Tribe’s first live Twitter panel #CommChat

Last week, Tribe was invited by our friend Ciara O’Keeffe (on Twitter @CommsOKeeffe) to share some knowledge about non-desk employee communications. There were a lot of great insights from Ciara, simply-communicate’s Gloria Lombardi, Ammee Kent from Red e App, and more great folks from the internal communications field.

Ciara asked the panel six questions over the period of an hour, and some informative discussions took place. It’s interesting to see what people can fit into 140 characters. We had fun, learned a lot, and we’re already looking forward to the next one. Check out what we had to say on the #CommChat feed.

 

Five ways to educate employees on more efficient email habits

Email overload is epidemic in corporate America. When Tribe interviews and surveys employees in large companies, it’s almost always one of the top complaints regarding internal communications. Sometimes employees receive so many internal emails in a day that they begin to dread vacations, if only because the first day back at the office means a seemingly bottomless mailbox of waiting messages.

This is imminently fixable. There are concrete, practical steps employees can take to improve the efficiency of the emails they send and the methods they use to process their inboxes.

Let’s assume your employees have already mastered basic email etiquette, like not writing in ALL CAPS. Unfortunately, that’s where much of existing email education ends.

How do you teach them to move through their inbox efficiently so they don’t miss important messages or feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity? And how do you help employees learn to compose emails that make it easier for recipients to respond? Here are five ways Tribe could help you do it:

1. Training: Whether it’s self-directed online tutorials or classroom sessions, the most thorough approach is a concentrated session focused on email efficiency practices.

2. Cheat sheets: A desk drop of laminated email tips or a downloadable PDF can communicate useful tricks to promote more productive email habits, either as a standalone communication or as a takeaway piece for training sessions.

3. Intranet: This could be its own web feature or content for an existing one, but the intranet is an ideal place to plant quick tips that change daily or weekly. It also provides content that truly can make employees’ jobs easier, which is a primary role for any successful intranet.

4. Digital signage: An engaging headline and a two-sentence explanation is plenty to communicate a useful suggestion for email efficiency.

5. Emails: Oh, the irony. But making a joke of sending email to reduce email could be part of what’s engaging about this communication. If you’re looking for a teachable moment, employees going through overflowing inboxes is probably an impactful touch point to promote better email practices.

Interested in communicating more efficient email processes to your employees? Tribe can help.

How print materials engage non-desk employees

Recently at Tribe, we’ve been focusing on the best ways to engage the non-desk employee population. Our upcoming Tribe Report is all about the most innovative and exciting ways to interact with this employee demographic that is notoriously challenging to reach. And while there are plenty of awesome new technologies that have made the process easier, one of the oldest methods is still the top choices for our clients: print material.

From magazines to break room posters, print is an effective and time-tested solution to relay company information to employees that don’t have a computer in front of them all day. Very often, non-desk workers don’t even have a company email address, let alone enough down time during the day to peruse the company intranet. Print pieces allow these employees to absorb the information on their own time. Posters, for example can convey refreshers of company values or announce team building events in a concise and digestible way. Company magazines can be picked up, taken home and read when employees have the time to invest in reading them.

How else can print materials help build employee engagement? Here are a few ways this timeless medium can help reach your employee population.

They make executive leaders visible – and human. In Tribe’s national research, we found that employees want to know their top management team as people rather than just titles. A regular magazine feature based on a CEO interview or even a series of profiles of everyone on the executive team can help employees feel that human connection.

They help align employees with the company vision. A magazine is an excellent venue for sharing the company vision with employees and helping them see how their individual roles contribute to that vision. This is a natural topic for articles involving executive leaders.

They provide a showcase for modeling values. Company values aren’t real to employees until they see them in action. In the magazine we developed for a hotel brand, we included three employee spotlights in each issue. This did three important things: made heroes of employees, gave real-life examples of applying the values, and shared some best practices in tackling common issues in the hotel business.

They can open windows into other silos. Magazines can help employees put faces on co-workers in other business units or locations, building the sense of being part of something larger than just their specific work groups. For a global parent company owning numerous apparel brands, we highlighted one of their brands in each issue. To counteract the feeling that the company was too U.S.-centric, we featured a different global location each quarter so employees could see behind the scenes at other offices.

They help non-desk employees feel in the loop. Although many companies have opted to reduce printing costs by distributing their magazines as digital publications via email or intranet, there are numerous companies still printing magazines and even mailing them to each employee’s home. For frontline, field, manufacturing and other employees who don’t work in front of a computer, these magazines can be their only substantial communication directly from corporate – and an important element of engaging them in the company vision and the desired customer experience.

Using familiarity to break down silos

Silos are one of the most common issues Tribe encounters. For large organizations, it’s virtually impossible to completely eliminate them. Although, there are plenty of steps that can be taken to combat the negatives that are related to silos.

Often times, employees are reluctant to reach out to other coworkers. Either because they don’t know the right person to contact for potential collaboration, or for fear of their ideas being judged. Another disadvantage that comes with silos is not knowing how to tailor conversations to specific coworkers. When you get to know fellow employees, you get to know their likes, dislikes and how to talk to them.

One way to begin breaking down these silos is to get people familiar with each other, especially employees in different locations or departments. Coworkers that know each other are more willing to share ideas, be open and collaborate, without having the fear of being judged. Social intranets are a very common way of solving this problem, especially when it comes to geographical and departmental silos.

This is just a glimpse of how silos can effect your organization. For more information on how your organization could break down silos, please visit our Best Practices one-pager: 4 Ways to Connect Across Silos.

Corporate values are just words on a poster until you make them relevant to employees’ lives

Whether you call them core values, beliefs or guiding principles, they won’t be relevant to employees until you make them so. On their own, the language of corporate values can seem a little esoteric. Employees may view them as abstract concepts that have little to do with their day-to-day work.

To make your company values meaningful to employees, you have to breathe life into them. You need to shine a light through that language in a way that illuminates how they apply not just in business, but in your particular business.

The words that appear in corporate values have different meanings depending on the culture. (Oddly, a lot of values start with the letters “in,” i.e. integrity, innovation, inspire.)

Innovation, for instance, probably means something different at J.P Morgan than it does at Google. What does it look like when employees in your company show respect? What decisions are they making that exemplify integrity? How are they being fast and lean? Or showing an entrepreneurial spirit? Whatever the words you use for your values, help employees understand how to put those values to work.

One tactical element of that is helping employees see how those values are actionable. For instance, channels of communications might incorporate stories and photos or videos of employees who demonstrated one of the values through some specific behavior, decision or action. These sorts of employee stories do more than just offer recognition to those who are doing it right. They also model that behavior for other employees, helping them understand how those values might play out in their own jobs.

It also helps to have company leadership talk about how they live the values. When announcing a decision or new initiative, part of that discussion might be how that development is related to, or based on, one of the values. That helps employees see that those at the top actually use the values in their own work. And it demonstrates the sort of concrete results that grow out of those values.

Ideally, the values become part of an ongoing conversation that never ends. They’ll be brought up in meetings when groups are collaborating on solutions. They’ll be discussed in performance reviews. They’ll be the voices in the back of employees’ minds when they’re trying to figure out how to handle countless situations.

Are you working to make the company values more relevant to employees? Tribe can help.

 

Improving communications with collaboration

Do you need to be face to face to collaborate? In Tribe’s national employee research on functional silos, 92 percent of survey respondents said it was “extremely to somewhat necessary.” In the qualitative portion of the study, we heard comments like, “When you have face-to-face interaction with someone, there’s just this level of trust that you don’t have otherwise.”

Yet we also heard from some respondents that they felt more free sharing creative ideas from the safety of their keyboard. Although the Tribe study didn’t look at introverts vs. extroverts, we suspect introverts are less likely to find face-to-face necessary. 

Simply Communicate published an article on a study titled “Exploring Creativity in The Glorious World of Internal Communications” that raises interesting points related to both collaboration and the introvert/extrovert issue.

90% of respondents said collaboration across the organization would support creative thinking. This is almost obvious and something most people know already – two heads are better than one. It’s very easy to get stuck on an idea but hard to break out of that mold and think of something fresh and unique. Collaboration is one way to achieve those fresh and unique ideas.

Their findings also indicate that different approaches are helpful when communicating with introverts. When communicating with introverts try to respect needs for space or privacy. Try to let them get a thought out/ don’t demand answers from them, they could be mulling over something great. Also, do not try to turn them into extroverts.

When communication with extroverts give praise in front of others. Show them their enthusiasm is appreciated and valued. Give them time and space to explore new solutions, projects or ideas.

Need help figuring out how to spark creativity and inspiration in your organization? Tribe can help!

New apps from Jive Software

At Tribe, we’ve been fans of the enterprise social network, Jive for a while now. So we were very excited to hear that they announced a few new products to further drive employee engagement and communication. Going with the trend, these apps are increasingly focused on mobile capabilities. All in all, these seem like really useful resources and channels for employees to communicate with colleagues and management.

Jive Daily

Called “the app that gets the word out, sparks conversation and measures the impact”, Jive Daily aims to be a responsive, singular channel for sending out company announcements. The benefits of using Jive Daily over a more traditional announcement channel like email are immediately apparent. The app is ready to go right out of the box, it offers collaborative posting, targeted group messaging, live feedback and real time metrics, so you know you’re being heard.

Daily also allows employees to comment directly to specific correspondence, so it gets the dialogue going. It allows announcements to be sent to people on the go or in the office, and employees can customize their notifications, so they can get information in the way that works best for them.

Jive Chime

Chime brings chat functionality to the corporate world. By linking to the company directory, the app allows employees to have one-on-one or group chats with anyone in the organization without having to collect contact information. These conversations can be held on your computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone, and can be transferred between your devices without losing information.

As with Jive Daily, employees can fine-tune how they’re notified, so they aren’t bombarded with alerts in group settings. This added flexibility is a great feature for this generation of mobile apps.

Jive People

This app hasn’t hit the market yet, but when it does, we think it will be a real hit. Employee directories have really been left out in terms of new tech and upgrades. Jive People is out to right this injustice. With this app, employees will be able to access the company directory on the go, they can organize it into teams and favorites and it allows them to easily call, email or chat (presumably through Chime) people directly from the app.

Again, the biggest upgrade to the traditional directory is the ability to take it mobile. This increased interconnectivity and on-the-go capability will be crucial to the way your company works in the future, we can almost guarantee that.

Keep an eye out for these awesome new apps. We here at Tribe will certainly be keeping tabs on them and seeing how they perform once they’ve had a chance to be used out in the field. These are sleek, intuitive answers to a lot of issues we’ve been seeing lately, and we can’t wait to see how they change the market.

 

Four phases of marketing a new intranet to employees

If you build it, will they come? That depends. At Tribe, we coach clients to consider the launch of a new intranet not the finish line but one milestone in a much longer process.

Phase 1: Employee input: Building traffic to a new intranet begins long before the launch. Preferably before the development even begins, employees are involved in the process. You might do a survey on what features employees need to do their jobs more easily; how they’d like to connect with those in other functional silos; what sort of collaboration space would work best for them and other related issues. Focus groups are a good idea as well, to hear employee input in more depth.

Phase 2: Pre-launch: By foreshadowing the launch, you can create excitement about what’s to come and engage an initial group of employees to be early ambassadors. Use other internal communications channel to market the coming intranet. Find a group of early adopters for beta testing or assign launch communication responsibilities to influencers throughout the company. This is the time to build a critical mass of insiders who will help create buzz about the launch.

Phase 3: Launch: You only get one chance to launch, so it’s important to do it well. Make it big news with a launch event, desk drops, lobby floor decals, elevator wraps, and anything else that will get employees’ attention. Make it easy for employees to test drive the intranet with quick-start guides and in-person or online training sessions. Motivate them to visit the intranet multiple times with online scavenger hunts or contests.

Phase 4: Sustaining: This is where many companies drop the ball. An intranet is not static, or at least a good one isn’t. You need fresh, relevant content day after day after day. This is more than most internal communications departments can handle on their own, so at Tribe we recommend establishing a content manager program. By recruiting and training content managers from a range of geographic locations and functional areas, you can build an army of content generators who post on an ongoing basis. To sustain this system, build in quarterly meetings to continue engaging this team, share best practices and provide recognition for those posting the best content.

Have an intranet launch on the horizon? Tribe can help.

 

 

Three tips for keeping remote employees engaged

As remote employee populations continue to rise in companies large and small, engagement in those employees remains a top priority. The lack of daily human interaction could make establishing employee engagement more challenging, but with the right tools in place, a highly engaged remote workforce is certainly achievable. Here are three effective tips for keeping remote employees engaged.

  1. Encourage employees to be social. In many organizations, the majority of the workforce may rarely (or never) meet in person. In this case it’s important to provide employees with platforms that allow them to connect. A great first step is to start with the intranet. It’s easy to enhance your team’s collaboration and engagement through social media and the tools available through an established social intranet. Social gamification can also be used as an employee engagement tool. Through gamification, remote employees can interact along with the entire employee population in online activities ranging from innovation exercises to the introduction of new company initiatives.
  1. Encourage face-to-face meetings. Bring employees together for in-person meetings whenever possible. We understand that these employees are working remotely for a reason, so we wouldn’t recommend face-to-face meetings twice a week, but where possible, monthly or quarterly team meetings could help employees feel connected to their team and the organization. When in-person is not possible, video chatting is a great alternative. Use technology to your advantage by allowing employees to actually see each other’s faces while working together.
  1. Provide what they need to be successful. The needs of remote employees are often different from those employees who work in the office. When possible, we like to recommend asking employees what tools and equipment they need to be productive. It’s also important that they have access to HR and IT support where they are remotely located. Keep communication open and employees engaged by giving them to tools they need to work most effectively.

Could your organization use help engaging your remote workforce? Tribe would love to help.

Does your intranet read like a news article or a press release?

For intranet content that truly engages employees, think more like a newspaper editor than a PR exec. In public relations, you try to push the messages and information that you want the readers to know. As a journalist, you look for the stories your readers want to know.

A PR perspective* can result in the rose-colored glasses version of company news. Employees are sophisticated consumers of media, and they’ll see right through that rosy lens. A perpetual and obvious spin can erode trust rather quickly.

Taking a journalistic approach to content will mean thinking through the questions employees will want answered. Telling the whole story, without sidestepping the bits that might not be such good news, results in the sort of authentic content that employees crave.

That doesn’t mean you can’t promote company messaging on the intranet. Among other topics, it can and should contain content that helps employees align with the company vision; educates them on company accomplishments and the achievements of those in other functional silos; and connects employees across geography to remind them they’re part of something larger than their immediate work team.

The intranet is also an excellent place to tell the company’s side of any unsettling event or major change. It offers an opportunity to counteract the rumor mill by sharing the reasons behind a change or the company’s response to an unfortunate event. It can reduce employee stress by giving them the information they need to feel confident in the way management is moving forward. If you want employees to consider the intranet their go-to source for company information, give them an honest appraisal of what’s happening now, what will happen next, and how, and when and to whom.

Remember that an intranet is a pull medium. Employees have to want to see what’s posted, or you’ll never get them to go there. To make your intranet a must-read for employees, offer the news they want, delivered in a way that gives them credit for being intelligent human beings.

Interested in making your intranet the go-to source for employees? Tribe can help.

*This post is not intended to disparage the fine work of public relations professionals, many of whom we respect and admire to the nth degree.