Does your company send so many emails that employees ignore company emails?

What happens when employees are subjected to an ongoing barrage of company-wide email blasts? In some companies, employees receive several emails a week, or even each day, from various departments within the enterprise. IT might send an email about a technology update; HR sends a few about open enrollment and the new performance management platform; security sends one about the building schedule over the holiday weekend.

I’ll tell you what happens: employees learn to ignore those email blasts. In an inbox filled with pressing business and requests from their immediate managers, the corporate blasts will often drift to the bottom until they’re so old they just get deleted.

That means employees are missing important or urgent messages. The sheer quantity of company emails can make it difficult for employees to tell the difference between the big stuff and the other miscellaneous flotsam that fills their inboxes. It’s tempting to put off reading any of those company emails until they’re less busy. And of course, they’re never going to be less busy.

Here’s a three-step solution than can help improve this email overload:

1. Aggregate all those company emails into one weekly or monthly digest. Instead of being constantly peppered with email blasts, employees will be able to view all pertinent topics in one email newsletter. Organize the content by a hierarchy of importance, to help insure employees see the most critical information.

2. Keep the text on all topics brief and to the point. If employees can quickly glance through the headlines, and perhaps a two-sentence summary and call to action, they’re more likely to notice the news they most need to know. Even better, write headlines to communicate the one takeaway you want employees to understand, so that if all they do is read that one line, they’ll have a basic idea of what’s up.

3. Send them online for more information. In that weekly or monthly newsletter blast, include links to the intranet for additional information about topics that require more than a few sentences. That helps the intranet serve the purpose of the go-to hub for employee communications, and lets employees access the information only when they’re ready to deal with that decision or call to action.

Want to reduce email overload for your employees, while improving readership? Tribe can help.

4 tips to make Podcasts your employees can actually use

Podcasts are back. If you haven’t already heard. We covered the benefits of having a conversational tone with employees, and how Podcasts can help you make that connection and deliver pertinent information to large employee populations in a way that is easy and accessible. But simply having a Podcast does not equal more engagement. It’s a communication channel that needs to be used effectively in order to get results.

Here are a few tips to make your Podcast top notch:

1) Know your audience’s interests. What do your employees want to know about? It might help to send out a survey with possible topics, so you can see what people want to hear and create an editorial calendar. This can also act as an awareness campaign, and employees will feel more attached to the project if they feel they have had input. Above all, this is an employee resource. They don’t want to hear an executive pontificate in corporate platitudes. They want to hear about specific issues, the direction of the company and things that matter to them personally.

2) Have a plan. This tip is two-fold. First, have a subject itinerary for each show, so you don’t have “dead air”, inconsistent timing, or someone searching for what to say (umm, uhhh) on your recording. You can edit the content in post production, but if you have to go in and cut a lot, it can be time consuming. Outline what topics you want to cover and make it solid.

Second, have a plan for when you want to release the Podcast. One of the reasons the top Podcasts are so popular is because they put shows out regularly, usually on the same day every week, bi-weekly or monthly. The audience knows when a new one is coming out and will check back on their own volition. It’s helpful for you too to develop a rhythm to have that push to continue making content. But you also need to be prepared to stick to your plan if you make one.

3) Let the authority speak. It might be good to have a “host” for the company Podcast, someone who does it regularly and becomes a familiar voice, but it’s crucial for engagement for employees to hear the information straight from the horse’s mouth. If there is a financial Podcast, try and have the CFO speak about it; if it’s a marketing theme, have the CMO. You get the idea. This channel allows employees unique insight into the subjects that you cover, and having someone they don’t normally converse with speaking on such an intimate platform will make it seem like more of an insider’s view. The information will be more pertinent and valuable to employees.

4) Make it listenable. A good quality recording can make all the difference in how the Podcast is perceived and received. Loud background noises, hums, pops and breathing all detract from the content. They’re distracting, even on a subconscious level. Invest in a nice microphone, a pop filter and maybe even a shock mount to make your recordings sound as nice as possible. As we outlined in the aforementioned blog, a few companies are making USB microphones specifically for Podcasters and this would be a good, inexpensive way for you to make your recording sound as professional as possible.

Tribe comic: Meet & Tweet

comic-strip-may

In an increasingly digital workplace, use print to get attention

It seems obvious. If employees are sitting in front of computers all day long, then digital communications must be the best way to reach them. Not necessarily.

Nobody likes getting more email. Some statistics suggest that people delete almost half the emails they get. And we all know people who have hundreds of emails sitting in their inbox, waiting to be acted upon — or deleted.

Although the intranet is a great pull communicator, it also has its limitations. A strong social intranet can become the hub of your internal communications, but you have to entice employees to go there. To get serious traffic, the intranet needs to make peoples’ jobs easier and provide continuous fresh and engaging content to reward them for going there.

To get attention in a digital workplace, try print. Even better, use print in unexpected places, beyond the typical break room posters and tri-fold brochures.

At Tribe, we’ve been working with the software division of a Fortune 10 company. Our job is to help align employees with the vision and to make them more comfortable with the change inherent in a high-growth company with very short time-to-market expectations.

Programmers make up a huge percentage of this employee population. They spend their days in intense concentration at their computers. When they take a quick break from their work, they get up. They walk down the hall for a cup of coffee or a vitamin water or a ping pong game.

Just like we do with non-desk workers, we look for ways to reach these employees in their physical environments. Like printed wraps for their coffee cups; window clings on the glass doors of the beverage coolers; projected quotes on hallway walls; digital signage; and racks of artsy postcards featuring cool designs of each of their values.

Also, a vision book. A beautifully designed booklet articulating the company vision and values can become a keepsake item for employees. Putting those messages in print emphasizes the permanence, or at least the long shelf life, of these cultural underpinnings.

The trick, as always, is to think beyond the obvious. For example, just because Millennial employees seem to use technology like air, doesn’t mean email is the best way to get their attention. In fact, Millennials are way past email. They text, they post to Instagram, they may occasionally check in on Facebook, but email is not their channel of choice. Reaching them takes a little more thought.

Interested in new ways to reach employees in a digital workplace? Tribe can help.

CX depends on EX: The link between Voice of Customer and Voice of Employee

To improve your CX, work on your EX. The employees are the ones delivering that customer experience, so it makes sense to check in with them to see how it’s going. Do they have the tools and processes in place to make customers happy? Are there issues that come up again and again as customer complaints? Maybe they are frustrated by their inability to solve customer problems because they’re not empowered to make the decisions that could make it right.

Just like the company depends on Voice of the Customer, it’s helpful to listen to the Voice of Employee. When Tribe begins work with a large company, we often find that the top layer of management is a little out of touch with the rank and file employees. This isn’t because they don’t care – far from it – but because they don’t rub shoulders with frontline employees on a regular basis.

In our Discovery phase of a strategic communications plan, we recommend talking with employees as well as management. In focus groups, one-on-one conversations or phone interviews, we ask employees about their experiences. What do they love about their jobs? What are the challenges? How does the typical day unfold for them? What’s the culture like, compared to other places they’ve worked?

Hearing about the employee experience can reveal easy fixes and larger challenges. Most importantly, it suggests and informs strategies for closing the gap between the desired culture and the current reality.

A stronger culture and a better EX lead naturally to more engaged employees and thus an improved CX. In a 2014 study by the Temkin Group, highly engaged employees were “more than three times likely to do something good for their employer, even if it’s not expected of them; almost three times as likely to make a recommendation about an improvement at work; more than 2.5 times as likely to stay late at work if something needs to be done; and more than two times as likely to help someone else at work.” Those are exactly the sort of things that lead to above-and-beyond service and improved customer experiences.

It’s a logical chain of events. If you listen to the VOE, and improve the EX, then you’re more likely to hear from the VOC that you’ve created a better CX.

Interested in learning from the voice of your company’s employees? Tribe can help.

Podcasts: Conversations with employees

To lead the citizens of this country through the harrowing times of the Great Depression and the subsequent World War, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took to the intimate medium of radio. A great orator in his own right, adept at public speaking, FDR instead chose to deliver the country’s news in what became known as the “fireside chats.” It gives insight into what kind of leader he was, and why he was the only president to be elected into office an unprecedented three times. People loved him and this is in great part because of the trust instilled by hearing his voice throughout that trying era.

Like a phone call from a long-distance relative, a lone, familiar voice brings a certain type of comfort. People aren’t preoccupied by visual appearance, which puts both the listener and the speaker at ease. It’s less of an official address and more of a one-on-one feel. It’s relaxing, but it also puts your mind to work, sparking the listeners’ imaginations by allowing them to create their own visualizations of the subject matter.

Employees respond to this more conversational approach. In Tribe’s research and recent client work, we’ve seen that employees prefer to have things laid out in plain language; they like when companies level with them, and they like hearing information straight from the folks at the top.

Since you can’t have a company radio station, Podcasts are the next best thing. Think of Podcasts as radio for the on-demand generation of technology. Employees can download them or stream them whenever and wherever they want. On the production side, the speaker can record the podcast any time, any place. They can do it in their bathrobe over their Sunday morning coffee if they want.

And Podcast numbers are jumping way upThey’re becoming familiar technology, they’re easier to stream or download, and now you can use a number of platforms outside of iTunes, like SoundCloud, on almost any device to listen to them. Podcasts are really resonating with the general populous, and this increased accessibility makes it an even more viable communication channel.

They’re also incredibly cost-effective. Due to this rise in Podcasters, a number of audio manufacturers, like Audio-Technica and Blue Microphones are creating affordable, high-quality microphones designed to plug directly into your USB port. This eliminates the need for expensive outboard interfaces and mixers without sacrificing recording quality.

Encourage the leaders of your company to record a Podcast. At Tribe, we see this boom in listener numbers as an opportunity to take advantage of this engaging and easy-to-produce communication tactic. Check back on the Good Company blog next Friday, where we’ll be discussing best practices to get the most out of your company Podcast.

4 tips for keeping employees engaged in your intranet

Launching a new or updated intranet is a great start for improving internal communications. It is however just that, a start. The real challenges usually come in the following weeks, months, even years. A well thought out sustaining plan can be the key to keeping engagement high. Here are four tips to keep employees coming back to your intranet.

  1. Keep content fresh. When used properly, a successful intranet goes beyond the function of a virtual filing cabinet. Fresh, relevant content updated daily or weekly will keep employees coming back. To make every-day content creation more manageable, Tribe recommends establishing a content manager program. By empowering content managers across geography and work functions, you can build an army of ambassadors who keep news refreshed on an ongoing basis.
  1. Create a welcoming collaboration space. Breaking down silos through collaboration is a common goal, but often difficult to achieve. Providing employees with a collaboration platform in an environment where they already regularly visit is a big step towards making it easier. When choosing a collaboration tool for your organization it’s important to include employees in the discussion to really determine what tool will work best for your culture.
  1. Offer two-way communication. Leadership visibility is a frequent request of employees from all types of organizations. Providing an area on your intranet where employees can ask questions, give feedback or voice concerns to leadership is a great way to give them the outlet they need. Completing the loop of two-way communication is essential to employees feeling that their input is respected by their top executives.
  1. Provide a positive user experience. One of the easiest ways to lose engagement in your intranet is to make it difficult to use properly. If employees aren’t getting what they need in an intuitive and productive way, it’s harder to keep them coming back. When possible, Tribe recommends asking employees what attributes they would like in an intranet. Following launch, it’s also important to keep tabs on the functionality for the best possible experience.

At Tribe we like to think of the launch of an intranet as the starting line, not the finish line. Need help increasing engagement in your intranet? Tribe would love to help.

 

Ghost blogging is dead: Three channels for more authentic leadership communications

Most employees assume CEOs don’t write their own blogs. And in most companies, they’re right. The blogs posted under the names of the top executives have usually been ghost written by someone several rungs below and edited by one or two others before the so-called author ever sees the piece. The messages are carefully crafted, but often very lengthy and not authentic in the least.

That’s because most CEOs don’t have time to blog. Or because none of their trusted advisors has suggested the importance of them taking a few minutes to dash off a few paragraphs once in a while. Even the occasional tweet from the big cheese might be preferable to a highly produced essay-length post that is clearly ghost written.

Employees want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Tribe’s national research indicates that employees of large companies prefer to learn about two topics in particular – vision and change – directly from their company leadership.

So what’s an internal communications department to do? Here are three suggestions for leadership communications that are more authentic –and require a limited time commitment from the execs.

1. Make it a Q&A piece or feature article: You don’t have to speak in the CEO’s voice to share his or her views. Rather than pretend the executive is doing the writing, let the internal author come out from behind the curtain. Ask three or four questions about a topic and let the executive ramble. Then edit a concise response from the words that actually came out of his or her mouth. You can also use the same 15-minute interview to write a feature article for the intranet or company magazine.

2. Make it a video: Some people are very comfortable talking to camera. As in the Q&A interview described above, let the executive ramble and then edit some of the nicest pieces together for a one to three-minute video. Let them know it doesn’t matter if they mess up and need to say something over again, because you’ll only include the best parts in the final edit. You might get several short videos out of one 3o- or 45-minute on-camera interview.

One strength of this format is that video can humanize executive leadership. Employees not only get to see their faces; they hear their voices and watch their body language, all of which helps them feel like they know them personally. And that builds trust in leadership.

3. Try a podcast: Podcasts are back. Or if you never noticed them before, they’re here. Podcasts on iTunes have topped a billion subscribers. Almost 40 million Americans say they’ve listened to a podcast in the past 30 days.

Plus, executives don’t need to worry how their hair looks. It can be a lot less stressful for many people to be recorded than videotaped. If they stumble over their words, they can try it again as many times as they want. Remind them that the edit will use only the most polished bits. And like the video suggestion above, one interview can be edited into several podcasts.

Interested in helping your leadership communications be more authentic? Tribe can help.

Leadership may know all the words, but don’t assume employees know the song

Leadership is listening all day long to a radio station employees don’t get. Those top layers of company management hear the same songs over and over. They know all the words by heart.

Most often, that station isn’t even on the dial for employees. They’re not in those meetings with C-level and the one or two layers below. They don’t see the same PowerPoints their boss’s boss’s boss sees. They’re not rubbing elbows with other SVPs or bumping into the CEO in the hallway. And the email that gets pushed to all employees describing the company’s new vision and values will rarely capture the nuance behind the new direction.

Tribe’s national research on functional silos indicates that executive management is often detached from employees. Although we generally think of silos as vertical divisions, in many companies the leadership level exists in its own horizontal silo.

This divide can make it difficult for leadership to know what employees don’t know. The vision of the company is clear to leadership because it’s a focus of their work. The business reasons for major disruptive changes in the company are apparent because they’re dealing with those business objectives every day. Employees are often left out of this communication loop.

Vision and change, however, are the two topics employees want to hear directly from the top. In other Tribe research, employees shared that when there’s a major change afoot, they prefer to hear it first from executive leadership. For questions and more details, they’re comfortable following up with their direct managers but that’s not where they want to get the breaking news. And when the discussion turns to where the company is headed, employees want their top management to fill them in on that vision.

Ironically, being isolated from the rest of the company makes it difficult for leadership to recognize their isolation. When we do employee interviews during the discovery phase of our work with clients, it often comes as a surprise to leadership that their employees feel so out of the loop on the vision and the reasons behind change.

That recognition is often the first step to aligning employees with leadership’s plan for the company’s future. When channels are developed to communicate directly from those at the top to the rest of the company; when employees feel in the loop on leadership’s plans; and when they see how their individual roles support leadership’s vision, it can create powerful alignment that streamlines success of the company.

The goal is to teach everybody the words to the songs leadership hums all day long. If you’re not sure where to start, Tribe can help.

Gen Y employees and the pressure of finding one’s passion

Younger employees just entering the workforce are often preoccupied with finding their passion. Gen Y (not to mention Gen Z, which is right on their heels) has been told — by their parents, teachers and our culture in general — that this is what they should look for in a job.

But that’s a lot of pressure. Identifying one’s passion requires more self-knowledge than an entry-level employee might be expected to possess. It places a tremendous importance on choosing the exact right position. For some, this expectation can be paralyzing, or at the very least intimidating.

It also promotes what might be called belly button gazing. By definition, searching for one’s passion means focusing heavily on the self. Extreme self pre-occupation is probably not the best way to be happy, which would seem to be the whole point of finding one’s passion.

Instead, maybe we could encourage these younger employees to look for ways they can help. That puts a whole lot less pressure on finding a passion-filled job, and switches the emphasis to a willingness to be useful and a heart that’s open to opportunity.

The irony, of course, is that by looking for ways to help, one is apt to discover passion. By following the path that appears when one looks for a void to fill or a problem that needs solving, one can become fully engaged and find a personal passion exists where it might have been least expected. Accepting a job where one has the chance to be useful can lead unexpectedly to meaningful work.

Interested in engaging younger employees in your company? Tribe can help.