Seeing the Vision is Critical to the Employee Experience

Every company has a vision, or at least they should. The issue most companies have is taking the vision from an idea to reality. Engaged employees work because they believe in what their company is doing and where it’s heading.

Although there are different silos in an organization, it’s imperative for employees to share a common goal. Everything they do needs to feed into the same objectives. Here are four ways you can focus your employees on those objectives.

  1. Make it visible. The outreach phase can include a booklet, brochure, mirror cling, paper weight, and the list goes on. One Tribe client printed their values on bags of snacks, and the employees loved them. Simply put, your vision needs to go where people will see it and see it often.
  2. If you want employees to believe the vision, top management needs to live it. Leading by example is key to getting everyone to buy in. Interview managers on how they live out the vision every day, post weekly or monthly blogs highlighting executives who employees look up to, or host town halls and Q&A sessions to gather feedback. The vision comes from the top, but the workforce believing in it is what drives it forward.
  3. Connect the day-to-day work to the vision. Communicate with employees at every level to show them how their work contributes to the greater mission. This helps with employee recognition, but it also shows how everyone is like a building block, nothing stands if even one piece is removed.
  4. Follow through with updates on the journey. Even if the information doesn’t paint the rosiest picture, employees need to know where the ship is headed. Quarterly updates provide a snapshot to compare with past performance. This is as much about keeping employees in the loop on progress as it is about showing everyone what happens when the entire company works with the vision in mind.

Whether you’re introducing a brand-new vision, or reinforcing an old one, your goals should be the same. Disseminate the information, have leadership live out the vision, connect daily work to the bigger picture and show employees how their hard work contributes to a more productive work environment.

Interested in crafting, launching or maintaining a company vision? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Using Guided Meditation and Visualization to Define a Brand Promise

Do you build a culture that will support your brand promise? Or do you base the promise on what your culture already delivers? In the case of a flooring manufacturer that Tribe worked with, the brand promise grew out of employee focus groups on what made their company different from any of their competitors.

When I say focus groups, what I really mean is guided visualizations. We met with employees in two manufacturing facilities and at corporate headquarters, holding several sessions in each location.

At each session, we began with a group meditation.
The goal was to get participants to let go of linear, logical thinking and promote a more creative, imaginative state. From the CEO to sales reps to forklift operators, we found a surprising willingness to play along with this somewhat unusual format.

When employees had reached a meditative state, we began the guided visualization.
We explained we were taking them on a symbolic journey and asked them to imagine the company as a fairy tale character, a handsome prince setting out to seek his fortune. As we told the story of this handsome prince, we stopped at key points and asked participants to open their eyes just enough to scribble an answer to a question we posed, and then return to their relaxed state.

For instance, when the prince came upon a dragon, we asked them what the dragon represented. When he slayed the dragon with his sword, we asked what the sword stood for. When he rode home to victorious to his village, we asked them to listen to what the townspeople were saying about them.

We asked them to complete the following sentence:
The story of this prince was told generation after generation, and the moral of the story is that the prince was successful because he _______.

The answers were interesting in their consistency. In a large majority of the responses, the moral was some version of “he does the right thing” or “he stands for what’s right.”

And in fact, the history of the company reflected this. In conversations after the visualization, employees often pointed to two situations in the company’s history where they felt the company had done the right thing. One was when a fire destroyed the company’s only factory early on. Rather than have so many employees go without paychecks white the factory was rebuilt, the company put employees to work on the construction so they could continue earning a living.

Another was when the company had to recall a product that had required a tremendous investment and new manufacturing machinery.
When the product was found to be defective, the company offered every customer a free replacement floor from their other product lines.

In their own jobs, employees said they felt the responsibility of doing what’s right. We heard similar statements across geography (three states) and function (operations, manufacturing, sales, support, residential and commercial). That’s what they felt differentiated them from their competitors.

The brand promise became Stand On Something Better. The consumer magazine and television campaign was built around the question “What do you stand on?” with consumers offering many answers to what they believe in, from social issues to personal ones. A cause marketing initiative awarded the Stand on a Better World prize to women making a difference in charitable organizations locally and globally. Employees spontaneously launched their own Stand on a Better World fundraisers, hosting bakes sales and carwashes to raise money for college scholarships for local students.

The brand promise resonated with employees. It became something that permeated every aspect of the company because it already was indigenous to the company. That makes it much more likely that employees will be aligned with delivering the intended brand experience. When the brand promise reinforces what employees already believe about the company, it’s second nature to uphold that promise.

Interested in developing an employee brand that delivers on the brand promise? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Thread the vision and values through all your internal communications

Communicating the company vision is one of the most important roles of internal communications. We often recommend a vision and values book and/or a vision and values event to put a stake in the ground to launch or reinforce these cultural underpinnings.

But that’s only the beginning. Just because you’ve told employees once, doesn’t mean the job is done. In fact, the job of communicating the vision and values is never done. To truly embed those things in an organization, to have employees internalize them so that they use the vision and values as guidance for the actions they take and decisions they make in their day-to-day work, will require an ongoing effort.

It also requires using more than one channel. Or even more than one facet of each channel. The goal is to thread the vision and values through everything you do.

We recommend a simultaneous top and bottom approach.
Look for channels for leadership to communicate these topics in an authentic way. That might be through video, magazine articles, intranet updates, town halls and/or any other available channel.

At the same time, find ways to showcase employees using the vision and values. That could be through a recognition program. It could be employee spotlights on the intranet or in your employee publication. It might be digital signage, video, blogs, social media or any other channel at your disposal.

You can also look for ways to tie topics back to the vision and values. When you’re communicating news about the volunteer program, frame it with one of the corporate values such as teamwork or community. When you introduce a massive IT overhaul, maybe you can link it to the value of innovation or efficiency. In an article on two different manufacturing plants working together to revamp the order system, point to the value of collaboration.

We often calendarize the stream of communications to reflect the vision and values. Each issue of a quarterly magazine, or each video in a monthly series, for instance, might be themed with one element of that messaging. Not only does this help thread the vision and values through multiple channels over a quarter or a year, it also allows for a closer look at one element at a time and drives more interesting content.

Interested in incorporating the vision and values into more of your communications?
Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Measurement is great — but how are you using the results?

Are you tracking metrics on your internal communications? If you know what employees are clicking on, what they’re opening and how much time they’re spending there, that’s fantastic.

Now, how are you using that information? Being able to track long-term results over time is interesting, and can be helpful when you’re planning your communications strategy for next year.

But one of the best reasons to watch these metrics is to tweak what you’re doing as you go. It allows you to try smaller shifts and see how employees respond.

For example, we once launched a CEO Q&A feature in an employee publication.
Employees weren’t clicking on it very much. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that employees just weren’t interested in what leadership had to say about the business, we tried exploring the same topics in video. We also included other members of the leadership team, so that employees could see and hear not just the CEO but other top executives as well. Viewership was much higher than readership of the article had been.

For the holiday edition, we tried a blooper reel. It was the most watched video of the year. Now we’re experimenting with adding a few outtakes at the end of each video. So employees who watch the entire leadership video on a serious topic — like a recent acquisition or why a customer-centric approach is important to the business — are rewarded with a handful of funny bits at the end.

Sometimes people seem to view measurement as a pass-fail equation. Yes, it can show what’s succeeding and what isn’t. But communication is fluid and multi-factorial, and measurement allows us to fiddle with the dials before making a final call on whether something’s working or not.

Interested in using measurement to tweak your communications? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

3 Tips for Making Digital Communications More Engaging

The landscape of digital communications is continuously evolving. When it comes to engagement, thinking strategically and creatively will make all the difference. Here are three tips to thoughtfully increase engagement through your digital channels.

  1. Keep it short and to the point. We’re not saying that text-heavy channels can’t have a place in your IC arsenal, but communications consumed on-screen should generally be concise and direct. Whether you’re revamping your intranet, introducing digital signage or updating your corporate email strategy, a big differentiator in reaching employees in a meaningful way is to mirror the digital consumption trends they experience in their personal lives. Think bite-sized, easy-to-consume information, with a direct call-to-action to learn more.
  1. Shine the spotlight on employees. Make heroes of the people behind the hard work though employee spotlights. Simply put, employees love reading about other employees. Spotlights are a great way to feature frontline and field workers and celebrate their contributions, through regular Q&A’s in a newsletter, online recognition programs or contests that highlight employee performance. Spotlights also succeed at humanizing leadership by giving them a venue to share their vision and expertise.
  1. Make it move. From professionally produced videography, to quick-hit smart phone videos, to two-second GIFs, switching out still pictures for their moving counterparts can automatically enhance the employee experience. Video can be a great tool for engaging employees and breaking down silos because it truly gives an authentic face to employees and leadership alike, which is difficult to capture through picture or text alone. For a cost-effective solution for high-quality video, prepare material for eight to ten videos that can be shot in one day. If shooting leadership, we generally ask for 45 minutes on the CEO’s calendar and less than 30 minutes with other members of the executive team.

Need help with your digital communications strategy? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Nature Abhors a Vacuum: 3 Reasons Companies Fail at Communicating Organizational Change

Aristotle, portray,the philosopherWhat happens when a company undergoes major change and doesn’t communicate with employees? Aristotle may not have had internal communications in mind when he made his comment about a natural void being instantaneously filled, but the concept still applies. When management doesn’t explain the change, the information vacuum is filled by what employees speculate is happening.

The rumors are often worse than the reality. So why is this communications failure so common? What’s stopping companies from keeping employees in the loop?

Here are three possible reasons:

  1. Timing: When something major is going down, it often happens quickly. If both leadership and communications people have to scramble to decide if and what and how to tell employees, days or even weeks can pass before the communication goes out. In an ideal world, informing employees would be considered well before the change and would be part of the plan for rolling out that change.
  1. Consensus: In many large companies, the layers of approval can slow things down significantly. Making revisions to the communication after each person weighs in is not efficient. Often, one person’s revisions will undo the revisions of the one before. One solution to this is to gather everyone who needs to approve the messaging in one room at one time to hash it out. If people disagree on points, hash it out then and there to reach final approval of your communications.
  1. Denial: Unfortunately, this one is real. Top leadership will sometimes convince themselves that employees are not the least bit concerned about whatever change is underfoot. This situation is exacerbated by the insular environment of most C-suites. They’re not hearing employee concerns about the change, so they assume/hope there aren’t any. 

Of course, in reality, employees are filling the void themselves. Often with the worst things they can possibly imagine. Remind your leadership team that employees are talking about the situation, even if they’re not privy to those conversations. They can either contribute facts or let that vacuum be filled by the rumor mill.

Want to communicate change more effectively to your employees? Tribe can help.