Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Does your CEO talk to the people delivering your brand promise?

Who creates the customer experience? The employees working in retail stores, hotels, restaurants, and call centers, of course. The frontline employees represent the face of your brand and they’re the ones who deliver on the brand promise — or not.

If you can engage the frontline as ambassadors, you’ve got some real fire power. Cascading communications through people managers works well for some topics, but it often takes top management to inspire them, to lead them to a place where they truly feel ownership of delivering your brand promise.

Frontline employees want to learn the soul of the company from their executive management. In one of Tribe’s national studies,  58 percent of frontline employees indicated that they’d like direct communication from top management about the company’s vision and values. And when they don’t hear from their leadership team, they often make the assumption that it’s because the top executives don’t respect them or their contributions to the success of the company.

How often does your CEO communicate directly to the frontline folks? That communication doesn’t necessarily mean an in-person plant visit or retail store appearance. It could be a streaming town hall, a leadership video, an interview in an employee magazine, or a CEO Corner on a mobile-friendly intranet. It could even be digital signage or a letter mailed home or a podcast. The important thing is that some culturally relevant communication comes straight from the top to the people doing the real work of the company.

Reaching the frontline is not as easy as reaching their colleagues sitting in cubes. But there are numerous ways to make it happen, if your company is willing to invest the effort and budget.

What it takes to build non-desk communication channels is a drop in the bucket compared to your company’s ad budget. You can spend a zillion dollars on brand awareness, but the customer experience comes down to that fast-food worker at the drive-thru window. It seems reasonable to invest some time and money in communication channels for that frontline audience, in order for them to fulfill the customer expectations you create with your brand promise.

Interested in helping your CEO create brand ambassadors of the frontline employees? Tribe can help.

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The EVP: Addressing various life stages and personality types

The employee value proposition helps employees see beyond compensation and benefits to the larger picture. Although there are other elements of the EVP that attract top talent and keep your best employees in place, it’s safe to say all employees care about their pay and health insurance.

Beyond that, many elements of the EVP will be different for each individual. Some people are looking for a company where they can enjoy a better work-life balance. Other employees might secretly enjoy racking up air miles and staying in hotels all over the world. Some folks want to be able to wear T-shirts and flip flops to the office. Hourly workers in positions that don’t promise much career advancement might appreciate tuition assistance to get that college degree.

Although we can’t assume that diverse personalities will want the same things, people in certain life stages often want similar perks. New parents might particularly value the options of flex time or working from home. Those in the early stages of their careers will likely be looking for a company with a great deal of opportunity for growth. Although Gen Y employees often rank meaningful work high on their lists, that factor can also be a big deal to many Boomers.

The EVP provides answers to the employee’s question, “What’s in it for me?” It’s wise to remember, however, that the right answers will be different according to what any individual employee values most in life.

Ready to explore your employee value proposition? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

3 Ways to Maintain a Strong Internal Brand

Many brands struggle with creating a clear and overarching internal brand that will be welcomed and accepted by every individual or department. This is, in part, because every brand has a subsidiary or individual that wants to feel unique and recognized as such. When they feel this way, it sometimes makes them go outside the guidelines that outline what they should and shouldn’t do to remain consistent with the internal brand. This can prove to be problematic because you open yourself to additional requests or potential loopholes that other individuals or departments will look to exploit and, in turn, de-rail the entire brand. Here are three different approaches for maintaining a strong internal brand:

1. Let the internal brand be your North Star: Meaning that it should serve as a guide to everything that you communicate, produce, stand for and go to market with as a brand. The easiest way to be true to your North Star is to avoid letting the process of breaking down the internal brand ever begin. What that means is, when the requests begin to pour in to provide a mini-brand or a brand-within-a-brand that assists in differentiating one department or individual from the others, you point them back to the internal brand and the guidelines that are in place and make sure the design stays within those guardrails.

2. Meet them in the middle: Just because someone in X department wants their own mini-brand or someone in Y department wants their own specific newsletter, doesn’t mean you have to go all in on the request and give them exactly what they’re asking for. A way to help bridge that gap is to get more information on the types of things they are looking for and where this will be applied and think of ways to satisfy their needs, while also remaining consistent with the internal brand. This can be through a variety of things such as a personalized channel, color palette, theme or icon that will differentiate them naturally from the others, while still satisfying their needs.

3. Give them what they want: Sometimes a case can be made for Human Resources or the volunteer program or some other group having their own look within the internal brand. In this case, have a designer familiar with the internal brand create that look in a way that supports the brand rather than breaking away into entirely new territory.

Depending on the culture of your company and other factors, you will have to make a choice on how far the internal brand can bend. However, remember the end goal is to maintain the integrity of the internal brand and have it guide everything that you do to avoid showing multiple iterations that will make it feel fragmented. If you don’t, you run the risk of your internal brand feeling disjointed and incomplete.

Interested in improving your internal brand? Tribe can help.

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.

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

3 Ways to Fumble When Communicating a Major Change

How does a company communicate a major change? In many cases, not well. Following are three sure-fire ways to get it wrong.

1. Don’t say anything at all until every single detail is final. This is an awesome idea if you want employees to feel insecure and uneasy. Especially if they somehow suspect change is afoot and begin to spread that suspicion via the grapevine.

2. Tell them what they want to hear. For instance, if there’s currently no plan for layoffs, go ahead and promise them that all their jobs are definitely safe and they don’t have a thing to worry about. If that changes, they probably won’t even remember the earlier communication.

3. If it’s bad news, don’t talk about it. If you don’t acknowledge that something has gone wrong, or that a difficult change is coming, then you can keep employees from knowing a thing about it.

What’s that? You prefer treating employees with respect? Then you might find the following tips more in keeping with your approach:

• Don’t patronize them by withholding negative news. They’d rather know what to expect than be left in the dark.

• Tell employees as much as you can as soon as you can. If aspects of the change are not yet decided, tell them that too.

• Don’t make the mistake of thinking employees get all their information about the company from the company. They have plenty of other sources, from the financial news to the local news and from social media to social connections.

Interested in change communications that are respectful to employees? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Balancing Collaboration and Efficiency

A premium is placed on collaboration in many, if not most, large companies. As knowledge and expertise become increasingly specialized, collaboration across functional areas becomes even more critical for successful business results.

At the same time, efficiency is also a priority. Companies feel the pressure of delivering improved speed to market, quick response to changing business factors and the ever-increasing demand to be faster than before.

The challenge is that collaboration and efficiency work against each other. To collaborate requires rounding up people in diverse roles across the company, and usually across geography. Coordinating the schedules of everyone in the group for an in-person meeting or conference call is no easy feat. It’s not always going to happen this week, or even this month.

It’s much faster for one functional unit to make decisions and move on. In Tribe’s national study on collaboration, many respondents cited this time drag as a reason why they often skip the step of getting input from other areas in the company.

But are the right decisions being made? There are no doubt insights the sales team can share about what customers are really looking for; that the programmers can clarify in regards to what the software can really do; or that one division of the company can offer regarding a key customer they share with another division.

This tension between collaboration and speed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It forces people to set priorities, to weigh the need for one over the other. In most corporate cultures, the pendulum will swing towards one over the other.

One principle for maintaining a balance between the two is to separate the two functions of collaborating and making decisions. When people come together to collaborate, it should be for the purpose of providing their unique expertise, input and feedback. The collaborative meeting is not the place to make decisions. Trying to reach consensus on a decision is not only difficult, it’s unlikely to result in the best decision.

Give everybody a voice, but not a vote. The happy medium – or the Middle Way, as the Buddhists would say – is to invite many different perspectives but not give away the power to make the final determination. The responsibility for decision-making should remain with those who own the project or initiative under discussion.

Interested in balancing collaboration and speed in your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

An old story for the new year

For this blog, I want to tell one of my favorite old North Carolina stories. Now that Christmas is over and the endless possibilities of the new year stretch before us, this story is a good reminder that you never know what the future could bring.

The story goes like this. There was this old fella  There was this old fella who said to a farmer friend of his, “Give me $100 right now and I’ll pay you back $200, if I can’t teach your mule to speak Spanish by Christmas.

The farmer took the bet and gave the guy a hundred bucks. When the farmer was out of earshot, the old fella’s friend said, “You don’t have a lick of sense. Come Christmas, you’re gonna have to pay that farmer $200.”

The old fella said, “Aw, I ain’t worried about it. A lot of things can happen between here and Christmas.” Like what, the friend wanted to know.

“Well now, that old mule could die. Or he could start speaking Spanish.”

Interested in new possibilities for your company’s internal communications? Tribe can 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.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Improve Your Hiring Practices Now to Make Recruitment Easier Later

If your company is like most in Tribe’s research study on hiring practices, you’ve gotten a little sloppy. The job market has meant employers didn’t have to do much to court candidates; they were flooded with so many resumes they didn’t have time to respond to them all.

Ah ha, and there’s our first problem. Candidates in our survey reported that their submitted resumes seemed to go into a black hole. They would apply online, as instructed, and never hear a word, yea or nay or even a “Hey, thanks for your resume.”

Companies assumed they could afford to do that, when they had their pick of a multitude of candidates. They also slipped into disrespectful or even rude behavior later in the interview process. Our respondents reported making it through a series of hoops to be told they were one of the top two or three final candidates under consideration.

They held their breath, crossed their fingers. And heard nothing. When they called or emailed, they got no response.

Possibly employers are not responding because they don’t want to give candidates bad news. But over and over we heard job seekers say it would be a relief to hear something, even if that something were the news that they weren’t selected. They said that knowing they weren’t going to get that particular job helped them move on and put their energy into other possibilities.

Respondents also reported discourteous treatment when they visited companies for interviews. They were often left waiting in the lobby for lengthy periods, or told upon arrival that their host had something come up and the interview would have to be changed to another day. They were shuttled from office to office for a daylong series of interviews without ever being offered so much as a glass of water, not to mention lunch or a bathroom break.

Slowly but surely, the tables are now being turned in the job market. Increasing numbers of jobseekers will have a choice of more than one job, and those already holding jobs will hear about attractive openings at other companies.

Think about this. In the Tribe study, of those who had a negative experience in the hiring process with any particular company, 78 percent of respondents said they would be “likely to discourage others from applying to that company in the future.” Not so surprising.

But this one is unexpected. Over 87 percent of respondents said that in situations where they were not hired, but had a positive experience such as very personal or courteous treatment, they would be “likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.” And it doesn’t take much to be more courteous than the vast majority of companies.

Social media has amplified the power of word of mouth in hiring. Just as your company is at the mercy of consumers discussing your service and products online, you will also have past and future employees complaining or raving about you as an employer. Most job candidates who find themselves in the final rounds of interviews will reach out to their online networks for opinions and warnings.

Forward-thinking companies will be addressing that future now, by taking a look at the candidate experience in their hiring process. If you’d like some suggestions for critical touch points, you might want to see Tribe’s executive summary of the hiring study.