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Steve Baskin

Fire Hose Communications? A Smarter Approach to Internal Communications

Fire FightingJust to be clear, the fire hose approach isn’t working. Let’s stop with that nonsense.

People go to work to do a job. This job tends to make them quite busy. This limits our ability to communicate with these people.

The problem is that there’s a lot of important information that employees need in order to effectively do their jobs. They need to understand their job responsibilities. They need to understand the company’s vision and how their role supports that vision. They need to understand how to sign up for benefits. They need to know about things that are going on around the company. And many people are trying to tell them these things.

Because of this time conundrum, the common reflex is to try to cram the largest possible number of subjects and words into whatever time we have. Whether it’s an on-boarding conversation, a quarterly town hall or a weekly huddle, it sometimes feels like there were just five or six too many things on the agenda. And the PowerPoint slides always seem to be filled to the gills with dense paragraphs and numbers.

Normal human beings can’t learn everything about everything in a day. Subjecting employees to half-day meetings and an onslaught of communications and expecting them to retain any of it is pointless. Subjecting them to two thousand word emails that provide every detail of their health care offering is equally pointless.

From the employee’s point of view, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. There’s too much coming too fast to comprehend even half of what’s heard. Soon those quarterly meetings or daily huddles become a waste of time as employees learn to tune out before they even arrive at the meeting.

So how do we communicate all of this information in a way that it might actually stick? Here are four ideas:

  1. Build a plan and calendar-ize your communications. Map out your communications objectives and build a schedule that includes all of the communications that an employee is going to need over a quarter, a year, whatever.
  1. Dole out the communications in bite-sized chunks and with a dependable cadence. For example, allow an on-boarding program to last 60 or 90 days versus one day or a week. Slot in the various subjects and schedule out a weekly conversation while they’re getting hands-on experience in their role. Keep the initial conversation as simple and straightforward as possible. And always provide access (links or directions) to the details for those inquisitive and fast learners.
  1. Peel back the onion (Shrek, 2001). Start out with the broad strokes. If you’re communicating the company’s vision, go ahead and announce the goals and strategies. But know that the work has only just begun. Over the next several months, explain why the company’s strategy is a winner, and explain how employees’ individual roles will bring the vision to life. Do this by painting vivid imagery with concrete examples of people around the organization who are walking the walk.
  1. Be interesting. If your folks are going to take the time to watch your videos or read your articles, please don’t bore them to death. Reward the people who pay attention to the communications by providing something that they care about. Why do Facebook posts go viral? Because they move people in some way. They’re funny or they’re heartbreaking or they unearth a truth that you’ve always known, but never knew how to express. Go ahead and be interesting with your communications.

If executed appropriately, by the end of that period, employees will know more of what they’re supposed to know. And over time, they’ll learn how to apply corporate communications to their roles and responsibilities. Importantly, they’ll understand how they’re contributing to the success of the company and will have a much better shot at being deeply and actively engaged.

Need help figuring out a communications strategy? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Insider Tips: How To Get Your Agency’s Best Work

iStock_000040279026_SmileWhether you’re talking advertising, digital marketing or internal communications, partnering with an agency can be a powerful way to make things happen. There’s nothing quite like having a team of talented professionals with relevant expertise on your side.

But how do you get their best work? And what makes one agency relationship a true pleasure while another makes you gnash your teeth in frustration? Here are four suggestions for making magic with your agency partners:

  1. Hire the best, not the cheapest. If you choose an agency by selecting the low-cost leader, you’re likely to get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you have to throw money at an agency to get attention. Small clients can sometimes be an agency’s favorite clients. Look closely at the work the agency has done for other accounts. Do you admire that work? Does it seem smart? Does it look fantastic? Also pay attention to chemistry. Do you enjoy the time you spend talking to the agency folks? Does your gut tell you that they’re excited about working with you? Do you trust them?
  2. Give the agency what they need to do the work. Take the time to prep before you hand off a project to your agency. Setting them loose without all the materials or information they’ll need can result in spinning wheels and unnecessary revisions. (Unnecessary revisions are something you definitely want to avoid, if you’re hoping to get your agency’s best work.) Does the agency need background documents or research results that will be important for developing strategy? Does the creative team have your brand standards? Have you given them the specs for your deliverables? This sort of stuff seems like small potatoes, but it all slows down the process and/or sends your agency off to do your work without being equipped to do it.
  3.  Don’t let projects sit. When the agency gives you work for review, get your responses back to them in a day or two. Keep the process moving forward, providing feedback when needed and meeting the milestones on the agency timeline. If there are other decision makers involved, work to give collective feedback from the entire group, rather than making each person’s revisions before sending on to the next reviewer. Most importantly, keep the communication flowing. Don’t go dark on your agency. Work rarely gets better when it sits for weeks, and it takes everyone on the team time to get up to speed again and remember what your project is all about.
  4. Be nice. Both you and the agency want the same thing: great work. So remember you’re on the same side. A little common courtesy can go a long way. When your agency meets a tight timeline, let them know you appreciate it. When you need revisions, communicate that with an attitude of respect. It’s amazing how happy agency people can be to bend over backwards for the clients they enjoy working with.

Interested in partnering with an internal communications agency? Tribe can help.

 

Stephen Burns

Do employees like your company’s social intranet?

social-mediaImplementing a social intranet, also known as an enterprise social network or ESN, is tough for large companies. There isn’t a formula for success. Rolling out a companywide tool takes a lot of time, effort, communication and collaboration. It can be tricky, but if you pull it off, there is no limit to the benefits a solid internal communications network can bring to your culture and organization.

The social network for the office is still an evolving tool. The phenomenon is relatively new, as the latest extension of the time-tested company intranet. But enough companies have taken the leap and worked with the concept long enough to where we are finally seeing some conclusive feedback.

The wonderful folks over at Simply Communicate surveyed over 70 enterprises with a “Social Intranet Barometer” to examine emerging trends — “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Here is a summary of their findings. There were mixed reviews for certain, but there were also positive signs. And the majority of the pitfalls lay not with the technology, but adoption and rollout.

“Management increasingly understand the value of social and collaborative platforms”

“The survey results point to a growing use of social and collaborative platforms; however, they confirm… that adoption and demonstrable success are patchy.”

“…overall adoption rates reflect widespread concern that social and collaborative platforms are failing to realize the highest hopes of their most vocal advocates.”

“There is rarely adequate budget for launching and promoting use.”

The technology will evolve, but in order for a social intranet to truly work, your company has to evolve, too. And employees need to be prepared for what is and, should be treated as, an extensive company change. Internal communications can often be taken for granted, but when you’re investing so much in a tool that could be the edge you need for success, it’s worth doing the leg work necessary to make it connect with your employee base.

Still wondering an enterprise social network the right tool for your company? Maybe you’ve implemented an ESN that isn’t gaining much traction or perhaps you’ve been weary to take that first step. Tribe can help you build your own ESN survey or work with you to find the best ways to introduce these tools to your employees.

Brittany Walker

What’s in it for Me: 3 Ways to Incentivize Employee Engagement

67857321_thumbnailThink you can’t buy employee engagement? Think again. Even while being cost-conscious there are plenty of ways to increase engagement by enticing your employees. Bringing the WIIFM factor to light, here are three ways to increase engagement through incentives.

1.  Hook them with a prize they actually want. Bringing an enter-to-win activation to an employee request can have a big result without a lot of cost. Prizes can range from a free lunch, to gift cards, to high-end electronics, to all-inclusive trips, all while having a big impact. When asking an employee to take time out of their busy day to pay attention to corporate communications, it helps to have a hook.

2.  Make them work for it. Scavenger hunts are a popular engagement method activated by Tribe, particularly when launching new intranets. Sounds elementary, but the concept of having employees find the information we’re communicating on their own is a great method for comprehension. It’s also a great way to build habits of using specific communication tools to find information. Getting them there is often half the battle, and when getting them there has a potential return, it’s a win-win.

3.  The way to the heart is through the stomach. Or at least food gives them a reason to show up at an event. Using food as an incentive is one of the oldest tricks in the book and absolutely applies when it comes to employee engagement. Especially while encouraging social activity, as food tends to do.

Building the groundwork doesn’t have to come at a huge price. Whether it be an employee survey, intranet launch or new initiative rollout, Tribe often promotes using bait to get them there. “If we build it, they will come” only applies in the movies. It’s up to us as communicators to get them there.

Interesting in improving your employee engagement activation? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

TRIBE TRIVIA: Translations For Internal Communications

Question: Do most companies translate their internal communications?

Answer: In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, 42 percent said their companies don’t translate company communications. Of the employees whose companies do translate internal communications materials, the vast majority, at 85 percent, are translating into Spanish. French was the next most common language translated, at 20 percent, followed by Mandarin (20 percent) and Arabic (14 percent).

For more information about this and other studies, see Tribe’s white papers and internal communications resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot us an email.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Flexibility Trumps Foosball: Employees Want Control Over Their Workdays

papiroIn companies working aggressively to recruit and retain employees (think Silicon Valley), you’ll find workplaces with a long list of perks. A break room fridge stocked with energy drinks is nothing without on-site chair massage, professional housecleaning services, and an employee concierge to pick up dry cleaning, groceries and run errands.

Yet the perk employees value most, according to McKinsey research and other studies, is flexibility in when and where they work, says Fast Company.

“A new study by career site FairyGodBoss shows that, after compensation, flexible hours trump every other factor when women are deciding on a job offer, regardless of their age or whether they have children. A recent study by McKinsey & Company finds that millennials of both genders are more likely to accept a job offer from a company that offers flexible work schedules.

“Yet what drives most company’s recruitment efforts is demonstrating that it’s a ‘cool’ or ‘fun’ place to work. Instead of investing in ways to innovate flexibility, many companies are still spending money on foosball tables, onsite yoga, and free food. ‘Flexibility will become the norm for employers who want to win the war on talent,’ says Joanna Barsh, director emerita for McKinsey & Company and author of Centered Leadership.

“Flexible work schedules don’t necessarily mean employees work from home every day. ‘Flexibility means I can control my time so I’m not stuck in meetings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I know what work I need to do, and you will trust me to get it done,” says Romy Newman, cofounder of FairyGodBoss.’

Employees value jobs that support them in a high quality of life, and that means more than a paycheck. Does the job accommodate their life or is their life compromised by the job? Do they have the flexibility to manage family responsibilities, whether that means kids or aging parents? Are they doing work that makes them excited to get up and come to work in the morning? In short, does the job make their life better?

All that being said, there’s nothing wrong with a chair massage. Relaxing those tense shoulder muscles can also make life better. As can foosball.

Interesting in improving your recruiting and retention? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Nick Miller

3 Tips For an Engaging Intranet Homepage

illustrationCorporate intranets can be a company’s most valuable tool if properly implemented, but they are often a drain on resources and manpower because of a poorly thought out design that results in little return on investment. A layout that is going to keep your employees coming back requires many things, but the most important of all is a proper homepage design. The homepage is the gateway for all of your employees’ needs, but it should also be the keystone in your internal brand communications, and for these reasons it needs to be both engaging and practical. Here are three tips to get the most out of your homepage design:

 

  1. There is no need to scroll down. Scrolling is so in right now. The popularity of never-ending feeds on widely used sites like Facebook and Twitter inspire some employers to design an intranet that scrolls for days, but this is the most detrimental design element when founding or renovating your homepage. When an employee visits the corporate intranet, it is generally because they are driven by the completion of a task, not because they are there to browse. Help them achieve that goal by giving them what they need at the get-go. There are proven psychological effects behind the design of a webpage, and studies show that users feel overwhelmed when they visit a site that overloads them with information from the start. By designing a homepage without housing information “below the fold”, you are rewarding your readers two-fold. Firstly, they will immediately feel the successes of processing all of the information on the page quickly, and secondly, they will complete their task without the stresses of filtering through an overload of content. This tip is especially applicable to mobile functionality, since a homepage that does not scroll is likely to transition to mobile more fluidly.
  1. Make sure the first thing the eye is drawn to is constantly fresh. If your employees are expected to visit the company intranet everyday, give them a reason to come back. Design your homepage to feature some sort of company news, imagery or video that is updated frequently. Since employees are visiting the intranet on a task-driven initiative and will generally only glance at the homepage, call the content out by making it larger than the rest or more brightly colored. Take advantage of this brand touchpoint by communicating vision and values. Try to use photos of actual employees instead of stock photography (they can always tell!). Make sure that content is written for internal readers as opposed to repurposing language intended for customers. Make it fun!

This is especially important when it comes to launching a new intranet. You can avoid overwhelming your employees by periodically rolling out new functionalities. The homepage should be where these features are announced and explained.

  1. Design your layout to be tool-centric. Always prioritize business needs over creative impulse. Sure that carousel looks nice, but if it takes away from the practicality of the intranet, you are threatening your ROI. Like we’ve already discussed, it’s all about helping your employees do their jobs more efficiently, so give them the tools to do so. Provide an effective search bar, easy to locate policies and links that are both strategically grouped and start with the most relevant keyword. Don’t over format, exclude icons if they aren’t necessary, and let your employees Google search the weather and sports scores on their own. Usability is key, and by not focusing your intranet on the tools that make it an assistive asset, you are defeating the entire purpose.

Looking for more advice on how to build or manage your intranet? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

TRIBE TRIVIA: Employee Communications on Personal Mobile Devices

PrintTrue or False: Employees are unwilling to use their personal mobile devices for internal communications.

False: Although asking employees to weigh in on how to structure mobile communications seems  to be important to the success of such a program. In Tribe’s survey with over 100 large companies, 78 percent of those with successful mobile employee communications asked for employees’ input beforehand.

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot me an email.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Origin of Brainstorming: Or Why It’s Not Something to Squeeze into that Meeting Agenda

osborn_foundationBrainstorming happens to be one of my least favorite words. In the corporate world, the term usually means a bunch of people in a conference room shouting out things that someone else scribbles on a whiteboard or flip chart. In my experience, it’s not the best way to generate truly creative ideas. It’s too loud, for one thing, to hear that quiet voice of inspiration. That voice is more apt to raise its hand when just a couple of people are kicking around ideas, or later when one of those people is in the shower, or driving a car, or cooking dinner. But there’s something else that bothers me about this brainstorming thing.

At least I now know who to blame for coining this word. It was Alex Osborn, one of the founding partners of BDO, later to become the advertising giant BBDO. (Oldies quiz for those who’ve been in Atlanta for decades: Remember the ad shop known as BDA/BBDO? When the receptionist answered the phone, it sounded like someone falling down a flight of stairs.) Osborn’s ideas on brainstorming were later expanded upon by academic Sidney Parnes, with whom he partnered to develop what they called the Creative Problem Solving Process, or CPS.

I have a vague memory of my father explaining the phases of CPS to me as a child, saying that it mirrored the general process of the way his firm practiced architecture. The rules Osborn came up with for brainstorming were rules I remember my father using with young architects, particularly the first of those rules. They’re also second nature for most art director-copywriter teams in ad agencies, at least those in which I’ve been involved.

  1. No criticism of ideas
  2. Go for large quantities of ideas
  3. Build on each others ideas
  4. Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas

There’s a tradition in ad agencies that says creative ideas come out of the creative department only. Any account executive who didn’t know better than to pipe up with a headline was quickly schooled by his elders. The way we work now is far too fluid for rigid boundaries of responsibility, and I think most of us in the business of selling creative ideas will take a good one where we find it.

What’s useful about that ad agency tradition, to my mind, is a respect for the hard work of generating ideas. Before the brilliant idea that comes in a flash, there are generally many, many bad ideas. Before any of those bad ideas, comes a period of immersion in the subject matter. Even before those particular bad ideas, there are often years and years of experience trying to think up ideas for a living. There’s a certain way of thinking, of using the brain, that can be honed over a career in a creative business.

Which leads us back to the original meaning of the word brainstorming. According to CPS, it’s a process of 1. fact finding, 2. problem finding, 3. Idea finding, 4. solution finding and 5. acceptance finding. So maybe I’m fine with the word brainstorming. I’m just not a fan of thinking that the entire process is easy.

Want a more creative approach to your internal communications? Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

How do Millenials define leadership?

It seems the Millenial generation of workers are redefining the term. In Tribe’s research with Fortune 100-company employees under age 35, we found that these younger workers consider building a strong team and good relationships to be high indicators of leadership.

To Gen X and Gen Y employees, being a leader means:

• Inspiring others to do their best (76%)
• Helping to develop other members of the team (63%)
• Building strong relationships above and below in the company (59%)

What does that mean for your company? According to Forbes, “[The] ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.” Moving forward, think about where the strengths of Millenials lie: in technology, network building and diversity. Creating an environment centered on these ideals is key to investing in the next generation of the workforce.

How can you use this changing mindset to your advantage? The type of leadership Millenials crave is one that is rooted in transparency, open-door policies and, perhaps most importantly, building an office that thrives on teamwork. In Tribe’s research, we’ve found that these are things that most employee, regardless of generation, can identify with.

The days of “climbing the corporate ladder” are coming to an end. Corporate vernacular is moving away from the image of a “ladder”, in terms of success, instead using the lattice as a representation of the ideal. We’re no longer clambering to get to the top as individuals, we’re supporting each other and finding success together.

Need help reaching Millenials or bridging the generational gaps in your office? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.