Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Humanizing the Big Cheese: Help Employees Connect with the CEO

hiresEmployees want to know their top leadership as individuals. In Tribe’s research with employees of companies with more than 1,000 employees across the U.S., 84 percent of respondents want more communication from corporate, but they also want to see these people face-to-face.

Cascading communications through direct managers isn’t enough. Qualitative responses from our study on employee preferences in internal communications indicate the desire for communications directly from C-level.

Comments and write-in responses included:

“More direct communications from HQ.”

 “It’s important to have some communication directly from corporate instead of my direct manager.”

 “We want to hear from you. Tell us what’s going on.”

Employees also want to put faces to titles, and to interact on a human level.

 “Being able to put a face with a name would help make things more personable.”

“Increase the in-person, live communication.”

“Speak face to face.” 

Most CEO’s and other top executives are not going to have time to meet every employee face-to-face. But efforts in that direction, such as store or plant visits can go a long way towards communicating that he or she believes its important to connect with frontline employees. Town Halls that are webcast are another, although not all employees will sit through an entire one.

Your CEO can only be in one place at a time, but technology can help scale those human interactions. When the CEO visits a plant, shoot video of the visit. Maybe include plant employees by creating a Q&A opportunity where they ask a question and the CEO answers. Or shoot photos of the CEO shaking hands or talking with various plant employees to use in a CEO blog, or on the intranet, or in a digital magazine or newsletter.

The point is to help employees put a face to the name and title. Although an in-person experience has the most impact, there are other ways to build that human connection between employees and the leadership team.

Interested in humanizing your CEO? Tribe can help.

 

Brittany Walker

3 Tips for a Successful Culture Magazine

Culture magazines are a great resource for communicating across a multitude of functions and geography. Internal magazines are opportunities to bridge silos, create shared pride and boost recognition, all of which contribute to higher employee engagement.

At Tribe, we’ve created culture magazines for clients across industries ranging from consumer products to aviation to fashion. Especially in manufacturing, retail and other non-desk populations, magazines enable the company to make these frontline employees visible and even recognized as heroes throughout the organization.

Often produced as a quarterly publication, culture magazines don’t have to be a daunting or budget-busting. Here are three simple tips to keep your magazine on track.

  1. Develop an editorial plan. Establishing reoccurring topics and themes for each issue will take a load off the planning process at the beginning of each issue. Think through your messaging and communication goals for the publication, and be sure to work each of them into the plan. Allow for flexibility by including a feature story, but we would recommend at least three basics, like employee spotlights, leadership Q&A or wellness and volunteerism updates.
  1. Appoint an editorial board. This simple task has been a life-saver in ongoing magazines Tribe has produced in the past. At the start of each new issue, gather your established team composed of people from across different segments of the organization. All it takes is one organized conference call to discuss potential stories and features for the upcoming issue. By the time the call ends, you should have your identified editorial plan for the next issue, and the correct contacts to start producing the content.
  1. Keep revisions to a minimum. For best, and most efficient results, collaborate on the front end of the magazine, not the back end. A large part of this helpful hint is cutting down on the number of reviewers themselves. Once the articles are written and the issue is put into design, keep the circle as tight as possible. Multiple rounds of revisions can do damage to your timeline, and as a result, impact the budget.

Interested in developing a culture magazine? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Letter from the CEO: Tips to Get Employees to Actually Read It

Having the CEO or another leadership team member write a letter or email to employees is a huge opportunity to build engagement. But only if it’s done well. A 500-word missive that’s one long stuffy sentence after another is not engaging and will bore employees long before they get to that final paragraph. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when your communications plan includes leadership communications of that sort:

  1. Don’t ghostwrite it: Or at least don’t make it sound like someone ghostwrote it. If the exec doesn’t have the time or inclination to write the piece for himself or herself, do whatever you can to channel his or her voice. What are the words and phrases this person uses frequently? If they like something, are they more likely to describe it as really cool, awesome, outstanding, fabulous or terrific? Is there a word or phrase they use frequently to reinforce an idea,  like “absolutely” or “no doubt?” If you don’t have frequent contact with this particular leader, search online for videos of interviews or speaking engagements to pick up details of how they speak. Even better, get five minutes of their time to talk about what they want employees to get out of this communication.
  2. Show some personality: Tribe’s national research with employees indicates that they want a personal connection with their leadership teams. They want to feel like they know something beyond business facts about the person behind the title. Some more introverted leaders resist talking about themselves because they think it comes off as self-centered or bragging. Explain that it’s humanizing rather than hubris. If the big boss is training for a marathon or writing a detective novel on the side, that’s the kind of personal detail employees are craving.
  3. Cut roughly 20% of what you wrote: Or even 30%. Take a look at what you think is the final draft and figure out how to make it shorter. If it’s a letter, absolutely do not let it be more than one page, and try not to fill that page with ink. If it’s an email, three or four brief paragraphs is probably about as much as employees will read. For a blog, you can go a little longer, but still, short and sweet is more likely to be read.

Interested in improving your leadership communications? Tribe can help.

 

Brittany Walker

Three easy ways to improve your intranet

Your company’s intranet should be a reflection of its culture. Culture is not only about your mission, vision, values, logo and formal rituals, but it also includes employee beliefs about the company, myths and ancillary symbols that develop over time. Reviewing your intranet should shed some light on the intangible areas of your company’s culture. Analyzing your site doesn’t need to be a formal process, but by taking some time and reviewing a few basic elements, you will also gain a better understanding of your culture.

1. Site design should be reflective of your external brand and your desired internal culture.  Look at the design element of your internet and intranet.  Are they of the same quality? Do they look similar?  Does it appear that the company invested in both? Does your intranet reflect your desired culture in terms of being fun or potentially a more formal culture? If the answer to some of these questions is no, it may be a good time to improve the design.

2. If work/life balance is something your company values, give employees the opportunity to share information about their personality on the site. Rich employee profiles are a great way for employees to connect on a more personal level and improve their working relationships with co-workers. The underlying message that employees will receive is that the company cares about them as individuals, not just for the skill set they bring to the company.

3. Review your values, culture attributes and other brand elements to see if they are reflected in the site. Your intranet is a great tool to communicate and sustain elements of your brand, which in turn help develop your culture.  Look for interactive ways such as spotlighting employees that live your values or promoting events on the site that help build camaraderie.

Do you have other ideas of how to analyze your intranet for insights on your culture?  Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

4 tips to make Podcasts your employees can actually use

itunes-podcast-app-logoTribe has always been a big proponent of Podcasts. And they’ve never been been a more effective communication tool. We covered the benefits of having a conversational tone with employees, and how Podcasts can help you make that connection and deliver pertinent information to large employee populations in a way that is easy and accessible. But simply having a Podcast does not equal more engagement. It’s a communication channel that needs to be used effectively in order to get results.

Here are a few tips to make your Podcast top notch:

1) Know your audience’s interests. What do your employees want to know about? It might help to send out a survey with possible topics, so you can see what people want to hear and create an editorial calendar. This can also act as an awareness campaign, and employees will feel more attached to the project if they feel they have had input. Above all, this is an employee resource. They don’t want to hear an executive pontificate in corporate platitudes. They want to hear about specific issues, the direction of the company and things that matter to them personally.

2) Have a plan. This tip is two-fold. First, have a subject itinerary for each show, so you don’t have “dead air”, inconsistent timing, or someone searching for what to say (umm, uhhh) on your recording. You can edit the content in post production, but if you have to go in and cut a lot, it can be time consuming. Outline what topics you want to cover and make it solid.

Second, have a plan for when you want to release the Podcast. One of the reasons the top Podcasts are so popular is because they put shows out regularly, usually on the same day every week, bi-weekly or monthly. The audience knows when a new one is coming out and will check back on their own volition. It’s helpful for you too to develop a rhythm to have that push to continue making content. But you also need to be prepared to stick to your plan if you make one.

3) Let the authority speak. It might be good to have a “host” for the company Podcast, someone who does it regularly and becomes a familiar voice, but it’s crucial for engagement for employees to hear the information straight from the horse’s mouth. If there is a financial Podcast, try and have the CFO speak about it; if it’s a marketing theme, have the CMO. You get the idea. This channel allows employees unique insight into the subjects that you cover, and having someone they don’t normally converse with speaking on such an intimate platform will make it seem like more of an insider’s view. The information will be more pertinent and valuable to employees.

4) Make it listenable. A good quality recording can make all the difference in how the Podcast is perceived and received. Loud background noises, hums, pops and breathing all detract from the content. They’re distracting, even on a subconscious level. Invest in a nice microphone, a pop filter and maybe even a shock mount to make your recordings sound as nice as possible. As we outlined in the aforementioned blog, a few companies are making USB microphones specifically for Podcasters and this would be a good, inexpensive way for you to make your recording sound as professional as possible.

Stephen Burns

Do employees like your company’s social intranet?

social-mediaImplementing a social intranet, also known as an enterprise social network or ESN, is tough for large companies. There isn’t a formula for success. Rolling out a companywide tool takes a lot of time, effort, communication and collaboration. It can be tricky, but if you pull it off, there is no limit to the benefits a solid internal communications network can bring to your culture and organization.

The social network for the office is still an evolving tool. The phenomenon is relatively new, as the latest extension of the time-tested company intranet. But enough companies have taken the leap and worked with the concept long enough to where we are finally seeing some conclusive feedback.

The wonderful folks over at Simply Communicate surveyed over 70 enterprises with a “Social Intranet Barometer” to examine emerging trends — “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Here is a summary of their findings. There were mixed reviews for certain, but there were also positive signs. And the majority of the pitfalls lay not with the technology, but adoption and rollout.

“Management increasingly understand the value of social and collaborative platforms”

“The survey results point to a growing use of social and collaborative platforms; however, they confirm… that adoption and demonstrable success are patchy.”

“…overall adoption rates reflect widespread concern that social and collaborative platforms are failing to realize the highest hopes of their most vocal advocates.”

“There is rarely adequate budget for launching and promoting use.”

The technology will evolve, but in order for a social intranet to truly work, your company has to evolve, too. And employees need to be prepared for what is and, should be treated as, an extensive company change. Internal communications can often be taken for granted, but when you’re investing so much in a tool that could be the edge you need for success, it’s worth doing the leg work necessary to make it connect with your employee base.

Still wondering an enterprise social network the right tool for your company? Maybe you’ve implemented an ESN that isn’t gaining much traction or perhaps you’ve been weary to take that first step. Tribe can help you build your own ESN survey or work with you to find the best ways to introduce these tools to your employees.

Nick Miller

TRIBE TRIVIA: Communication and Growth

Success business concept: arrows hitting the center of Blue Email target on wall background, 3d render

Question: Does a lack of corporate communication correlate with a disconnect between employees and the company’s vision for growth?

Answer: Yes. According to Tribe’s national survey of associates of companies with more than 1,000 employees, there is a very strong correlation between how often a company sends out corporate communications and whether or not employees feel like they know the executive leadership’s vision for growth. When asked if they knew the company’s vision, only 22% of respondents said they did and that they understood the importance of their role as an element of that vision, whereas 32% did not know the vision and felt that it did not concern them.

Of those who felt they had a good idea of the company’s vision for growth and the role their own job played in that vision, 45% worked for companies that sent out corporate communications on a daily or weekly basis, whereas 13% rarely received communications. For employees who had no concept of the company’s vision, 39% could not remember the last time they received any sort of corporate communication, whereas only 6% received frequent communications.

While communications that are too frequent can render negative results, well-channeled and precise messages are a mandate for an informed and included workforce. These results demonstrate how important corporate communications can be in including employees in the company’s vision, a crucial element of success and a unified brand experience for customers.

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot me an email.

Stephen Burns

In company communications, consistency is key.

I have to admit something: Ringo is my favorite Beatle. The poor drummer is often regarded as the least talented member of the group (which is actually a compliment if directed at any other musician). And even though it is hard to stand out amongst three of the most talented musicians to ever to be recorded, Ringo gets a bad rap. He certainly isn’t the flashiest drummer. But he was innovative, and the backbone of arguably the best band in the world. George Harrison noted that Starr almost never needed a second take in the studio, and when the band broke up, Harrison and Lennon both called upon the drummer to play on their solo records. 1973’s “Ringo” was also the only solo Beatle record to feature all four members of the band.

So why is poor Ringo overlooked when most people think of Rock n’ Roll’s great drummers? Well, simply put, consistency is underrated. It isn’t necessarily a marquee-worthy attribute, but it is something that people on rely on, whether they realize it or not. Just as Ringo’s steady tom-roll rhythm makes “Come Together” the standout classic tune that it is, steady, consistent leadership and communication can make or break your business.

Consistency allows the same message to reach everyone’s ears. The effectiveness of your company’s communications depends on information traveling from leaders to managers to staff to new staff and so on. If the message is inconsistent, if details are left out and visions are miscommunicated, the boat starts to change course, if only slightly. But a subtle variation in the beginning yields a vastly different direction over time. To ensure that the message is consistent, be it the company’s values, purpose, vision or anything else, leaders need to communicate clearly and often. The message can then disperse throughout the company successfully.

Consistency is necessary for a purpose and strategy. Everyone in your company needs to be on board the same ship, working toward the same goal. They also need a defined battle plan. At the risk of mixing in a fourth metaphor, I’ll just come right out and say it: employees can’t guess what those things are. And they shouldn’t have to. Your business goals, and the things that support those goals, need to play a part in your everyday communications, so that people can be reminded of what drives the business.

Don’t let your company’s communications turn into a game of “Telephone.” If the people you work with know the pillars of your company from day one, they’ll better understand how they work in your company, and that will allow them to work smarter for your company. Being consistent in leadership and communication helps employees to really get behind your business and play active roles in the evolution of your company.

Stephen Burns

The elements of a highly engaged employee

We often discuss the benefits of an engaged employee. And they are almost endless, as far as your company is concerned. A more engaged employee means increased productivity, creativity, collaboration and, in general, evolution of talent within the business. Employees also benefit from being engaged by feeling more appreciated and integral to the success of the company, and having a true voice with the power to create real change.

What actually makes an engaged employee engaged? This question usually conjures up visions of programs and brand new channels, some of which may be necessary to facilitate the types of communication necessary to engage. But there are much more basic elements that happen on a day-to-day basis that affect employees’ answer to the question, “Do you feel highly engaged?”

The good folks across the pond at Energi People have broken it down. And as you can see, most of the criteria are things that can be achieved without sweeping changes to your company’s infrastructure. They are small but powerful strategies that, with the right approach and coaching, can be incredibly effective in the engagement portion of your company’s communications.

employeeengagementproductivity

via Energi People

Need help finding the best ways to implement these strategies? Tribe works with your company’s leadership and management to find the best ways to communicate and engage. Give us a call. We’d love to help.

TRIBE TRIVIA: Communications from direct manager vs. corporate

Question: Do employees have any preference in who communicates what?

Answer: In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, we found marked differences in the topics employees prefer to hear from their direct managers rather than corporate. For human resources and information like quarterly earnings, company news and press releases, they prefer communications from their direct managers. But when it comes to values and vision, or any major changes in the company, they want to hear straight from the top.

For more information about this and other studies, see Tribe’s white papers and internal communications resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot us an email.