5 Tips to Guide Collaborative Teams

As our workplace grows increasingly dependent on highly specialized knowledge experts and their intellectual capital, collaboration becomes more and more essential. To complete complex projects, to develop company-wide innovation or to tackle any other initiative that involves more than one discipline, a collaborative work environment will be key to your company’s success.

Why should that be so difficult? For one thing, if you’ve been lucky enough to attract star talent across a wide range of job functions, you’ll likely be dealing with personalities who prefer to be left alone to do what they do best.

On the up side, collaboration is a fantastic builder of employee engagement. When employees across many industries are asked what makes them want to stay with their current employers, one of the most frequent responses is “the people I work with.”

Here are 5 tips for successful collaboration at your company:

1. Cast a wide net in the beginning of a project. This is the time you want as many viewpoints as possible, with your objectives and challenges seen through the lens of various departments, disciplines and experience levels.

2. Identify a core team that will be responsible for the work going forward. It’s not practical, cost-efficient or even possible — given most employees’ schedules — to include everyone in every meeting.

3. Give that core team decision-making authority. Once they’ve had input and suggestions from all interested parties, the core team needs to have the autonomy to proceed without checking back every time they make a decision. Let them figure it out and get it done, without putting a lot of hierarchal drag on the process.

4. Have one person be the lead of the project. This may not be the highest ranked person on the team, but it should be someone who can make the project a priority and keep it moving forward with some degree of autonomy. If you don’t trust this person’s judgement or decision-making abilities, you’ve got the wrong project leader.

5. As much as possible, ignore hierarchy. Collaboration leads to more innovation and greater business success if the process allows for easy sharing of information and insights. What you want is the collective wisdom of a bunch of smart people working together — and ideally, for them each to feel that their knowledge and ideas are needed.

6. Communicate progress to the entire group. While the core team is moving the project through its process of development, be sure to send occasional updates to the whole group, including a timeline with upcoming milestones.

7. Circle the wagons again before going live. Get the entire group together one last time before the launch, with the understanding that many decisions made along the way cannot now be unmade. The purpose is not for them to find fault, but to suggest anything that could improve the success of the launch before it’s revealed to the world. The other benefit of this meeting is that it creates widespread pride in the accomplishment and enlists the entire team as ambassadors for the project.

8. Give recognition. It’s important to celebrate both the teamwork required and the individuals involved, when collaboration results in a successful outcome. Not only is it important to those employees, but it also lets other employees know that the company values collaboration across job functions.

Interested in improving collaboration at your company? Tribe can help.

Asking the age-old question: Should your company values stay the same?

In a perfect world, your company would start from day one with a firmly-rooted set of values. These values would be strong enough to sustain you through the first few stages of your business, and adaptable enough to apply as your company expanded and changed. After all, consistency is key in values and culture. Right?

But that’s a tall order. It’s hard enough to predict business from year to year. Foreseeing how your company will evolve five, ten years in the future is nearly impossible. Businesses, even entire industries, can alter in their trajectory in unpredictable ways. Your values need consistency, but they shouldn’t be written in stone.

Not all big changes in the company warrant a shift in values. There are a few times, though, when you may need to reexamine your company values and tailor them along the way. Here are a few questions Tribe recommends asking yourself if you’re considering a change in values:

Is there a new company vision?

Many companies reinvented themselves during the recession. Market conditions forced some reevaluation and that closer look often revealed new opportunities to redefine the business model — and a new vision for the future.

Do the employees understand the new vision and the role they play in reaching it? Do they know how they’re expected to change their behavior to meet this new vision? Values will be an important part of that equation. A new company vision may require slightly different values from the ones that were appropriate for the old way of doing business.

Has there been a change in leadership?

A new CEO will also generally mean a new vision for the company. A change in top leadership is a prime time to take a close look at the values and how they align with management’s vision for the future.

Has there been a merger or acquisition?

Since values are at the core of the company culture, merging two cultures will usually require some revamping of values. Occasionally, the acquiring company’s values will prevail, but it’s sometimes easier to create a cohesive culture if both companies are becoming part of something new. Evolving your values is a process that begins with defining and articulating what those values are and then moves to actually launching those values company-wide. But the job’s not done once the values are launched. In fact, it’s never done. For values to truly become guidelines for how business is done at your company, they have to be made relevant and meaningful to employees at all levels. Employees will need to see examples of their management putting the values into action. And those values must be communicated with sustaining efforts over a long period of time.

You’ll know you’ve succeeded when you see employees using the company values as the basis for the decisions they make in their work, day after day.

Want more insight? Whether you’re trying to call more attention to your current values or rewriting them completely, give Tribe a call. We would love to help your company communicate.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Do offline employees believe what corporate says?

Q: True or false: Non-desk employees, such as those on the manufacturing line or in the retail stores, generally believe the information they get through corporate communications.

A: False, for a significant percentage, according to Tribe’s national research with non-desk employees. 38% of respondents said they take all corporate communications “with a grain of salt.”

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe. 

Are you sharing your company’s story?

Every company has a story. If the narrative is not being shared, you’re missing a chance to engage employees in being part of both the company’s legacy and its future.

The company story can be an invitation for employees and prospects to join the experience. Make the story relevant for corporate employees but also those in the manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and other production jobs. People on the factory floor should know that they’re creating a product that provides people with something that makes their lives better in some way.

Look for the golden thread of purpose that has always run throughout the company’s history. Although business strategies and even the organization of the business may have changed dramatically since the beginning, there’s likely a perennial purpose that’s been there year after year. For instance, an IT company may be using entirely different technology and providing new sorts of services than it was even a few years ago. But look for the reason why the company exists, the need it fills for its clients. In that example, maybe the company purpose is and was to help clients’ technology work flawlessly so they can focus on their own business instead.

UPS, to use an actual company as an example, has been in business for the past century. Although today they not only deliver packages but also handle supply chain, logistics,  and run retail stores, they’re still focused on the same thing: helping their customers move things reliably from one place to another.

What channels would you use to tell the company story? Tribe often creates what we call vision books for clients, in which we help the company articulate the vision and values of the company. This is an ideal tool for telling the company story, for a variety of reasons.

The company narrative can also be told in almost any other channel. Tell it in the employee magazine, on the intranet, as part of a company anniversary event. We’ve even incorporated colorful gems of company history in digital signage.

The importance of the story is that it connects employees to something bigger than themselves. And it helps them see how their individual roles contribute to the overall success and ongoing legacy of the company.

Interested in telling your company’s story? Tribe can help.

 

The elements of a highly engaged employee

We often discuss the benefits of an engaged employee. And they are almost endless, as far as your company is concerned. A more engaged employee means increased productivity, creativity, collaboration and, in general, evolution of talent within the business. Employees also benefit from being engaged by feeling more appreciated and integral to the success of the company, and having a true voice with the power to create real change.

What actually makes an engaged employee engaged? This question usually conjures up visions of programs and brand new channels, some of which may be necessary to facilitate the types of communication necessary to engage. But there are much more basic elements that happen on a day-to-day basis that affect employees’ answer to the question, “Do you feel highly engaged?”

The good folks across the pond at Energi People have broken it down. And as you can see, most of the criteria are things that can be achieved without sweeping changes to your company’s infrastructure. They are small but powerful strategies that, with the right approach and coaching, can be incredibly effective in the engagement portion of your company’s communications.

employeeengagementproductivity

via Energi People

Need help finding the best ways to implement these strategies? Tribe works with your company’s leadership and management to find the best ways to communicate and engage. Give us a call. We’d love to help.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Cascading Communications

Q: What’s one topic employees don’t want left to cascading communications from their direct managers?

A: Vision and values, according to Tribe’s national research on employees’ preferences in internal communications. About two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents prefer to get that communication directly from the CEO or other top company management.

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe. 

A cheaper alternative to the healthier standing desk

Tribe has long been a fan of Hootsuite. Not only for their great social media dashboard, which is the platform we use to run our Twitter page, but also for their fantastic company culture and the free resources they provide for small businesses and the general public. In many ways, the company is a model for success in the social media industry.

So, when we heard that HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes had developed a new standing desk, needless to say we were intrigued. Check it out here. It’s called the Oristand, and at $25 (or $100 for a 5-pack) the folding cardboard conversion is an inexpensive alternative to large, bulky and expensive standing desks. The idea came from HootSuite employees who were cobbling together their own versions out of Ikea furniture and shelves.

For a while now, we’ve been working with many of our clients to promote wellness in the office. A major point that always arises is detrimental act of all-day sitting. Studies have shown repeatedly that the amount of time that the average American office employee spends in a chair is unhealthy. How bad is it? According to the Washington Post, sitting heavily contributes to factors that increase heart disease, pancreas overuse, colon cancer, back injuries and leg disorders — just to name a few things.

Ideally, employees would have time to spend throughout the day to counteract these effects. But we all know that taking a leisurely walk to get the juices flowing is a luxury during a busy day. Sometimes, we simply can’t take the time away from our work. With that in mind, we need to do all we can to ensure that every employee has a way to fight the negative outcomes of sitting.

Many times, the healthier options in life are not always the most affordable. In a perfect world, when it comes to employee wellness, there would be no limit to that budget. But the reality is that standing desks range from $100 all the way to $700 for top-of-the line options. That just isn’t a viable option for many companies. On the other hand, a small business could nearly outfit an entire office with Oristands for the price of one nice standing desk.

Holmes’ innovation is a huge step forward in the standing desk movement. And we hope that it’s a harbinger of the affordable employee wellness revolution to come.

Want to start an employee wellness program at your company? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.

Five ideas for engaging employees with wellness programs

Companies often launch employee wellness programs because of the health benefits, but these programs also can increase employee engagement. By activating the programs with initiatives that focus not just on the individual but help employees connect with their co-workers, build departmental and cross-departmental relationships and feel part of a group, wellness can foster a much higher level of employee engagement. Here are five ideas for how to make that happen:

1. Start a competition: This could be an annual fitness competition, based on sticking to individual exercise goals; it could be a weight loss challenge; it could be collecting miles walked or run to reach a collective mileage goal. 

2. Use your intranet to add a social element: Let your employee intranet make individual wellness efforts visible and create both a competitive spirit and a venue for support. Employees can establish individual fitness profiles with goals and report their progress against those goal; they can post their planned workout for the day; they can track their mileage or time,; or they could even find tennis partners or running buddies from the ranks of their colleagues.

3. Create a partner program: Whether employees are working on weight management or smoking cessation or just general fitness, studies show having a partner can increase success rates. That could mean pairing two people both working on the same sort of goals, or assigning a mentor who’s had success in that area to someone just beginning to make a change in their life. For instance, you might have an experienced runner mentor a co-worker just beginning to train for their first 5K. Or you might pair two people trying to quit smoking as support for each other. These partnerships can be established and maintained via the intranet.

4. Launch a virtual competition across locations: This can be a particularly strong program for companies with locations spread across the country or around the world. Competing against other locations helps employees realize they’re part of something bigger than just their own office, and can build great awareness of and engagement with far-flung business units and colleagues. 

5. Host a healthy lunch contest online: People love to post shots of whatever they’re eating online. Why not harness that same impulse for an employee competition? Employees snap a picture of what they brought for lunch, post it on the intranet, and then other employees can vote for it or simply “like” it. This could also include a recipe element, but doesn’t need to. Shots of hummus and raw vegetables or a healthy chili or big salad need little explanation for others to emulate — and could prompt some spontaneous online conversation as well, which can connect employees who might otherwise never have had any reason to interact.

Interested in more ideas for employee engagement? Tribe can help.

Time management tip: Start with a jar and some rocks

Here we are, looking at twelve fresh new months. There’s no telling what you can get done in 2016. Just as a little New Year’s door prize, I want to offer one of my favorite time management analogies. I’ve heard it from several sources, so I’m not sure who originated it, but it’s pretty darn brilliant.

Imagine you’ve got a jar in front of you. Into that jar, you want to fit several large rocks, a few handfuls of smaller stones, and a bunch of sand.

What happens if you put the sand in first? Maybe it fills up the first few inches of the jar. Then you put the stones in. And finally, you’re ready to add the big rocks on top.

The big rocks might not fit. That’s what happens when we run our days like that jar.

Your day is a jar, a finite space. Okay, not space, but time. It is what it is and cannot stretch beyond what it is.

The big rocks are the really important things you want to do. The stones are the less important but big things. The sand is all those little things that need to get done. Scheduling that meeting. Calling the plumber. Responding to that email. Sending that birthday card.

Put those big rocks in first. Make sure you find space for them in your day and your life. Don’t let them be an after thought, or an “if there’s time” item. Then you can fill up the rest with the stones and the sand. There’s almost always room for a little sand at the end. Just don’t let the sand be your first priority.

Interested in getting some big rocks in place for your 2016 internal communications? Tribe can help.

An old story for the new year

For this blog, I want to tell one of my favorite old North Carolina stories. Now that Christmas is over and the endless possibilities of the new year stretch before us, this story is a good reminder that you never know what the future could bring.

The story goes like this. There was this old fella  There was this old fella who said to a farmer friend of his, “Give me $100 right now and I’ll pay you back $200, if I can’t teach your mule to speak Spanish by Christmas.

The farmer took the bet and gave the guy a hundred bucks. When the farmer was out of earshot, the old fella’s friend said, “You don’t have a lick of sense. Come Christmas, you’re gonna have to pay that farmer $200.”

The old fella said, “Aw, I ain’t worried about it. A lot of things can happen between here and Christmas.” Like what, the friend wanted to know.

“Well now, that old mule could die. Or he could start speaking Spanish.”

Interested in new possibilities for your company’s internal communications? Tribe can help.