Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Consumers and shareholders are watching the CEO — but so are employees

That must have been one hell of a conference call. A Who’s Who of CEOs, including Indra Nooyi of Pepsico, Virginia Rometty of IBM, Mary Barra of GM, Douglas McMillon of Walmart and Laurence Fink of BlackRock, all dialing in to discuss the appropriate reaction to Trump’s remarks regarding the Charlottesville tragedy.

Consumers and shareholders were waiting to see how CEOs responded, but so were their employees. These companies depend on a diverse workforce of employees from all walks of life. If the company claims internally to value diversity and leadership, if the corporate values include things like integrity and respect, those principles theoretically  apply to the top executive as well as the rank and file.

But, in practice, does the CEO actually make business decisions based on those principles? Most employees of those companies will never meet their CEOs. They may have little understanding of what their chief executives do from day to day. They may not even bother to read the chief executive’s blogs or attend their town halls or watch their videos on the intranet.

But employees identify with the companies they work for, and they see the CEO as the figurehead for the company. As the heads of global companies, these CEOs were being watched not just by employees in the U.S. but in countries around the world.

These business leaders aren’t politicians. One could make the argument that serving on an advisory council for the president is a business decision and not a moral one.

But CEOs depend on the hearts and minds of their employees to move their companies forward. It matters to employees to know their CEOs took a stand against moving backwards in our country’s ongoing stop-and-start progress towards equality.

Interested in CEO communications for your employees? Tribe can help.


Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Communicating corporate values

Start by identifying values that are easy to understand and remember. It is a formidable task to take a leader’s vision for the company and narrow it down to a few words employees should use to guide their efforts. On the flip side, if you want employees to truly adopt the company’s values, they need to be able to remember them and easily discuss their meanings. At Tribe, we recommend no more than three to five values written in language a third grader would understand.

Target recurring occasions and communications to acquaint and connect your workforce to your values. Values shouldn’t live exclusively on the poster on the break room wall. When planning any communications calendar, think of opportunities to incorporate the values into existing internal communication pieces, company events or programs. Rotate your values as the themes of your newsletter content or publish value-focused blogs and leadership videos. We especially like desktop tchotchkes such as Legos that reinforce values while also giving employees something to tinker with while working. The more instances your workforce happens upon corporate values, the better.

Designate values champions throughout the organization. Review your organization chart and identify middle-level managers in each department who have a passion for and exemplify the values. Charge them with ensuring the values are included in internal communication pieces, events and programs. Ask them to recognize other employees who are using or living the values and highlight those associates as heroes of the business. Involve your champions in the gap evaluation process of the values and reward them for the extra work and commitment they are giving to the company.

Integrate the values into your hiring and employee evaluation process. It is easy to say that your values are integral to your company’s success but to show employees the true importance you place on them, they should be included in the hiring and evaluation process. Include values-based questions during the interview as well as a checklist for hiring managers to use to ensure a prospect exemplifies them. A pre-boarding package that introduces values prior to an employee’s start date allows them to feel familiar with the values before their first hour is logged. It can also communicate that company values are of equal importance as other included elements, such as corporate policy. Incorporating your values into your evaluation process will both fortify the significance of values and offer supervisors the opportunity to coach an individual on how they can better employ those values within their work.

Looking to communicate corporate values to your employees? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Communicating Vision and Values: Give Your Employees Something to Do

Businessman opening hands

Tribe does a great deal of work communicating corporate vision and values. Quite often, the vision includes a grand statement about becoming the biggest, the best, the safest, the broadest, the fastest, the most caring company in the business. And while we’re becoming the “est”, let’s have integrity, passion and be innovative. That’s all fine. We all want to be the best at what we do and exude expected values while we’re doing it.

The problem with these broad goals and statements is that it doesn’t tell your employees what it has to do with them. If we’re communicating with employees and want them to engage in the conversation, we have to give them something to do.

Employee communications should provide instructions on what employees can do to contribute to the goal. When we talk about becoming the best in our industry, we take the ball out of employees’ hands since they can’t control what the competition is doing. When we can’t control or change the outcome with our actions, we’ll tend to ignore the communication and assume that it’s someone else’s responsibility.

Achieving broader company goals – or the company vision – doesn’t magically happen. It’s typically the result of the successful execution of internal business strategies. So when we’re communicating with employees, it’s important to be as specific as possible about what they’re supposed to do. They should be able to internalize the communication to understand how their actions should change after seeing/reading the communication.

Therefore, when we’re communicating corporate vision and values, it’s not enough to print a poster with the vision or send an email from the CEO that states the values. It’s a start, but we also have to provide context of how we’re going to achieve the vision or examples of how the values show up within the company.

Need help communicating Vision and Values inside your organization? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Making Your Vision and Values Actionable for Employees

iStock_000056231554_MediumIf your company has communicated its vision and values to employees, you’re way ahead of the game. Outlining what the company is trying to achieve and articulating the values intended to guide the business is a huge step.

But just because you’ve shared the words doesn’t mean you’ve finished the job. To truly create alignment between employees actions and the company vision, you need to go further.

The next step is to help employees understand how they, as individuals, can help make that vision a reality. Do they know what part they play? Do they see the connection between what they do every day and the business goals of the company? Do the values seem relevant to them?

One of the best ways to achieve this is through concrete examples. Instead of telling employees what they should do, try showing them what it looks like to live the values and support the vision.

For instance, if you have an internal magazine, incorporate several employee spotlights in each issue. Take three or four real employees and interview them about how they see their job supporting the vision, and how they put the company values to work in their day-to-day work. Include photography, so other employees get to see people like them, in roles like their own, being treated like heroes.

One benefit of this sort of communication is giving recognition. Employees who approach their work with an eye to how it contributes to the overall success of the company certainly deserve all the recognition they can get.

The other benefit, and perhaps the more important one, is modeling the desired behavior for employees throughout the company. When you let employees tell their stories, giving specific examples of times they’ve applied the values in their work, or explaining in down-to-earth terms how they see their work contributing to the vision, it helps other employees get it. It enables them to take the lofty language that is common to company visions and values and apply it to real-world situations.

That’s when the magic happens. When employees make that connection between what they do at work and something bigger than themselves, that’s when you get alignment. When you’ve got alignment between how employees are working and where the company wants to go, you improve on measures that really count. Engagement, productivity, retention, profitability and of course, the bottom line.

Interested in building your alignment? Tribe can help.



Steve Baskin

TRIBE TRIVIA: Offline employees and corporate vision

Q: What percentage of non-desk employees (those who are not sitting in front of a computer at work) have a good understanding of where the company is heading?

A: 43 percent don’t know the company’s vision for growth , according to Tribe’s national research with non-desk employees.

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. 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

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.


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Who determines the company values: management or employees?

This is a question we don’t hear often enough at Tribe. For most clients we’ve worked with, the assumption is that leadership will decide what the values are and then communicate them to employees.

What we prefer to do is start by talking with employees about what they feel the company stands for. As we often say, these are the people who live and breathe the brand every day, so it’s  useful to understand what they believe they represent. If they’re the face of the company, what do they think that looks like?

Often, we find an interesting consensus across a wide cross-section of employees.In our Discovery work, we include employees in various locations and business units, a range of job functions, and a mix of generations and seniority in the company.

For a manufacturing company, we had employee after employee tell us the company’s most consistent value was to “do the right thing.” In a financial services company, the golden rule came up again and again. For a company in the automotive industry, it was about providing solutions.

Values feel most relevant to employees when they’re truly indigenous to the company. Although an agency can help articulate and refine those values, it’s best not to just make them up out of thin air.

That’s not to say that leadership can’t help drive the company values. Management may choose to emphasize certain existing values that have been identified by the employees, and to downplay others. Generally, Tribe will recommend including one or two values that support the company vision, but may be aspirational at the moment. If you want to shift the culture, adding the appropriate values is a good place to start.


Insight Six: Values Aren’t Real Until They’re Put to Work

This is the sixth of seven weekly posts sharing insights from a national study on communicating with frontline and field employees. Tribe recently fielded quantitative and qualitative research with non-desk employees in companies with 1,000 or more employees. The complete white paper is available for download on the Tribe site.

Are your employees truly living your company values? Tribe’s past research has revealed some interesting facts about company vision and values. While it reinforces the fact that many do know and live the values, it revealed that most of these individuals are upper management or higher ups in the company’s infrastructure. Reason being: they are usually well versed in the values because much of their day-to-day conversations are centered around them.

But what about the rest of your workforce? Almost half of our survey respondents admitted they did not know their company’s vision for growth. Many respondents do know the vision and values, but that doesn’t guarantee they necessarily support them.

So how can you get a companywide buy in?  Start by communicating the reasoning behind the vision and the progress and processes in place toward reaching it. Without these sharing these insights, management is essentially forfeiting the chance to share its position and gain new supporters.

Sharing promotes caring. By sharing the company values effectively, you enable your employees, including your non-desk workforce, to deliver your desired customer experience.

Seeing is believing. The best way to champion advocates for your brand is to live out the vision and values yourself. By setting a positive example for those around you, you can set the ball rolling in the right direction. And, as an extra reminder, try running a print campaign focused entirely around your company vision and values. By integrating signage and messaging into everyday employee experiences, you can be that much closer to having employees who are fully invested in your brand.

In case you missed them, check out insights one through five in our archives and check back next Thursday for the final blog of this series. For additional and future insights, subscribe to the Good Company Blog by clicking on the RSS icon in the About section of our blog.

To discuss ideas or questions about how best to reach non-desk employees in your company, call us, we’d be happy to help!

Is the Internal Brand more Important than the External Brand?

More and more often this topic is being debated online, at conferences and in boardrooms across the globe. Companies are always looking for ways to improve their bottom line and after investing in traditional methods of connecting with their customers, many are realizing they should work towards creating a better connection with their workforce.

This is when the conversation of internal brand takes place. And in these conversations the inevitable question comes up: “How important is it?”

The debate between the two sides really isn’t a debate at all. At Tribe we view the internal and external brand as two parts of the same whole. This may sound oversimplified, but the values a company promotes to their customers should blend with the values they communicate to their employees. Once this is done, the internal culture will be in a stronger position to support the external brand and the ideals it promotes.

The Insider’s Understanding
Many companies have the assumption that if the external branding is successfully doing its job, then employees will simply fall in line with the promises, values and personalities that it promotes. However, this is not always the case. Employees have an insider’s understanding of the company and communications with them should appreciate and respect that.

Start with values. When the decision has been made to invest in the internal brand, many times that starts with the creation or resuscitation of a company’s values. Tribe has worked with many companies to evaluate, categorize and bring to light the aspects of their organization that’s important for them as they grow, advance and move forward in the future.

It comes down to the idea of commitment. Reputable companies want to make a promise to their customers and deliver on it. At the same time, a promise should be made to the people that work, breath and spend their lives keeping the engine running. When the two sides work in harmony, they build a stronger company together and create a lasting entity in their industry.