The Silent Silo: Top Corporate Management vs Everybody Else

If you asked employees to list the most common silos in your company, would you expect them to mention executive leadership vs. employees? In Tribe’s recent survey with employees of large companies, this silo was the fourth most frequently selected option, along with departments, business units and geographic locations. (Silos white paper available in September.)

It might be interesting to ask your own top leadership if they feel employees understand their vision. Ironically, many have the impression that they’re keeping employees fully in the loop when there may be little to no communication sent directly from them to the hoi polloi of the workforce.

Cascading this information through managers is a half measure. Yes, it’s important to give managers the tools and training to communicate important messages to their teams. But in Tribe’s research, the company vision is one topic the employees want to hear directly from the CEO or other top execs. (See the executive summary of this earlier study on the Expertise page of Tribe’s site.)

Executive management is also often woefully out of touch with what employees think and feel. I once had the CFO of a Fortune 500 brand tell me that they had not given an employee bonus, for the first year in the company’s history, and everybody seemed fine with it. When I asked how he knew they were fine, he said because he hadn’t heard any employees complain about it. As if any of the guys from the warehouse would feel completely comfortable stopping by the CFO’s office to mention a perceived slight or disappointment.

Actually, that is the solution, or at least a first step. Providing two-way communication between employees and the executive team gives people a chance to share their concerns, but also their questions and ideas. There are a number of ways to create this channel, from a feedback page on the intranet to an 800 number to something as low-tech as an old-fashioned suggestion box that allows employees to jot down a comment on paper and drop it in the slot.

Another part of the solution is at least one direct channel from top leadership to employees regarding the vision. This channel can inspire employees to align with the vision, and to understand how their roles in the company contribute to achieving that vision. It might be an executive leadership blog, rotating authorship from one executive team member to the next by week or month. It could be part of an internal magazine sent to employees’ homes. It could even be tweets or texts. The critical element is that it be communicated directly from the top to employees at all levels, not filtered through managers to their teams.

Need help breaking down the executive silo in your company? Tribe would be happy to help.

Making Internal, External: the Right Social Media Channels for Your Company

How employees use social media at your company is completely up to your culture. Many companies that aren’t promoting a brand shy away from a social media presence. Others still see social media as merely a distraction. But there is an ever-increasing value in showing people (Read: co-workers at other locations, remote employees, and any potential customers or clients.) a peek inside your everyday culture and your people to show them what makes your company special.

At Tribe, we always promote the importance of human connections in internal communications. And social media is a great first step in making that happen. There is so much more to a company than the products and services it provides. People, employees, are the foundation, the driving forces, and they are ultimately going to make or break your business. You’ve hired and invested in them. You see something unique about them. Why not broadcast those attributes?

Here are the most popular social media outlets and how you could effectively put them to work for your company.

Facebook

The big mama, the social media mecca. A lot of consumer companies are taking to Facebook marketing, some exclusively use the platform. It’s a great way to advertise, and it’s been proven to reach targeted audiences very well.

But if you don’t have a product is there value in a Facebook presence? In short, yes. At Tribe, we use our Facebook page to show snapshots of our everyday office life. It’s great because of its mixed-media capabilities. You can upload pictures, video, and if you have important links you can “promote” them to bring them to the forefront of your followers’ news feeds. Despite it’s versatility, this probably isn’t the best platform for inciting business-related discussions. Keep it light.

Twitter

A lot of companies are using Twitter internally to great effect. Chuck Gose from RMG Networks recently highlighted a few of those companies that are using Twitter for internal communications the right way.

As they point out, it’s a great way to engage employees and give them a way to get fun company news in a very popular feed format.

Instagram

This is relatively new ground for most companies, and because it is a picture-only share site it can be tricky to know how to break into this market. Still, it’s a fun, easy way to give a glimpse into the fun side of your office.

Some might still see it only as a place to share picture of coffee or a dinner plate, but it would behoove you to get on this train now. Instagram marketing is becoming quite powerful, and if it follows trend it could become a great tool for businesses.

LinkedIn

This is where only your professional side should come through. People don’t come to Linkedin for funny pictures, although to the chagrin of most, that is cropping up a bit more on the homepage feeds. If your company have a professional or executive blog this is the place to showcase it on social media.

Here are 7 ways to “beef up” your company’s Linkedin group page.

MySpace

No one uses MySpace any more. Even Tom is on Facebook.

Internal Magazines: A Tool for Connecting Employees Across Silos

Looking for a way to break down silos? Internal magazines can create an open window into other departments, locations, or any other type of silo you can think of. In Tribe’s research, employees say just being able to put a name and face to employees in other divisions or locations helps them feel more connected. 

Unfortunately, most employees’ eyes glaze over when it comes to internal magazines. Why do employees dismiss them – or skim over them at best? Because the content inside is so rarely engaging or relevant.

The content you include in your publication makes all the difference in your readership. At Tribe, we’ve been asked to reinvent internal publications for several clients that had historically been filled with an outdated collection of employee announcements, anniversaries and yard sales.

Here at Tribe, we see this as a missed opportunity. We use internal magazines to engage employees, foster human connections and reinforce the desired culture. Content might include leadership interviews on everything from innovation to teamwork, employee spotlights that model behavior relevant to the values, and question and answer columns on key issues.

Our recent research on silos indicates that employees are eager to know more about what their peers are doing. Over 34 percent of respondents said that news about other silos would be helpful in encouraging collaboration. Internal magazines were also a frequent choice when asked what communication tools they would use to connect employees across silos.

Say one of your teams is finishing up a big project. An internal magazine is the perfect place to feature that team and give them their well-deserved 15 minutes of fame. Not only does this connect employees with important business developments in the company, it also engages them in a way so they feel valued and appreciated.

Another great application for internal magazines is sharing best practices. When one department is dealing with an issue that other departments may be facing, publishing one team’s way of solving the problem could be the communication that many other departments have been waiting for. In this case this would also cut down on duplication of work, which is a common side effect of silos. Keeping employees informed in the loop and engaged are they key functions of internal publications.

Need help planning and executing an internal magazine? Tribe can help!

Corporate Values: Are they up to leadership or employees?

Can management just dictate values? Or are values something determined by employees? It’s an ongoing debate in internal communications circles.

At Tribe, we’d say a little bit of both. Top leadership should be sharing a clear vision for the company, and along with that vision, the values which will guide the business in pursuit of that vision. But the employees are the ones who will be using those values to make decisions in their day-to-day work, and presumably they come to work with their own personal values already in place.

A recent discussion in one of our LinkedIn groups touched on this issue. In  a blog titled “Values, whose values? 3 tell-tale signs of getting company values all wrong,” the blogger David Cowan proposes that the first sign of values gone wrong is “The leadership has decided on the values.” He makes several good points in his blog, although we’d disagree with his number one.

Actually, it is leadership’s responsibility to determine the values with which the company will do business. But it’s a good idea to get employee input when establishing or evolving values, and to be inclusive of that employee feedback.

The primary disconnect is when the values, however they’re derived, aren’t made relevant to employees. The goal is to find the places where their personal values and the company values intersect, and to allow them the freedom to express the company values in ways that mesh with their own individual perspectives and personalities.

For instance, when Tribe worked with the Hilton brand Embassy Suites, we communicated a great deal about their three values of being “Gracious, Engaging and Caring.” Charles Gremillion, Embassy’s Director of Brand Culture and Internal Communications at the time, put a strong emphasis on each employee demonstrating the company values in their own individual ways. For example, some people might express the value of engaging by chatting up the guests in the elevator. For more introverted team members, being engaging might mean a thoughtful handwritten note left in the room or trying to distract a fussy toddler with funny faces. All are expressions of engaging guests.

This wide range of styles in exemplifying the values was reinforced over and over. We talked about it in blogs, in a book on the culture, and in the quarterly culture magazine — where in each issue we published three employee spotlights, so that associates were modeling values-based behavior for each other. Sometimes it’s more effective to show rather than tell.

In the same category, Hilton’s competitor IHG stresses similar individuality. With an internal tagline of “Room to be yourself,” they consider diversity of thought, background and experience to be a plus for employees of their seven brands.

In his blog, David Cowan is probably referring to those companies where values are issued with the assumption that employees will buy into a lockstep approach. Although company leadership needs to pave the way by articulating (and demonstrating) the company values, employee engagement with those values is more likely when you give employees room to relate to them in their own ways.

Need help making your company values more relevant to employees? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egomnia: the Future of Hiring and Recruiting

Matteo Achilli was only 20 years old when he was dubbed the “Italian Zuckerburg” by Panorama Economy magazine. That was almost two years ago, and back then the idea was just beginning to take flight. This month, the young businessman has finally announced an October launch date for his new recruiting company’s website.

It’s called Egomnia (a portmanteau of Ego, “self” and Omnia, “everything”). And it wasn’t an overnight success. Initially, the young entrepreneur had trouble finding investors, but he looked to his fellow Millenials for help. With some financial help from his father, Achilli was able to employ several students to code the algorithm necessary for his concept.

How does it work? As explained by Achilli, ”We received these rankings of universities that we were applying for, and I thought why not give companies a ranking for jobseekers depending on how suitable they are for that company.” Sounds simple enough. Very basic, in fact.  But the idea isn’t what is gaining so much traction. It seems that Achilli’s youthful mindset and energy is the main draw to the company. His perspective is unique and potentially very, very useful.

Google and Microsoft are paying attention and so should you. On its launch day Egomnia had 1,000 students on its site and 20 companies. Two years later, the company claims 250,000 members and 700 companies using its service. Now, Achilli is solidifying partnerships with big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and signing on clients like Vodafone and Ericcson. Hop on now. This train is moving fast.

Egomnia could be great. Tech trends are almost impossible to predict, but this company seems to have struck a perfect balance for recruiting and finding new talent. It has the business image and savvy of Linkedin with the youthful perspective and energy of Facebook. Millenials in the workplace have proven to be a tough audience to reach. Tribe research shows that they process information in starkly different ways than previous generations, and their employment preferences and priorities are incredibly unique. But a website like this could be the answer to reaching them.

Why it could work for you. Despite the naysayers, Zuckerburg and Co. have done a great job staying on top of things and (so far) avoiding the fate of MySpace, as many predicted. This, in large part, is due to that youthful state of mind and perspective. Staying on top of culture and tech trends is how this type of company survives and stays relevant. It’s a priority of Zuckerburg’s to maintain that outlook, and Egomnia has the same vantage point.

Says Achilli, ”At the beginning I thought my young age was not good, now I understand that my young age is my success. Now we are writing the history of the internet.”

Keep an eye out for the website’s launch in October. This could be the tool that puts you lightyears ahead of the competition and finds the next, next Zuckerburg for your company.

Find out more from Egomnia here and here

“Email Is the Best Way to Reach Employees” and Other Communications Myths

The world of Internal Communications is constantly advancing and developing to find the most effective way to reach employee audiences. That means the best technology and channels are always improving, but it also means a lot of things are being left behind or, funnily enough, miscommunicated.  Buying into these myths, either literally or figuratively, can be a detriment to you company, let’s tackle a few myths currently floating around.

Myth#1: “The best way to reach my audience is through an email blast to everyone.”

No matter the project, invariably a client or prospect with a failed program will say something to the effect of: “We communicated the program. An email blast was sent on the 24th. But somehow our employees still didn’t get the message.”

Don’t misunderstand me. Email can be a good way to communicate under the right circumstances. But just because an email was sent to an audience, it doesn’t mean that they a) read it, b) understood it or c) was moved to change a behavior or take action based on the message.

More importantly, if employees inboxes are filled will email blasts that don’t pertain to them, they’ll ignore the channel altogether. Use email sparingly. Be relevant and target messages to the appropriate audience whenever possible.

Myth #2: “We have a new intranet. All our problems are solved.”

First, kudos on the new intranet! An enterprise social network that allows for targeted communications and feedback loops can help solve many communications issues that your company faces. However, like all of the other channels we use, your intranet is a tool. If the tool isn’t used properly, it will be ignored.

The latest intranets platforms allow for segmented messaging, feedback loops, social work tools, rich media, etc. These applications can be very engaging and beneficial to delivering your company message – not to mention getting work done efficiently and effectively.

Eventually, you’re going to have so much content on your intranet that navigation could become an issue. An effective intranet has been designed with a hierarchy of messaging and search tools that allow users to easily find the appropriate information.

The issue is that it takes effort to develop and maintain relevant content for employees. You have to have people – either internal communications professionals or capable stand-ins/volunteers – who continue to keep the information updated with the latest news and happenings.

Myth #3: “Management says we need to communicate the vision, so we need a new campaign” 

Well, yes and no. You may need a new campaign to introduce your company’s vision. But the last thing busy employees need is yet another layer of emails, blogs and articles that they have to read.

Your company’s vision should be woven into all of your communications. Doing this effectively requires forethought and coordination among all of your communicators. For example, if there’s a big program that needs to be communicated to your employees, the reasoning for the initiative should be completely wrapped in the company vision. More than likely, the strategic reasoning for the major undertaking is already aligned with the vision. Shouldn’t be that hard to do.

Need help busting more internal communications myths? Give Tribe a call.

4 Tips for Communicating with Frontline Employees

How does your company communicate with employees on the frontline, the retail floor or the factory line? Many companies leave all internal communications with non-desk workers to their immediate supervisors. Tribe’s national study with the non-desk employee population* indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top management interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

But how do you reach employees who are in stores, distribution centers, restaurants and out driving trucks all day? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as you must consider the physical realities of their days and think creatively to identify potential touch points. Generally, Tribe recommends a combination of high-tech and low-tech solutions to build channels from corporate to the front lines.

For starters, Tribe also recommends the following four approaches:

1.    LOOP THEM IN: Commit to at least one channel through which non-desk employees will hear from management. This could be a town-hall meeting via video for manufacturing employees, a recorded message accessed through an 800 number, or even a quarterly letter from the CEO mailed to employees’ homes.

2.    ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK: Having corporate management talk to this audience is a good step, but you also need to create opportunities for these employees to share their comments and views. Two-way communication methods — from the ability to comment on changes in the company, to soliciting ideas for improving systems and processes — demonstrate management’s respect and the desire to understand the realities of these employees’ jobs.

3.    MAKE THEM HEROES: Spotlight frontline and field workers and celebrate their contributions, through regular bio pieces in a company publication, recognition programs or contests that highlight employee performance.

4.    TAKE THE CEO TO THE PEOPLE: Again, there’s no substitute for giving employees a chance to meet face-to-face with top management, and it’s particularly meaningful to non-desk employees. Look for opportunities to have members of your leadership team visit stores, plants and other facilities so they can rub elbows with the people doing the most important work of your company.

For the white paper on  Tribe’s non-desk research, see “Communicating with Non-Desk Workers,” at www.tribeinc.com/bestpractices.

Collaboration and Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law states that ”Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. In short, the more time you have to do something, the longer it takes you to do it. If you’re a procrastinator like myself, you might have disguised this law with flawed logic like “I do my best work at the last minute”.

Unfortunately, this tends to stress out those who are supervising my projects. It’s unfair to them and the rest of the team to be kept waiting. Even though I may have something completed “on time”, people are left waiting until the last moment and they worry the whole time. Conversely, though, it would not be beneficial for them to stress me out by giving me “fake” deadlines to trick me into finishing early or by constantly telling me to hurry up. To combat Parkinson’s law, there needs to be a balance, and that balance can only be found through communication.

Consider this:

The Pentagon took 16 months to build. What at the time was the largest building in the world  took a under a year and a half to construct. Why? America was in crisis mode having just entered World War II, and was in dire need of a central military office. FDR posed the challenge, and in a tremendous example of teamwork, Gen. Brehon “Bill” Somervell and his Army Corp of Engineers got it done in record time.

“How did they do it?” I hear you asking. Well, I don’t know exactly, mostly because they just glazed over that part in the History Channel special. But Tribe deals with collaboration on a huge scale with a number of clients. These companies often deal with tight deadlines on huge projects, with the added challenge of roadblocks in the form of corporate infrastructure. In our experience, we’ve found there are a few proven methods when it comes to successful collaboration.

1. Be clear with your timeline

As the leader of the team, it is not your responsibility to designate how long a task will take someone to complete, so don’t feel like you need to “build in time” for someone you consider to be a slow worker. Be realistic with your timeframes, be upfront with how long people actually have to complete a task, and then allow your team to manage their own time. If someone needs help, be available to help them find the right methods.

2. Define “finished” from the start. 

In the case of the Pentagon, that’s pretty easy to define. But for corporate projects, sometimes the finish line starts to become blurred. The nature of the project changes, there’s a shift in personnel, the budget shrinks, or any number of things happens, and the original goal becomes obscured. Some of this is unavoidable or out of your control, but when you can be sure to define the destination, otherwise, you’ll never know when you get there.

3. Create rewards for finishing early

A lot of the reason that people aren’t in any hurry to finish their portion of a project is because they fear this interaction:

“I finished early!”

“OK. Here is more work. Next time we’ll give you more to start with, since that seemed so easy.”

Find ways to reward yourself and your team for finishing early. It can be anything from a five-minute break for a “mini-milestone” or a recognition prize for coming through in the clutch. More work is not a reward.

4. Make sure everyone knows the Big Picture

With a defined goal, people know what they’re working toward, but it’s important that people also know how their job fits in with the big picture. Tribe’s research shows that employees are more engaged when they feel a part of something bigger than the dimensions of their office or cubicle. Let your team know how the work they’re doing is benefitting the company, and they’ll approach the project with a broader perspective.

 

How do you combat Parkinson’s Law? Let us know in the comments below.

Introducing Tribe’s First Comic Strip: What’s So Funny About Silos?

comic-strip

Microsoft’s First Misstep in Layoffs: Not Quite the Whole Truth on Numbers

Microsoft recently announced impending layoffs of 18,000 employees, but they failed to mention a related fact. According to Forbes, their headcount reduction will also impact the many temporary workers routinely used by the company. In 2009, the Seattle Times estimated this number at 80,000.

Temporary workers at Microsoft, typically placed by agencies, will be limited to 18-month stints. After that, they’ll be locked out of Microsoft buildings and the network for six months. According to an internal memo obtained by GeekWire, Microsoft claims the restrictions on temporary workers are “to better protect our Microsoft IP and confidential information.”

In times of change, employees are watching closely to see if they can trust what management tells them. In Tribe’s research with employees of large companies nationwide, honesty is the aspect of change management that most concerns employees. Comments ranged from “Tell us the truth, even if it’s bad news,” to “Stop embargoing critical information and be truthful to employees,” to the straightforward “Cut the B.S.”

Although 84 percent of employees in Tribe research say change management communications are handled poorly in their organizations, we’d expect better of a technology company. In industries where employees are easier to replace, like manufacturing or retail, a ham-fisted approach might be less detrimental.

But in technology, when companies are competing fiercely for talent, this first stumble does not bode well for Microsoft. The Tribe post yesterday on Good Company, titled “How to Prevent Chaos During Massive Company Change,” offered a few recommendations for Microsoft, courtesy of public radio’s Marketplace. They were good recommendations, all based on basic respect for the people working for the company.

Apparently the roles of these Microsoft temps range from programming and testing code to mowing lawns. According to the Microsoft internal memo, this will not affect those temporary workers without access to the buildings or network. So the good news, perhaps, is that the lawn mowing will carry on without interruption.