquired company. There are things about the new company that made it attractive enough to acquire. There are reasons the company attracted and retained talent. Try to understand those things and adopt the most positive elements that might enhance your existing culture.
  3. Celebrate the vision for the new organization – not just the transaction. A merger of companies is the result of a ton of work. But all of that legal and financial rigmarole only gets you to the starting line. The heavy lifting that faces the new organization is about realizing the strength of the combined entity. This is a great opportunity to help employees understand how their individual roles will contribute to success of the new organization.
  4. Be transparent and move quickly regarding potential negative impacts on employees. Your employees are smart. They’ll soon understand where the redundancies are in the combined organization. As with any organizational change, in the absence of facts, employees will be more than happy to fill in the blanks with their imagination. Most often, our imagination will be much worse than the reality.
  5. Don’t forget that a merger affects legacy employees too. Often, companies are acquired because they’re in a desirable market or have some unique technology or process. Find ways to pay attention to and celebrate legacy employees – especially if the merger has disrupted their roles in any way.

Looking for help with change communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Thread the vision and values through all your internal communications

Communicating the company vision is one of the most important roles of internal communications. We often recommend a vision and values book and/or a vision and values event to put a stake in the ground to launch or reinforce these cultural underpinnings.

But that’s only the beginning. Just because you’ve told employees once, doesn’t mean the job is done. In fact, the job of communicating the vision and values is never done. To truly embed those things in an organization, to have employees internalize them so that they use the vision and values as guidance for the actions they take and decisions they make in their day-to-day work, will require an ongoing effort.

It also requires using more than one channel. Or even more than one facet of each channel. The goal is to thread the vision and values through everything you do.

We recommend a simultaneous top and bottom approach.
Look for channels for leadership to communicate these topics in an authentic way. That might be through video, magazine articles, intranet updates, town halls and/or any other available channel.

At the same time, find ways to showcase employees using the vision and values. That could be through a recognition program. It could be employee spotlights on the intranet or in your employee publication. It might be digital signage, video, blogs, social media or any other channel at your disposal.

You can also look for ways to tie topics back to the vision and values. When you’re communicating news about the volunteer program, frame it with one of the corporate values such as teamwork or community. When you introduce a massive IT overhaul, maybe you can link it to the value of innovation or efficiency. In an article on two different manufacturing plants working together to revamp the order system, point to the value of collaboration.

We often calendarize the stream of communications to reflect the vision and values. Each issue of a quarterly magazine, or each video in a monthly series, for instance, might be themed with one element of that messaging. Not only does this help thread the vision and values through multiple channels over a quarter or a year, it also allows for a closer look at one element at a time and drives more interesting content.

Interested in incorporating the vision and values into more of your communications?
Tribe can help.

3 Ways to Build Your Employer Brand With Job Candidates

The impression you give during the application and interview process can have a significant impact your company’s employer brand. It’s easy to assume the task of making a positive mark falls in the interviewee’s court. However, displaying attentiveness and grace throughout this process can help attract the best and brightest potential employees. Below are three tips on how to amaze prospective job candidates and compel them to work for your company.

  1. Be thoughtful. No one likes to think they’ve wasted their time when applying for a job. From the research of the company to the cover letter to the resume, a job application is no easy task. Keeping this in mind, a simple courtesy like alerting the job candidate in a timely manner if you have to reschedule can make a decisive impact on your company’s employer brand.
  1. Make them feel comfortable. Pointblank: interviews are scary. Even if the jobseeker is a highly-qualified professional with years of experience, interviewing could easily turn them into a jumble of nerves. Show you care by making an effort to make them comfortable. Offering a coffee or a cold drink when they arrive, or giving a few minutes to use the restroom between multiple interviewers can help candidates feel relaxed and ready to put their best best foot forward.
  1. Take the time to say no. While it’s natural to focus on the candidate is offered the job, don’t forget to reach out to those who weren’t. Showing attentiveness to each and every interviewee can make positive waves on your company’s employer brand. In Tribe’s research with jobseekers regarding the hiring process, 87 percent of respondents said that in situations where they were not hired, but had a positive experience such as very personal or courteous treatment, they would be “likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.”

Interested in improving your recruitment culture? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Measurement is great — but how are you using the results?

Are you tracking metrics on your internal communications? If you know what employees are clicking on, what they’re opening and how much time they’re spending there, that’s fantastic.

Now, how are you using that information? Being able to track long-term results over time is interesting, and can be helpful when you’re planning your communications strategy for next year.

But one of the best reasons to watch these metrics is to tweak what you’re doing as you go. It allows you to try smaller shifts and see how employees respond.

For example, we once launched a CEO Q&A feature in an employee publication.
Employees weren’t clicking on it very much. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that employees just weren’t interested in what leadership had to say about the business, we tried exploring the same topics in video. We also included other members of the leadership team, so that employees could see and hear not just the CEO but other top executives as well. Viewership was much higher than readership of the article had been.

For the holiday edition, we tried a blooper reel. It was the most watched video of the year. Now we’re experimenting with adding a few outtakes at the end of each video. So employees who watch the entire leadership video on a serious topic — like a recent acquisition or why a customer-centric approach is important to the business — are rewarded with a handful of funny bits at the end.

Sometimes people seem to view measurement as a pass-fail equation. Yes, it can show what’s succeeding and what isn’t. But communication is fluid and multi-factorial, and measurement allows us to fiddle with the dials before making a final call on whether something’s working or not.

Interested in using measurement to tweak your communications? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

3 Tips for Making Digital Communications More Engaging

The landscape of digital communications is continuously evolving. When it comes to engagement, thinking strategically and creatively will make all the difference. Here are three tips to thoughtfully increase engagement through your digital channels.

  1. Keep it short and to the point. We’re not saying that text-heavy channels can’t have a place in your IC arsenal, but communications consumed on-screen should generally be concise and direct. Whether you’re revamping your intranet, introducing digital signage or updating your corporate email strategy, a big differentiator in reaching employees in a meaningful way is to mirror the digital consumption trends they experience in their personal lives. Think bite-sized, easy-to-consume information, with a direct call-to-action to learn more.
  1. Shine the spotlight on employees. Make heroes of the people behind the hard work though employee spotlights. Simply put, employees love reading about other employees. Spotlights are a great way to feature frontline and field workers and celebrate their contributions, through regular Q&A’s in a newsletter, online recognition programs or contests that highlight employee performance. Spotlights also succeed at humanizing leadership by giving them a venue to share their vision and expertise.
  1. Make it move. From professionally produced videography, to quick-hit smart phone videos, to two-second GIFs, switching out still pictures for their moving counterparts can automatically enhance the employee experience. Video can be a great tool for engaging employees and breaking down silos because it truly gives an authentic face to employees and leadership alike, which is difficult to capture through picture or text alone. For a cost-effective solution for high-quality video, prepare material for eight to ten videos that can be shot in one day. If shooting leadership, we generally ask for 45 minutes on the CEO’s calendar and less than 30 minutes with other members of the executive team.

Need help with your digital communications strategy? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Four channels for CEO communications

Don’t assume a blog is the answer. If your CEO wants to commit to writing his or her own blog on a consistent basis over the long term, say weekly or at least monthly, that’s great. If not, look at other options — but not the option of having someone else write a blog under the CEO’s name.

A ghostwritten CEO blog is worse than no blog at all. Employees smell fake a mile away. Fake is the enemy of authentic, and authentic is what you want in leadership communications.

There are of course, a few rare exceptions. If the ghostwriter works extremely closely with the CEO and has heard him or her talk on the relevant topics often enough to nearly parrot the wording, that can work. But otherwise, ghostwriting you can undermine any equity you’ve built in authentic communications.

The goal of leadership communications is two-fold. The first is to share important messaging and information with employees in a way that keeps them in the loop on where the company is heading. The second is to build a human connection with the CEO and create trust in company management.

So what do you do if your CEO doesn’t have time to write his or her own blog?
There are plenty of other ways to share with employees what the CEO is thinking without a huge chunk of time out of that executive calendar.

1. Article based on a CEO interview: We regularly write employee newsletter and magazine articles based on short telephone interviews with CEOs. We generally book no more than 20 minutes for the call and try to keep it under that. Some CEOs prefer to have prepared questions they can review ahead of time; others are comfortable talking on the fly.

How is this different from a blog? It’s written in the third person, with quotes from the CEO peppered throughout the article. It’s about a conversation with the CEO, rather than pretending it was written by the CEO.

2. Video of the CEO: The most efficient way to pull this off, especially from the CEO’s point of view, is to shoot a number of videos in one session. It also helps to include more members of the leadership team, so that the CEO doesn’t have to do all the talking. Plus the viewers get the benefit of a watching several people rather than one talking head.

Material for eight or ten videos can be shot in one day, if you can plan content that far in advance. We generally ask for 45 minutes on the CEO’s calendar and maybe 20 or 30 minutes with other members of the executive team.

3. Audio: Some people are just not comfortable on camera, and if that’s the case for your CEO, don’t push it. You could suggest a podcast, for instance, to be housed on your intranet. There are also platforms with which the CEO could record a message for employees that they can hear by dialing a toll-free number. At the end of the CEO’s comments, there’s an option for them to leave their own comments or questions, so it becomes a format for two-way communication.

4. Quotations: This one seems almost too easy, but sometimes less really is more. The format can be digital signage, email, an internet feature or any other visual channel. Use a photo of the CEO and a one-sentence quote. We often pull these quotes from interviews for articles or from videos, but you also can ask your CEO to create quotes specifically for this channel. For instance, if there’s a new initiative underway, you might ask for a comment on why it’s so important to the business. If there’s an internal push for a more customer-centric approach, or more innovation, or increased collaboration, or even reduced spending, perhaps the CEO can give you a one-sentence blurb on that.

Interested in finding the right channel for your CEO communications?
Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

Be the source of information your workforce can trust


The world experienced a global erosion of trust in their traditional sources of information in 2016.
The rise of fake news, alternative facts, and echo chambers, whether it be partisan press or social media, has hindered factual information from being treated as such.

The consequences of a workforce that is, by default, skeptical of information has wide ranging implications to your company. Ensuring your internal communications are excluded from such doubt of validity could be a difficult, but necessary, undertaking.

The good news is that, as an employer, you already have a foundation of trust to build upon. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual analysis of global trust in organizations, paints a positive picture for the influence of business. Business, as an institution, experienced the least significant degradation in trust by percentage, over government, media, and NGOs. According to Edelman’s study, three out of four people agree that a company “can take specific actions that can both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.”

But business is not entirely in the clear, and must act in order to retain their favorable position. Globalization and wildly unbalanced financial gain of executives are common sources of fear and distrust among the workforce. Edelman’s study has also uncovered a corrosion of trust in experts, regardless of field, with CEO credibility decreasing the most in the past year, dropping to an all-time low. Peer-to-peer communication is considered most credible as people seem to be most comfortable with a spokesperson that is akin to themselves.

A number of conclusions can be drawn for internal communications. One of Tribe’s takeaways is that, now more than ever, corporate communications are most effective when it is communicated in a manner that makes all employees feel like they have the most accurate and current information about the company. That means giving the business reasons behind a major organizational change, for instance. It also means sharing numbers, whether you’re discussing the engagement survey or financial results.

Interested in maintaining the credibility of your internal communications? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Millennials hate the word Millennials — and now they hate Simon Sinek too

If you want to make someone bristle, pick anyone in their early 30s or younger and call them a Millennial. We Boomers don’t seem to have a big issue with our label, and I haven’t heard many Gen Xers complain, but there’s a widespread and deep frustration shared by Millennial employees when all 75 Million of them are lumped into one generic category.

A recent video of Simon Sinek has many of them understandably riled. In his talk on Millennials in the workplace, he seeks to answer what he calls the Millennial Question.

The reason Simon Sinek really struck a nerve is that his generalization is so negative. He doesn’t hold back in his portrayal of Millennial employees as the unfortunate result of poor parenting, social media, impatience and environment. He refers to their reputation for feeling entitled to things they haven’t worked for. (Nota bene: Entitlement is one of those words that is pretty much guaranteed to make Millennials flinch and/or grind their teeth.)

He does say it isn’t Millennials fault. If you keep watching past the part where he lists everything that’s wrong with Millennials, he makes some great points about organizational and behavioral changes that could benefit all of us, not just Millennials. But he’s certainly not making a case for Millennials being the best thing ever to happen to the workplace.

In the Huffington Post, Jared Buckley makes an argument for why Simon Sinek is wrong. Buckley resists the notion that one can generalize about an entire generation. He also suggests that the Millennial Question can best be answered by asking more specific questions that relate to your desired outcome. Do you want to attract more Millennials to your company? Do you want to help them develop their careers faster? Are you trying to understand how they like to work?

In some sense, answering the Millennial Question is a moot point. From technology to manufacturing to the service industry, they’re carrying a tremendous share of our collective workload. They’re filling the ranks of middle management. They’re starting their own companies in record numbers. One can’t dismiss the entire generation as a bunch of entry-level workers with no experience to offer.

Perhaps the issues Sinek cites are less about a generation and more about a life stage. Complaining about the follies of youth is not a new thing. When the Boomers were coming of age, their elders complained about “kids these days.” Even the ancient Greeks griped about the young ones. Socrates wrote, “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect their elders, and love talking instead of exercise.”

Millennials are steadily aging out of one life stage and into another. Maybe it’s time to start complaining about the next generation.

Interested in better communication with the Millennials in your company? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Fortune telling and transparency: Communicating Change in the Corporate Environment

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Be as transparent and timely as is possible when communicating change with employees. It’s one of the most consistent pieces of advice and counsel our clients hear from Tribe – along with ensuring that the change communications are connected to the organizational vision and business strategies.

To maintain morale and keep employees engaged, it is important for communications to be out in front of change – especially when change might accompany bad news for some or all employees. In the absence of facts, employees are very happy to fill in the blanks with imagination and rumors. Most often, their imaginations provide worse outcomes than the reality of the situation.

Tribe’s research shows that the actual change is generally less stressful for employees than not knowing what’s going on. Once employees have an opportunity to acclimate to whatever news is out there, they have a much better chance of dealing with it and returning to their normal productive selves.

Appropriate transparency doesn’t require management to assume the role of Fortune Teller or Sooth-Sayer. If there are facts that will negatively impact some employees, communicate the facts with empathy and respect. Openness is good. But it’s rarely appropriate to theorize or conjecture about bad things that might happen.

And appropriate transparency doesn’t mean that you have every answer about what’s coming next. Explain the situation as well as you’re able and explain the plans for moving through the change. There are times when admitting to not knowing the answer is the best answer.

Similarly, it’s important not to promise that a change initiative won’t result in bad news for employees. Credibility will immediately evaporate when the bad news is revealed down the road.

When done well, change communication can get employees energized and engaged in their work. We shouldn’t be stymied by change – or by change communication. It’s simply a part of what keeps an organization moving forward and in the same direction, which means a more efficient and effective company.

Interested in better change communications? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Nature Abhors a Vacuum: 3 Reasons Companies Fail at Communicating Organizational Change

Aristotle, portray,the philosopherWhat happens when a company undergoes major change and doesn’t communicate with employees? Aristotle may not have had internal communications in mind when he made his comment about a natural void being instantaneously filled, but the concept still applies. When management doesn’t explain the change, the information vacuum is filled by what employees speculate is happening.

The rumors are often worse than the reality. So why is this communications failure so common? What’s stopping companies from keeping employees in the loop?

Here are three possible reasons:

  1. Timing: When something major is going down, it often happens quickly. If both leadership and communications people have to scramble to decide if and what and how to tell employees, days or even weeks can pass before the communication goes out. In an ideal world, informing employees would be considered well before the change and would be part of the plan for rolling out that change.
  1. Consensus: In many large companies, the layers of approval can slow things down significantly. Making revisions to the communication after each person weighs in is not efficient. Often, one person’s revisions will undo the revisions of the one before. One solution to this is to gather everyone who needs to approve the messaging in one room at one time to hash it out. If people disagree on points, hash it out then and there to reach final approval of your communications.
  1. Denial: Unfortunately, this one is real. Top leadership will sometimes convince themselves that employees are not the least bit concerned about whatever change is underfoot. This situation is exacerbated by the insular environment of most C-suites. They’re not hearing employee concerns about the change, so they assume/hope there aren’t any. 

Of course, in reality, employees are filling the void themselves. Often with the worst things they can possibly imagine. Remind your leadership team that employees are talking about the situation, even if they’re not privy to those conversations. They can either contribute facts or let that vacuum be filled by the rumor mill.

Want to communicate change more effectively to your employees? Tribe can help.