Increase Collaboration By Raising Awareness of Siloed Expertise

Employees say they’d be more likely to collaborate if they knew about the expertise in other silos. In Tribe’s recent national research with employees of companies with workforces of 5,000 and more, many respondents reported that they have low awareness of the work going on in other silos.

When they’re not able to meet face-to-face, they want their companies’ help in connecting with each other. Over a third recommended the solution of communications that offer news about the areas of expertise and new projects happening in other business units, divisions and locations.

Intranet forums were the most highly recommended solution for connecting across silos. Over 40 percent of respondents suggested online forums for sharing news about other silos, as well as a place to share ideas and best practices.

Responses included:

“Give us their specific mission and specialty areas so we know they even exist.”

“Every new project at implementation should have a company-wide announcement kick-off.”

“(Want the) ability to find people and find people’s work.”

“Stop making it so difficult. Provide information on other parts of the organization so we can make informed decisions on who we need to reach out to.”

An employee directory was suggested by 36 percent of respondents. They reported that one of the most challenging hurdles to collaboration is simply knowing how to find the contact information for appropriate collaboration partners.

This is one of several blogs highlighting the key insights of Tribe’s upcoming white paper, “Employee  Recommendations for Connecting Across Silos.” The white paper will be posted on Tribe’s website and available for download in late October.

3 Ways to Make Leadership More Visible

In Tribe’s latest research and client work, we’ve found that more employees are feeling disconnected with leadership due to lack of visibility. Your CEO’s name is out there. It’s on company memos, letters, and most outward facing messaging. You employees might know the name, but could they point him or her out in a crowd?

Putting a face to a name should be more than an amenity. It’s a proven cognitive function that helps people empathize and respond to a someone’s message. Faceless communication is cold and distant, there’s no denying that, and that could be hurting your internal communications. Here are a few little things that could help employees put a face to a name and make your leadership’s messaging stick.

1)  Pictures in email signatures. This solution may come across as a bit goofy or outdated, but it comes directly from a survey respondent, and it’s really a simple solution for a major problem. It seems that at this particular employee’s company, there was a change in leadership. The employee immediately felt a disconnect from the new team, and regarded their messaging as distant and disengaging. The previous executive team had included pictures in their email signatures, and the new one did not. To this particular employee, that was the only major difference in the two’s communication tactics, but it made a huge impact on her impression of the new executive team.

2) Executive Blogs. Of course you’ll have to include a picture on here to get the full effect, but this goes a long way in adding another dimension to your executive team. It gives leadership a chance to talk about the company and be informative but in a more informal way. A more conversational voice and tone helps to reveal the person behind the position, and when it comes to communicating big company changes, employees can feel like they’re getting their information right from the source. It’s a win-win.

3) Video addresses or conferences. This is certainly the most expensive of the three tips, but it can go a long way in engaging employees. Instead of sending out a companywide memo, send a video with a member of the executive team talking about the topic. Hearing that leader’s voice, seeing their face and their mannerisms elicits empathy from employees and has a more emotional appeal than static text ever could. If employees feel engaged and connected to leadership, the messaging will undoubtedly be more effective.

Save Time and Build Relationships with Meaningful Communications

Technology has changed the landscape of communications. This digital age of smartphones, ultra fast Internet and texting has created more conversations at the tips of people’s fingers rather than the tips of their tongues. This is mostly true with younger generations who have grown up emailing, texting, streaming and surfing the web. 

Have you ever thought about how much time employees could save by just picking up the phone? While compiling results for our upcoming White Paper on employee silos, phone and email were among the most preferred channels of communication. This is no surprise though. Phone and email are two of the easiest forms of communication, especially when communicating internally.

We’ve all seen emails go awry when someone didn’t receive it, understand it or misunderstood your tone. The possibilities are endless. So now, it’s two hours later after you’ve already spent 30 minutes writing an email that you’re now going to probably have to re-explain, when all the while you could have just picked up the phone and taken care of everything in one fell swoop.

Employees are more receptive when you attempt to communicate with them in engaging ways. For example, when asked what channels of communication they would prefer one respondent said,

“WebEx, video conf, teleconf – sometimes just picking up the phone helps (vs. the more common email approach)”

There are other benefits to communicating via phone besides saving time. When you personally reach out to someone there’s is just a level of connection there that doesn’t exist in email or other text communications. You actually hear a person’s voice and tone while other things like grammar and punctuation become less relevant. Once you are on the same page as someone in a conversation, the flow of information, collaboration and overall process becomes much easier.

Using the phone can also cut down on the amount of emails your employees are receiving. This is another internal challenge we have found. For more information on email overload check out our one-sheet on alleviating email overload.

This is not to say emails serve no purpose. When communicating with more than one person, or relaying a simple message, email is great and can be a huge time saver in this case. It’s when messages get complex and unacquainted employees have to communicate that problems can arise.

Having trouble engaging and connecting your employees? Tribe can fix that!

Employees Don’t Know Who To Contact In Other Silos

One significant hurdle to collaboration across divisions or departments is that employees don’t know much about the other silos. In Tribe’s recent national study with employees of large companies, respondents said it’s not easy just getting past the first step of figuring out who to contact as potential collaborative partners.

When employees in the study were asked what keeps them from collaborating across silos, responses included:

“Not knowing who to talk to. Who are the experts in another silo?”

“Knowing who in other silos could help is difficult to determine.”

“I do not know which team or person to reach out to in order to collaborate on a specific  issue.”

So when these respondents say they don’t know who to call, they mean they actually have no effective means of finding people in other silos. Years ago when we here helping Porsche launch a new intranet, the employees were surveyed to see what tools and features would be most helpful in their jobs. The number one request was an online employee directory. Pretty basic stuff, but oddly a missing component  in many companies.

Interested in exploring the many ways communications can help connect employees across silos? Tribe can help.

This is one of several blogs highlighting the key insights of Tribe’s upcoming white paper, “Employee  Recommendations for Connecting Across Silos.” The white paper will be posted on Tribe’s website and available for download in late October.

Balancing Privacy and Technology

“Technology has further challenged our sense of personal sovereignty.” That quote, taken from a study conducted by Steelcase and published by the Harvard Business Review, really struck a chord with me. Technology can be a wonderful connector. It can cross continents and oceans in a single bound. It facilitates communication and collaboration in the workplace that people used to dream of. Being raised in the age of the internet, my fellow Millenials and I tend to look only at the benefits. But there are a number of workers who see constant and instant contact as a violation of their privacy.

What is Privacy today? At one time, privacy was merely a physically defined term. But with the strides of technology, we must adapt the word. Steelcase defines privacy with two distinct dimensions. The first, Information Control, which they describe as employees’ “constant battle to protect and manage access to their personal information”, is a crucial part of joining an enterprise social network. Some employees don’t want to share their phone number or personal email for the sake of mobile connectivity. And within the office environment, they don’t want to have to worry about a colleague looking at something private on their screen.

The second is Stimulation Control, which refers to “the noises and other distractions that break concentration or inhibit the ability to focus.” Technology affords people the ability to listen to music at work, watch videos, etc. But what one employee sees as “soothing white noise”, another might see as a grating distraction.

Define privacy in your company. The bottom line is, these days your company needs privacy protocol. These guidelines “can be companywide or specific to certain departments, times, or places.” But don’t assume that every employee in your company has the same definition of privacy, and decide what privacy means within the values of your company. It’s also not just something you can set and forget. Like other company guidelines, communications concerning privacy are necessary to sustain the initiatives.

Set up signals. Hotels have Do Not Disturb signs. Should offices employ a similar tactic? Not quite, yet. There are many ways people can say “I’d like to be alone”. Some people like to hide behind their computer monitor or put on their headphones. But employees shouldn’t be afraid that these signals will simply be ignored because they aren’t physical barriers. Steelcase suggests allowing employees to set up their own “boundaries” and encouraging other employees to respect them.

Make your tech “opt-in”. This one wasn’t included in the Steelcase study, but Tribe’s research and client work has showed us that this is crucial to technology’s success in you company. Whether it’s mobile connectivity, an Enterprise Social Network or a simple mailing list, it’s important to set up multiple ways to recieve and access information. Then, you can allow your employees to use the channels that work for them. This way, employees do not feel their privacy is being violated and they can get all the information they need.



Prepping Managers for Change Communications

In many cases of company change, managers are responsible for delivering messages to their teams. While not necessarily a bad method, it’s easy for this technique to become less than stellar for accurate and timely communications. Without the proper guidelines and tools in place, managers will filter any information they receive through their own lenses. Problems occur when their interpretation of the message changes, slightly or vastly, from the message the company intended.

The answer to this common conundrum may be easier than you think. Providing managers with simple communications tools, like talking points and FAQ sheets about the announcement, can go a long way towards making managers feel more comfortable while keeping messages consistent. And making communication easier for managers will increase the likelihood that the message will be shared.

A communications toolkit can be an efficient solution. Providing a range of different communication vehicles will be useful to the multitude of managerial styles at your company. Tribe usually recommends that these toolkits contain PowerPoint presentations, communications tip sheets, talking points, FAQ, training materials and even email templates managers can copy and paste into their own emails. The kit, delivered on a jump drive, can include branded materials that are a mix of ready-to-use communications and templates so they can adapt the tool to their individual style.

Allow managers to receive the news of a big change before the rest of the company. For major change initiatives, giving managers a “heads up” will allow them to process the announcement before cascading information to their teams.  Before managers can lead, it’s important that they’re informed. They should have a solid grasp of the upcoming change and how it impacts the company and their teams. Providing this information in advance will also give these leaders a chance to get onboard with the change. In addition to acting as informers, once a manager is embracing the change, they can be reinforcers of the communications as well.

Silos White Paper Insight: Face-to-face remains critical to collaboration

All the technology in the world can’t replace the power of meeting face-to-face. In Tribe’s current research on collaboration across silos with employees of large companies, respondents said it’s easier to collaborate once you’ve established some sort of human connection, and seeing someone face-to-face is the most effective way to do that.

After an initial meeting, communication flows more easily through video conferences, phone calls and emails. As one subject said, “Sometimes I’ve only met people in a kick-off meeting and the rest of the communication happens over the phone or via email but those kick-off meetings really help to establish a relationship.”

Although one respondent said, “Stop with the excuses. This is 2014; it’s easy to collaborate even without actually getting together,” only 8 percent of our survey respondents felt that face-to-face interaction was “not necessary at all” for collaboration.

In earlier Tribe research on employee preferences in internal communications, face-to-face was deemed more important by Boomers and Gen X. Millennial (or Gen Y) employees, perhaps because they’re perfectly at ease with digital communication, were less likely to prefer face-to-face. Since Millennials seem to conduct so much of their social lives by texting, this made sense to us.

However, those generational differences were not represented in this current research. When it comes to collaboration, the percentage of Millennials, Gen X and Boomers who consider face-to-face nonessential were almost statistically identical.

Unfortunately, it’s not always practical to get employees from different silos in the same room together. Silos separated by continents and several time zones may even have a tricky time scheduling a joint conference call.

That’s when internal communications can help. Although face-to-face is difficult to match for its power in building relationships, there are other ways to build human connections, from collaborative intranet features to internal magazines featuring a range of work and employees to represent the full range of silos.

Interested in exploring the many ways communications can help build relationships? Tribe can help.

This is the first of several blogs highlighting the key insights of Tribe’s upcoming white paper, “Employee Feedback on Company Silos.” The white paper will be posted on Tribe’s website and available for download in late October.

Intranet Adoption Tactics from Xchanging’s Melanie Wheeler

How do you get 96% of your company’s employees signed up and onboard with a brand new intranet? Just ask Melanie Wheeler, Global Head of Internal Communications for the innovative tech company Xchanging, whose unprecedented success with the company’s adoption of Leapfrog, their Jive-based enterprise social network is garnering some much deserved attention. She sat down with Marc Wright from simply-communicate and revealed some really crucial steps in the process that could work for a lot of companies. Here are some of the highlights:

Plan your content first. “[Launching an intranet without content is] like inviting people to a party without any food or drink. People will turn up to have a look, but need a reason to stay and to come back. We needed to give them something to consume – such as policies and procedures and useful information that makes it easier for them to do their jobs. Once you have your content then you can invite people.”

Get the executive team involved. “I told the Executive Board there was no point in signing the cheque if you don’t get involved. It’s all very well saying something is important but it’s for nothing if what you are saying and what you are (not) doing are two different things.”

Find the comfort zone. “We told [content creators] that we were not expecting them to become social butterflies overnight. But we did expect them to participate. Don’t blog every day, blog when you have something to say.”

Facilitate non-work pages. “One of our Exec Directors started a triathlon group online. The benefit you get from employees bonding – regardless of the topic – is immeasurable.”

Moderation in moderation. “Leapfrog is very fast-moving and we cannot stop people saying things on the network. So instead of attempting to control the message these new channels allow us to do more of what we should be doing; guiding the senior leaders around how they should respond to what is going on. It means that we can be more creative and consultative – we are no longer just the post box.”

Have faith in your employees. “I have discovered so much over this period but perhaps the most important is that I have learnt to trust the audience more than I thought. We don’t give people enough credit.”


Cheers to all of that. Read the full article here.

Just how aspirational should a company mission/vision statement be?

At Tribe, we often say that the primary goal of internal communications is to help align the actions of employees with the company’s mission and vision.  If the mission defines the ultimate goal of an organization, the vision provides a roadmap for getting there – how they will cross the gap of where they are versus where they want to be.

But how aspirational should that mission/vision be?

The destination should be worthwhile. When they come to work in the mornings, employees should be able to imagine that they’re part of a journey that deserves their attention. Let’s think about vacation spots as a mission: A weekend at the nearby lake might be relaxing, but perhaps it doesn’t excite the imagination with long-term potential. If you like to travel, several weeks in Hawaii or on an African Safari might be a worthwhile long-term vacation goal. A trip to the moon or Mars – while far-reaching and potentially very exciting – isn’t currently all that realistic.

The mission statement should describe a goal that’s worth striving for. It should describe something that’s worth the long-term effort, but still believable. It won’t work if employees find it beyond the realm of possibility. As an aside, I just read the mission statement for Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX. It’s pretty much about traveling to Mars. I assume that the sort of folks he employs actually see that as a real possibility.

The point is that when Tribe is working with companies to align employee actions with organizational goals, we first have to ensure that the primary message – the mission/vision – can be appropriately woven into employee communications. The goal of these internal communications is to try to get employees excited about and proud of coming to the office every day. These communications should instruct employees about how their specific roles contribute to the mission and (particularly) the vision.

Honing in on the correct aspirational range requires quite a fair amount of homework. It’s not an easy task.

  • It requires deep internal awareness of what the organization produces. Obviously, the mission and vision must closely relate to what you produce or who you serve.
  • It requires knowledge of how the organization goes about achieving its goals. What is the company all about? Global reach? Market share? Quality? Creativity? Comfort? Dominance? Community? Philanthropy?
  • It requires an understanding of the trends that affect your market. Is your industry undergoing dramatic change? Is it on the decline? Is it about to explode?
  • It requires knowledge of how the company stacks up against competition. Are you a market leader? Is it realistic that you could become one?
  • It requires a realistic timeframe. There’s a reason why strategic plans tend to look three to five years out. If the timeframe is much longer, employees may wonder if they’re going to be around to see the result. If the timeframe is shorter, the company will constantly be reloading with new plans.
  • Finally, it requires knowledge of how individual roles within the company contribute to the realization of the vision. Employee engagement begins with a role that matches the employee’s personality and skillset and that challenges that person to grow and improve over time.

Companies work best when employees are engaged in their work. Employees are engaged in their work when they believe in what the company is trying to achieve and that their daily actions contributes to the company’s goals.

How aspirational is your company’s mission/vision? Do you know?

Observing country-specific holidays in global companies

Employees of global companies, and those with global clients, find themselves learning of all sorts of holidays they didn’t know existed. On Labor Day, of course, Americans will be out of the office, enjoying backyard barbecues or maybe just a day to sleep in and putter around the house. Our colleagues around the world will be toiling away like it’s any other Monday.

At Tribe, we often work with programmers in Ukraine, so our timeline for a rush project this May had to take into account their Labor Day. Both May 1 and May 2 were national holidays for them. Fortunately for our workflow demands, Cultural Workers and Folk Artists Day on May 25 is observed without businesses across the board taking the day off.

We’ve just started work with a company headquartered in Japan, where employees customarily take extra vacation days around Bon, the festival honoring one’s ancestors. While their Japanese colleagues were traveling to their hometowns, taking their kids to visit grandparents and other relatives, our client in charge of the Americas and EMEA regions was able to catch up on a joint project.

The global pattern of country-specific holidays creates an interesting rhythm to the workplace. Regions take turns in the inhale and exhale of time on and time off. While one group is enjoying a vacation from work, others are continuing to move the business forward. In our post-recession environment, where employees are accustomed to doing more with less and can easily begin to see themselves as indispensable, these mismatched holidays are a reminder that they’re not.

In other words, the world doesn’t fall apart when you take a day off.