Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

2018 Resolution: Do less of something

What are your internal communications goals for the New Year? Most of us are great at adding one more thing to the list, but it’s equally important to edit that list from time to time. How about making a goal to not do something, to eliminate something or to do less of something?

Here are three potential New Year’s resolutions for internal communications professionals who want to start 2018 with less:

  1. Resolve to eliminate one channel: You’ve probably added channels over the years, but have you shut any down? If you haven’t done a serious audit of what’s working and what’s not, this might be a good time. Or if you have data that no one is reading a certain newsletter or blog, if posters are getting shipped out to locations but never making it to the break room walls, or if there’s some other channel that’s taxing your resources without much return, the most efficient move might be to delete it from your mix.
  2. Resolve to reduce word count: Take a look at the length of your intranet posts, magazine features, newsletter articles and even posters and digital signage. The longer the copy, the less likely employees are to read the whole thing. What do employees really need to know? What’s the key message? What’s the most interesting stuff? Be disciplined about cutting out the fluff and making the copy tighter and more effective.
  3. Resolve to set expiration dates: It’s hard enough to get employees to pay attention without the clutter of communications that are past their shelf date. Are there still posters about open enrollment out there, now that the deadline for that is behind us? Are there articles on the intranet about signing up for a Thanksgiving volunteer opportunity? Create a trigger to follow up with those folks you sent the posters to when it’s time to take them down. Enable expiry dates on the intranet and educate those who post content about using them.

Interested in doing less? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Eliminating Ineffective Channels: Send Out Less Stuff, and Employees May Pay More Attention

Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop doing something. As you add more and more channels to your internal communications program, whether that’s updating the intranet to a more social platform or developing communications toolkits for managers to cascade messaging, you can reach a tipping point where too much is, well, just too much.

Stop and make an assessment of what’s working and what’s not. Are there six different newsletters from various division and regions? Maybe you could retire a few, or at least use a more targeted list of who gets what. Do employees have several different sites serving various functions of an intranet? Maybe you could shut one of those down, or migrate the content that’s actually being used to another internal site that gets more traffic.

Also consider the Use By date on communications meant for a specific time window. If you ship posters to all locations and ask them to put them up in the break room, do you also let them know when it’s time to take those posters down? When open enrollment is over, when the United Way campaign is complete, removing those posters leaves visual (and mental) space for other messages.

But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If a channel doesn’t seem to be working very well, consider updating what flows through that channel. That digital newsletter that nobody reads might be a winner with an updated design and improved content.

How do you know what’s working and what’s not? The best way is to do a communications audit, using any metrics you have plus an additional employee survey and possibly even some employee focus groups. When Tribe conducts such an audit, the resulting recommendations usually include some combination of 1) channels to keep because they’re working great as is; 2) channels to tweak because they need more strategic thought and/or more engaging content; and 3) channels that have served their time and are ready to retire.

The conundrum is this: there’s always the risk that you’re communicating too much. Just as there’s always the possibility that you’re not communicating enough. If this stuff was easy, it wouldn’t be so hard.

Interested in giving your portfolio of communication channels the once over? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Providing Communication Tools for Direct Managers Can Solve Multiple Problems

In many, if not most, large companies, communication from corporate is cascaded through direct managers. For instance, corporate will email managers the news, and then managers are expected to share that news with their people.

This is particularly common with non-desk employees, like those on the retail floor, in the distribution centers, the manufacturing facilities and out in the field. Since these employees rarely have company email addresses, corporate deems them nearly impossible to reach, except through their managers.

In Tribe’s research, employees have two concerns about communications that come through their managers. The first is timeliness, in that some managers will share with their team right away, others will eventually get around to it, and still others may never do it. Corporate often has no way of knowing whether the information has in fact been shared or not.

The other issue employees often cite is inconsistency of message. Human nature being what it is, each manager will filter the information through their own lens. Employees in our research often referenced the childhood game of Telephone, where a message is whispered from one person to the next to the next until what the last person in line hears bares little resemblance to the original message.

Tribe’s research also indicates that many direct managers may struggle with this process. In our most recent study, 53 percent wanted online tools to help them communicate with their teams more effectively. This could be a comprehensive online tool kit of PowerPoint presentations, email templates and videos. Or it could be as simple as providing a one-pager of talking points and maybe another page of FAQ.

Either way, these communication tools address several issues at once. They increase the likelihood that direct managers will indeed share corporate communications with their teams. They promote consistency of message. And they help both the direct managers and their direct reports feel supported and valued.

Of course, in most cases Tribe would also recommend some corporate communications that go directly to employees rather than through their managers. In our research, 72 percent said that hearing from their top management is important to them. And 84 percent said they currently receive “not enough” information from corporate.

Even with employees who don’t have company email addresses, direct communication from corporate is quite feasible. If you’d like to know more, just ask us. We’d be happy to help.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Intranets and employee magazines: Communication channels to connect many brands under one

Have you ever had the experience of finally meeting someone in person after a long history of communicating only by email and phone? There’s something about seeing someone’s face that immediately strengthens that connection.

That’s the idea behind much of Tribe’s work with companies trying to break down silos between multiple brands. When people in one brand can see the faces behind the others, it provides a shortcut to building engagement with each other.

One of the best communication tools for this is the employee intranet. You’ll find some great social features right out of the box on most platforms now. You can set up groups for knowledge sharing and best practices on similar projects and challenges. You can pit brands against each other in friendly competitions or gamification challenges. You can provide opportunities for employees in one brand to build relationships with those in other brands.

Another communication channel that works well for this is an employee magazine. Whether you publish a print version or keep it electronic, a magazine gives you the ability to give your people and brands the star treatment. You might have a rotating feature that gives an insider’s view of each brand’s primary office. You could do employee spotlights that make heroes of your people. You can highlight leadership from the various brands and give them a venue to share their vision and expertise. You can publish interviews with those creating the future of your brands, be they head designers or lead engineers. A magazine gives you the opportunity to spread that 15 minutes of fame from brand to brand to brand.

Besides breaking down silos, these two communication channels help build pride in the collective organization. People in each brand feel more engaged in the victories of the others — and thus more engaged in the parent company itself.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Unasked Question In Internal Communications: What’s In It For Me?

That’s a question that gets asked too rarely in internal communications and it’s what every employee wants to know. “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I care about this intranet/blog/magazine/email/insert any internal communications vehicle?”

In the best of worlds, the answer is that the communication has been tailored specifically to what the employee wants to know. Not just which information but also how much of it and in what level of detail. But that’s harder than it looks.

It requires viewing the world through the lenses of various employee groups. What do employees working in the corporate headquarters want to know about any given topic? What about the people in the London office? How about the guys driving the trucks or the people manning the cash registers? What about the employees who work from home offices? Do the new generation employees care more about some issues than the Boomers?

Just as the one-message-fits-all model doesn’t work so well in employee communications, neither does one channel or touchpoint. Some employees prefer to get their answers online; others like to hold a magazine or brochure in their hands. Some want a way to add their two cents to the conversation. Some don’t even have computers at work, and far too little time to read printed materials.

That’s why we’re so lucky to be working in this field now. We have an ever-growing portfolio of communication channels that allow us nearly endless methods of reaching various employee audiences. Need to communicate to the guys in the warehouse? Maybe a closed circuit TV would work. Have a salesforce that’s constantly on the road and a CEO who wants to give them a weekly pep talk? Your answer might be a prerecorded radio show they tune into from their mobile phones. Want to make it easy for employees reading a brochure to get to a particular page on your website? Maybe you want to try a QR code.

The wealth of communication tools at our disposal is a hot topic at Tribe right now, as that’s the theme of our next quarterly issue of The Tribe Report. If you have a certain population that’s hard to reach and are interested in best practices, let us know and we’ll see what we can offer. Or if you’ve had recent success with either cutting-edge or heritage communication vehicles, we’d love to highlight what you’ve been doing. You can reach me by phone at (404) 256-5858 or email at [email protected] Even better, add a comment below so other readers can weigh in.