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Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Successful Change Management Starts with Respect for Employees

Having employees embrace or accept change depends a great deal on whether they feel they’re being treated with respect.Overcome Resistance to Change with Two Conversations,” a fantastic article in the Harvard Business Review by two thought leaders from the Kellogg School of Management, suggests that feeling a lack of respect is one of three reasons behind those who resist organizational change. (The other two they discuss are disagreement and feeling rushed.)

Can their excellent strategies for one-on-one conversations be applied to internal communications? Yes and no. They’re correct that email and webcasts can’t accomplish what a face-to-face dialogue can. But those engineering a major change in large companies with thousands or tens of thousands of employees obviously can’t sit down with every single person the change will impact.

Still, the change communications can start from a place of respect for employees. The inevitable email, town hall, intranet articles and/or webcasts can all frame the transition in ways that acknowledge the difficulties of the change and communicate honestly about the downsides  — as well as the ways the change will benefit the company and its employees in the long run.

In addition, Tribe would recommend three key elements to the change communications:

  1. Have the CEO announce the change: In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, respondents said they wanted to hear about a big change first from the top brass. They want their leadership to be straightforward about bad news and not sugarcoat it or spin it. And they want to know the business reasons behind the change.
  2. Prep managers to answer questions: Employees in our research said they would likely follow up with their direct managers to ask questions, so help your managers be prepared with talking points, FAQs and possibly communication training on this particular change. You want each manager to be sharing the same messaging as the CEO — and as the other managers out there, so employees aren’t hearing different versions of the story depending on who they talk to.
  3. Give employees a feedback loop: Two-way communication is particularly important in times of major change. Give employees a way to ask questions and share concerns, and be sure they get responses in a timely way.

Interesting in improving acceptance of a major change at your company? Tribe can help.

 

 

How Internal Wellness Programs Can Help Your Corporate Environment

Health and wellness are hot topics in today’s culture and have become an important part of company culture as well. Many are adjusting their eating, exercise and stress management habits to live a better and longer life. But forming these healthy habits don’t just create benefits for people’s personal lives, they can see positive changes within their professional life as well.

Companies are choosing to encourage employees to lead healthier lifestyles by creating wellness programs for all to participate in. Whether it’s a full-fledged program in an on-site gym, or simpler program like a Fitbit competition, group walk at lunch, or a midday stretch, there are plenty of benefits to be seen by a company when it invests in its employees’ well-being.

Below find 4 reasons why you should consider a wellness program for your company:

1. Higher rates of retention. When companies build a culture based around support for employee well-being, studies show that 83% of employees enjoy their work more and 91% of employees are less likely to leave the company.

2. Increased productivity. Associates who exercise regularly see an increase in concentration, which, in turn, helps increase productivity and performance during the workday.

3. Better atmosphere. Developing healthier habits improve moods and decrease stress amongst associates. This creates a better working environment that fosters good relationships and a collaborative culture.

4. More employee engagement. Participation and engagement can be difficult to develop when it comes to organizations and their employees. Constructing a wellness program can be an easy way for employees to engage and connect more to the company and people that they work with.

Want to increase engagement with a wellness program at your company? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Use Storytelling to Educate Employees on Cyber Security

Do your employees know what to do in case of a security breach? According to Deloitte Australia (as reported on CIO.com), employees of 43 percent of the country’s top brands don’t even know if their company has a procedure to follow in case of a data breach.

Perhaps even more importantly, do your employees know to avoid behavior that could lead to a major security breach? The recent Deloitte Global report titled “Cultivating a Cyber-Risk-Aware Culture” describes a hypothetical spear phishing attack that plenty of intelligent and worldly employees might fall for — if good cyber hygiene is not top of mind.

In this phishing scheme, an employee receives an email promising a gift card in return for answering a survey. The employee was not maliciously sharing sensitive company information. It looked like the email was sent by someone inside the company. And who doesn’t want a gift card?

Talking about cyber-awareness isn’t enough. To many of us, the term cyber sounds dated and vaguely humorous. Like when people joke about the World Wide Net or the InterWeb.

Bring it to life by telling the story. Employees need concrete examples of what risky behavior looks like, so paint the picture of a potential scenario. What sort of information would cyber attackers be looking for? What are some of the common techniques used by cyber-attackers? What are some of the potentially disastrous outcomes? Beyond just saying “Be careful,” we need to give employees a clear picture of what being careful looks like — and what it doesn’t.

Use internal communications to tell that story in ways that are engaging and interesting, not patronizing or scolding. Rare is the employee who would intentionally do harm to the company. But innocent mistakes can do real damage. And employees can’t sidestep a security risk if they don’t recognize the situation as risky.

Interested in engaging your employees in cyber-awareness? Tribe can help.

 

Jeff Smith

Employee Communications: When stock photography is a bad idea

 

Think before you search. We all know how easy it can be to search Google or iStock and try to find the perfect picture to represent your office culture or even your employees. But nothing is more representative of employees, than searching through a library of actual employees in the actual environment they work in every day. Stock photography is cheap and easy, but it’s not always a great idea.

In this day and age, authenticity is huge. People are able to tell you exactly what’s authentic and what’s not and they may even be deterred from viewing something if they deem it unauthentic. People can spot a model a mile away, and when you try to use stock models to represent real employees, you’re not fooling anyone. That brings us to the top three reasons for shooting original photography. All three of the following benefits make it worth considering the effort and expense of original photography.

1. Building engagement. When it comes to internal communications, we always want the employees to feel engaged, and there’s nothing more engaging than seeing your best friend in the newest issue of the magazine, or on an email, or on digital signage. Chances are, if an employee sees that there are actual photos of real people in the real work environment, there’s a better chance they may engage with that publication, email, or whatever it may be.

2. Creating celebrities. Our culture is fascinated with celebrities, and when you use photographs of real employees, some of that show biz stardust falls on each of those individuals. Some of the time, the employees that work the hardest jobs, don’t necessarily get the most recognition. Shooting original photography gives those employees that are hidden, a face and really brings authenticity to the company.

 3. Connecting employees. One of the best ways to break down silos is to help employees develop human connections with the people in other silos. When you’re able to put a face on a colleague, whether that person is in manufacturing or at headquarters, you humanize them. The ability for someone in retail to see a photo of another colleague in manufacturing building something that they sell, connects those silos. Besides, employees love looking at photos of each other. It’s nice to see who works where and what they do.

 Interested in photographing your employees? Tribe can help.

Photograph provided by Chris Davis Photography // cdphoto.com

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Change Management Communications: What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

What’s the biggest mistake you could possibly make in communicating change? The absolute worst would be to tell employees something that would make them feel better, but might not be true. For instance, saying there will be no layoffs with an impending merger, before management knows for certain that there won’t be. In the midst of change, there are many moving parts, and some early assumptions may be revised as more details and numbers are fleshed out.

On the other hand, it’s also a  mistake is to say nothing because the details haven’t yet been finalized. Employees can accept the fact that you can’t tell them everything right now. What causes them more stress is the sneaking suspicion that something’s afoot and management isn’t telling them anything. We advise clients that it’s perfectly fine to say, “We don’t know yet, but we’ll tell you when we do,” or “We can’t share that information, but what I can tell you is such and such.” In any case, you certainly want to avoid having your employees hear the news from someone outside the company, whether it’s a neighbor who’s related to top management or the business section of the newspaper.

You can also minimize stress for employees by acknowledging what we call the Two Big Fears. In the face of any major change in the workplace, employees worry about two major questions: “Will I lose my job?” If the answer to that is no, then the next concern is “Will this make my job more difficult?” Acknowledging those two issues can take some of the heat off them.

It’s human nature to imagine the worst. So in the absence of communication regarding the change, employees’ imaginations will fill in the gaps and rumours will begin seeping through your organization. Setting realistic expectations can be a relief. Most people would rather know what to expect, even if it’s not good news, than to be left in the dark.

The most important key to successfully communicating change is to begin with a foundation of respect for the employees. That means treating employees like the intelligent adults they are, as well as putting yourself in their shoes. We often talk about the Golden Rule of Change: If you were an employee impacted by this change, how would you want to be treated?

Interested in communicating change more effectively at your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What to Tell Employees About Robots Taking Their Jobs

First the good news: A recent Forrester report estimates that automation will create about 15 million jobs over the next decade. Now the bad: the same report says it will also eliminate 25 million jobs.

It’s reasonable for employees to feel some anxiety about the prospects of automation in the workplace. For many companies, from paper mills to hotels, robots are already on the job.

So what do you tell employees? What you don’t tell them is that it will never happen in your company. It likely will, and you never want to promise employees an easy answer that could prove false.

Be honest. If there are ways automation can cut labor costs, it would behoove the company to take advantage of that. It will be better for employees, in the long run, to be working for a company that’s profitable and competing successfully in the marketplace.

But honest doesn’t mean the future’s all doom and gloom. Many experts believe this will be more of a transformation than a gutting of the workplace, and that automation will create new jobs that didn’t exist before. 

What’s more, these new jobs may be more fulfilling. The grunt work that people don’t enjoy is the work that’s easy to delegate to a robot. Rather than being replaced by robots, many employees will be working side by side with them. And while there are robots being developed that can interact with humans, the most important customer service will still happen person to person.

Person-to-person interactions will also remain a primary reason employees choose to stay at a company or leave it. Their relationships with their coworkers and their bosses will continue to impact whether they’re excited to get to work or dreading it.

Stress the importance of your company culture. As always, communicate the vision you’re trying to achieve. Point to real-life examples of the values being applied to day-to-day work decisions. Celebrate and recognize the people doing the important work of the company — not just in the C-suite but on the frontlines and manufacturing line as well.

Make certain your internal communications make employees visible. Interview them, photograph them, acknowledge their accomplishments. When employees know that their individual contributions to the company’s success are valued, they may be less inclined to fear automation.

Interested in internal communications that make employees feel recognized and appreciated? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

What’s the Difference in the Employer Brand and the EVP?

That’s the question we got from a leader at a global services company this week. Whenever he tried to explain and sell the concepts to his leadership team, the words seemed to overlap all over themselves.

At Tribe, the EVP and Employer Brand are part of the daily conversation, so we quickly got to an explanation that he could use. But getting this question from a key client reminded us that it’s a great idea to clearly define these concepts whenever we’re wading into a strategic internal branding discussion.

As the importance of effective employee communications has become a hot button for so many Fortune 500 C-Suites, it’s not surprising that the Employer Brand and the EVP has found its way into the lexicon. But confusion about the two exists. We see external and internal branding as two sides of the same coin. So to define the concepts, it’s helpful to compare the internal and external branding disciplines.

If a brand promise is what the company says that it will do for its customers, it’s up to every employee within the company to come in every day and work toward that commitment. Similarly, the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is what the company promises its employees, and every day, the company has to uphold its promise.

The EVP is the sum of the benefits and values that attract, motivate and retain the best employees. It includes things like salary and benefits. But it’s also about pride in what the company does. How it’s leaders lead. How it makes the world a better place. A strong and well-defined EVP helps move the primary motivator for working at a company away from salary.

And if Brand is what the outside world thinks about a product or service – the sum, both positive and negative, of a product’s attributes – then the employer brand is what current and prospective employees think about the company. It’s their knowledge and expectations of the company.

From inside the company, the Employer Brand platform is a handy tool that communicators use to manage perceptions and align behavior of employees. Like a traditional branding campaign, the Employer Brand serves as a theme or platform that allows us to communicate and position all aspects of the EVP.

When built correctly, the Employer Brand is authentic to the existing culture of the organization. Like the external brand, the Employer Brand should be filled with nothing but the company’s existing DNA. It’s aspirational, yet realistic. It sets expectations of what prospective employees will find should they go to work at the company. It’s a differentiator that helps explain to employees why this company is the right choice for them.

When the Employer Brand is supporting the EVP, effective internal communications become easier to execute. Recruitment becomes more efficient. Employees become more engaged. Retention of the right employees is increased. The skies are blue, and the sun shines bright.

Working on an Employer Brand? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

5 Faux Pas of Internal Communications

What are employees’ pet peeves about internal communications? In Tribe’s national research with employees on a variety of topics over the years — from change management to hiring practices —  we’ve heard a lot about what people do like and what they don’t. Here are five practices that seem to consistently annoy employees:

  1. Employee surveys with no follow up: When the company fields a survey asking employees to provide feedback on engagement, workplace issues, job satisfaction or other topics, employees would like the circle to be closed. They want to hear the results of the survey, and if there are issues that need addressing, they’d especially like to see management taking some action to make the changes needed.
  2. Intranets cluttered with outdated content: One of the primary goals of an intranet is to make it easier to find the information you need, not harder. When there’s no plan for removing old content after it’s past its shelf life, or no system for a regular flow of new content, employees lose patience with the site.
  3. Too many places to check for communications: Employees making this comment might mean having one intranet for the parent company and another for their brand and yet another for their HR stuff. Or they might mean email plus Yammer plus Slack.
  4. Managers bottlenecking information: Cascading communications is a perennial favorite for companies trying to reach frontline employees, particularly those without company email addresses or dedicated computers. But everyone (internal communications departments included) knows that some managers are great about this and others never seem to get around to it. Employees don’t like being out of the loop because their managers forget to clue them in.
  5. Conflicting information about a major change: Change is stressful, but one of the things that can lower employee stress is to have clear and consistent information about what the change means. If they hear one thing from the CEO and another from their manager and still another from what they read online, that can drive them a little crazy.

Interested in avoiding these and other practices that get on employees’ nerves? Tribe can help.

 

The Internal Brand Includes Employee Email Signature

There are some aspects of business that can be improved by personal flare, but email signatures are not one of them. From neon colors to inspirational quotes, some employees can really cross a line when given too much freedom with their business signature. Each mandated email signature should include uniformity in logo, color, font, point size and format of information.

Companies who haven’t created or don’t enforce a branded company signature should reconsider, given the following benefits:

  1. Consistency in the internal brand will reflect on the external brand. It is hard to ask an employee to represent the brand well externally, when the brand is not established or enforced internally. Implementing a unified email signature helps train employees to be mindful with brand representation, which will be reflected in external business as well.
  1. Email signatures can help solidify employee roles within the company. Having to write an official title down for an email signature can help define a position or department within the organization. It can also reduce the chance of an employee misusing or embellishing their title.
  1. Employees feel more comfortable communicating with associates when they understand who they are. For companies with a few thousand employees, sometimes workers can feel intimidated when sending or receiving information from associates they don’t know in different departments. Emails signatures can help bridge that gap in making sure employees are aware of exactly who they are communicating with.
  1. Perhaps most importantly, it makes doing business internally and externally much easier. Having something as simple as a phone number at the end of an email makes it easier to reach one another so the business can run smoothly and more efficiently.

Need help creating internal brand standards for your company? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Should Your Internal Brand Guidelines Be a Mirror Image of the External Brand?

There’s a wide range in how various brands answer this question. A few companies Tribe works with use the exact same brand guidelines internally and externally. Once in a while we’ll work with a company that has a very different look internally than externally.

Our guidance is to see the internal brand as an in-the-family version of the external brand. While the external brand is how we represent the brand to consumers and the rest of the world, the internal brand is like having a conversation with your family members. It’s how we speak to each other, human to human, inside the company.

The external brand and the internal brand are two sides of the same coin. When a company makes a brand promise, the people inside the company are the ones charged with keeping that promise. Whether the brand promise is about delivering speed or quality or courtesy or anything else, the employees need to be steeped in communications that prepare them to deliver on that. In the same sense, the way those internal communications look and feel should reflect the external brand.

So when we’re building an employee brand, we start with the existing brand standards. But then we might add a few elements to make it convey a little more familiarity, in the sense that we’re talking amongst ourselves in the family rather than to the outside world. We might introduce a brighter, friendlier color palette. We might recommend including an additional font that’s more casual. We will lobby for photography of employees, so that the internal communications reflect the faces not just of leadership but also of people working in various parts of the organization. (We don’t ever advocate using stock photography to represent real employees.)

The tone of voice and choice of language might also be different for the internal brand. Of course, the vocabulary you use with consumers or clients regarding your products and services, the industry and your business should be mirrored internally. But when you’re speaking to employees, it’s more like sitting across the kitchen table than it might be for the rest of the world. The internal tone of voice might be a bit more casual, maybe even include a little more humor.

One important point that marketing folks sometimes don’t get at first is that an internal brand needs more range than the external brand. That’s an issue of context. Think about seeing a TV spot, magazine ad or online advertising for your company. It will be seen in the context of lots of other brands.

But imagine walking by the digital signage in your company. Although there may be a few dozen different slides, they’re all representing one brand. Without giving art directors some range in the brand design, those slides will all look very much the same — and won’t be very engaging.

Another example might be the employee magazine. If every article looks exactly like the others, it becomes a sales brochure. To keep employees’ attention from article to article, and to signal readers that the content is editorial rather than advertising, the brand has to allow for slightly different treatments of photography, illustration, fonts, color and maybe even icons.

That’s not to say we recommend that anything goes for the internal brand. Quite the opposite. We believe in setting internal brand standards, but having those standards include a range of options — all of which are on brand.

Interested in establishing internal brand standards? Tribe can help.