Brittany Walker

4 Reasons Not to Give Up on Communicating to Frontline Employees

Many companies with great internal communications have trouble reaching their non-desk employees. Why? Because communicating to employees who aren’t behind a desk all day can be hard. Whether it’s your sales force, retail team, physicians, manufacturing line or delivery drivers, frontline employees are often those who need to hear from corporate the most. Here are four reasons why sticking with a non-desk communications strategy could benefit your business.

1. You can’t expect employees to be aligned with the vision if they don’t know what it is. It’s no secret that many companies overlook communicating with non-desk employees. But it could be a big miss not to engage your frontline employees in the vision of the company to make them feel part of something bigger. In fact, Tribe’s national study on non-desk workers underlines the importance of communicating the company’s vision and values to this employee population.

2. Consistent corporate communication builds engagement. Many companies leave most – if not all – internal communications with frontline employees to their supervisors. While cascading communications can successfully deliver messages when executed correctly, our research indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top leadership interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

3. Frontline employees can have a tremendous impact on the customer experience. Whether the customer is an individual consumer or a business, they’re probably interacting with those non-desk workers. It is up to these employees to deliver on your brand promise.

4. Visibility from corporate is often something they crave. Just because many companies aren’t talking to non-desk workers doesn’t mean they don’t want communication from top management regarding the internal brand. Trust us, employees who work the overnight shift often appreciate these communications more than anyone else. We know because they’ve told us.

Need help with your non-desk communications strategy? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Using Video to Humanize the Leadership Team: Five Tips to Make It Easy

Video can be a great medium for helping employees feel a human connection with company leadership. We’re not talking about an-hour long presentation on finances. Try 60 to 90 second videos on topics that have some relevance to the culture of the company, like one of the values, or a new sustainability effort. Or maybe try a video that includes all the members of the leadership team answering the same few questions, from the business-related, like: “What’s the coolest project you’re working on right now?” to the personal: “Out of all our products, what’s your favorite?” or even “What was your first job ever?”

To get the most bang for the buck, it’s helpful to plan a series of videos and shoot them together. That might mean shooting six videos that are each a conversation with one member of the leadership team about how their function supports the vision of the company. The CFO will obviously have different answers from the CMO. Or it could mean creating a dozen videos that each include responses from several different members of the management team. Using the examples above, one video could have each one answering the coolest project question. Then the next video might be the one where they each talk about their favorite product. The other 10 videos could cover anything from how they see the values playing out in their everyday work to how each of their functions helps the company be more customer-centric.

Here are a handful of tips to make leadership videos simple and affordable:

1. Prepare carefully. If you plan to produce 10 videos, you might want to develop ideas for 12 or 14, in case one or two don’t pan out. For each video you plan to produce, have the questions prepared ahead of time. Sometimes it helps to give the people you’ll be shooting the questions beforehand so they can begin formulating answers. Think through the edit and create your shot list. Know how you plan to cut the footage together so you make sure to cover everything you’ll need to shoot.

2. Position the interviewer off camera. Rather than a talk-show setup with an on-camera interviewer, keep it simple. Keep the interviewer off camera, and cut that person’s questions out later. The interviewer is there just to prompt the interviewees to cover the desired topics.

3. Use a green screen. Especially if you’ll be shooting leadership in different locations, this allows you to keep the lighting similar and slip in any background you want. Just position the green screen far enough behind the interviewee that the green won’t reflect on their skin.

4. Have a second camera. This can be a locked-down camera on a tripod without a camera operator. The purpose of this footage is to provide cutaway shots, particularly when you’re planning to use just one person in each video.

5. Be efficient with your executives’ time. Even if you’re shooting a dozen videos with six or eight different members of the leadership team, try to get the footage you need in under 30 minutes for each of them. In most cases, it should take less than that.

Interested in producing a series of leadership videos? Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

Communicating your vision to employees

True success as a company comes when you can align your employees with your vision. When employees feel connected to the direction of your company, they become ambassadors. They better understand their role in the structure of the company, and the merits of large company shifts. 

Employees need a common goal. When everyone is engaged and working in the same direction, the company works smarter and better. Your vision is that goal, that direction, and it’s up to you to communicate it to employees and continue those communications as the company that evolves.

Here are four ways that Tribe recommends sharing your vision with your company:

1) A vision book to put a stake in the ground. Tribe has created vision books as large as a paperback novel and as small as a passport. The goal of such a publication is to clearly articulate the vision, often along with the values that support that vision. We recommend vision books at the launch of a major cultural transformation or immediately following a large-scale change, such as a major acquisition or a new CEO.

2) Leadership communications to make it relevant. Before employees can walk the walk, they need to hear their top management talk the talk. In town halls and presentations, in blogs and intranet articles, the vision can anchor executive announcements of change, progress, challenges and successes. When those in the C-suite can tie difficult decisions back to the vision, it helps increase employee confidence in the company and trust in its management.

3) Manager communications to relate the vision to day-to-day work. Although leadership communication is important to set the bar for the vision, employees will look to their direct managers to understand how the vision impacts their individual jobs. Sometimes managers need help in knowing how to communicate that. Tools like discussion guides, talking points and other communication materials can make it easier for them to work vision into the conversation.

4) A culture magazine to share progress toward that vision. If the vision book puts the stake in the ground, a digital or print culture magazine sustains the relevance of the vision. Keep vision top of mind with articles on teams that have achieved important milestones or individuals that have contributed in some significant way to the company’s ability to realize that vision. Employees appreciate reading about the roles coworkers are playing in achieving the vision, whether those coworkers are in positions like to their own, or in completely different functional silos

Brittany Walker

4 tips for keeping employees engaged in your intranet

Launching a new or updated intranet is a great start for improving internal communications. It is however just that, a start. The real challenges usually come in the following weeks, months, even years. A well thought out sustaining plan can be the key to keeping engagement high. Here are four tips to keep employees coming back to your intranet.

  1. Keep content fresh. When used properly, a successful intranet goes beyond the function of a virtual filing cabinet. Fresh, relevant content updated daily or weekly will keep employees coming back. To make every-day content creation more manageable, Tribe recommends establishing a content manager program. By empowering content managers across geography and work functions, you can build an army of ambassadors who keep news refreshed on an ongoing basis.
  1. Create a welcoming collaboration space. Breaking down silos through collaboration is a common goal, but often difficult to achieve. Providing employees with a collaboration platform in an environment where they already regularly visit is a big step towards making it easier. When choosing a collaboration tool for your organization it’s important to include employees in the discussion to really determine what tool will work best for your culture.
  1. Offer two-way communication. Leadership visibility is a frequent request of employees from all types of organizations. Providing an area on your intranet where employees can ask questions, give feedback or voice concerns to leadership is a great way to give them the outlet they need. Completing the loop of two-way communication is essential to employees feeling that their input is respected by their top executives.
  1. Provide a positive user experience. One of the easiest ways to lose engagement in your intranet is to make it difficult to use properly. If employees aren’t getting what they need in an intuitive and productive way, it’s harder to keep them coming back. When possible, Tribe recommends asking employees what attributes they would like in an intranet. Following launch, it’s also important to keep tabs on the functionality for the best possible experience.

At Tribe we like to think of the launch of an intranet as the starting line, not the finish line. Need help increasing engagement in your intranet? Tribe would love to help.

 

Steve Baskin

Leadership may know all the words, but don’t assume employees know the song

Leadership is listening all day long to a radio station employees don’t get. Those top layers of company management hear the same songs over and over. They know all the words by heart.

Most often, that station isn’t even on the dial for employees. They’re not in those meetings with C-level and the one or two layers below. They don’t see the same PowerPoints their boss’s boss’s boss sees. They’re not rubbing elbows with other SVPs or bumping into the CEO in the hallway. And the email that gets pushed to all employees describing the company’s new vision and values will rarely capture the nuance behind the new direction.

Tribe’s national research on functional silos indicates that executive management is often detached from employees. Although we generally think of silos as vertical divisions, in many companies the leadership level exists in its own horizontal silo.

This divide can make it difficult for leadership to know what employees don’t know. The vision of the company is clear to leadership because it’s a focus of their work. The business reasons for major disruptive changes in the company are apparent because they’re dealing with those business objectives every day. Employees are often left out of this communication loop.

Vision and change, however, are the two topics employees want to hear directly from the top. In other Tribe research, employees shared that when there’s a major change afoot, they prefer to hear it first from executive leadership. For questions and more details, they’re comfortable following up with their direct managers but that’s not where they want to get the breaking news. And when the discussion turns to where the company is headed, employees want their top management to fill them in on that vision.

Ironically, being isolated from the rest of the company makes it difficult for leadership to recognize their isolation. When we do employee interviews during the discovery phase of our work with clients, it often comes as a surprise to leadership that their employees feel so out of the loop on the vision and the reasons behind change.

That recognition is often the first step to aligning employees with leadership’s plan for the company’s future. When channels are developed to communicate directly from those at the top to the rest of the company; when employees feel in the loop on leadership’s plans; and when they see how their individual roles support leadership’s vision, it can create powerful alignment that streamlines success of the company.

The goal is to teach everybody the words to the songs leadership hums all day long. If you’re not sure where to start, Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Three ways to get the most out of your employee survey

Employee surveys can become a source of invaluable information for your company. Obtaining honest employee feedback is an essential step to improving engagement and productivity. However, a lot of the legwork is necessary after the survey is complete. Tribe has developed a list of our top three tips to always keep in mind.

1. Slice and dice your findings. Asking demographical questions at the beginning of your survey like age, gender, tenure, work function, etc., will allow you to take your analysis to the next level. Knowing that 20 percent of your employees are unhappy with their work-life balance is good to know, but being able to pin point a specific department or office location where the problem is occurring could help solve the issue even faster.

2. Keep your word on the survey’s anonymity. If the survey was advertised to employees as anonymous, it’s important that it is treated that way. Employees are much more likely to respond candidly and honestly if they know you won’t be able to trace their answers back to them. Working with a third-party vendor like Tribe can also contribute to employees feeling more secure in their responses.

3. Deliver on your promise. One of the worst things you can do after delivering a survey is not following up. Communicating that your survey will affect change will empower your employees and managers to speak openly about their challenges and suggestions. Think of the reasons you are administering the survey and be prepared to take action on what you uncover. If nothing else, you can share the survey results with your employees.

Tribe specializes in crafting, executing and analyzing employee surveys. If you need help with your next survey, Tribe would love to help.

Rise Up Falcons Fans

If you are a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BLOG!! Why? Because I’m going to explain to you how the 2013 edition is going to do something this franchise has never done before — win the big one (that would be the Super Bowl for any non-football fans who may have been living under a rock for a lifetime).

As Samuel L. Jackson so eloquently puts it, “This is our time Atlanta.” Yes Sammy, it truly is our time. And here are three reasons why.

Who’s going to stop our offense?

In a word: nobody. As stacked as our offense has been these past few years, this year’s version might be the best yet. With the amount of weapons Matt Ryan (fresh off his ridiculous contract extension) has at his disposal, it’s going to be a case of “pick your poison” for opposing defenses. From Gonzalez to Roddy to Julio and now the new guy, Steven Jackson, the level of talent at our skill positions might be best in the league.

Leadership

It took the misfortune of hiring a snake of a guy (Bobby Petrino) for the Falcons to land the right one in Mike Smith. If there was ever a coach to take us to the promise land, it’s him. He took a franchise that was in complete shambles following the Vick/Petrino fiascos and immediately brought it to the upper echelon of the league, where we have remained since. He demands perfection from his players and runs the team with a professionalism that’s second to none.

Destiny

As I said before, now is our time. Atlanta fans in general have been championship deprived for far too long. Since the major professional sports teams arrived here in 1966, Atlanta teams have accounted for one measly championship in a combined 156 seasons. For die-hard fans such as yours truly, it’s just not fair. There’s a reason guys like Tony Gonzalez and Steven Jackson are here; all the pieces are in place to make a run this season.

Call me a homer (it wouldn’t be the first time) but I’ve never been more confident this is the year us long-deprived Falcons fans can finally rejoice. And if it happens, I can promise you that memory of past Atlanta sports failure and heartbreak will be temporarily forgotten in one oh-so-sweet moment — until next season when we look to do it all along.

Such is the life of a sports fan.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Promoting Leadership — From Top Management to Frontline Employees

Does your company encourage leadership at every level in the organization? In some ways, this seems an oxymoron. If everyone gets to be a chief, who will be the indians?

But leadership can be seen as a sense of responsibility for moving things forward. Leading, as opposed to following, may not have anything to do with one person bossing a group of people around.

One crucial aspect of leadership is this quality of taking the lead — not of people, necessarily, but in making things happen. Some companies think of this in terms of generating ideas, and they go so far as to call these people innovators or catalysts or even the big-company lingo for entrepreneurs: intrapreneurs.

A spirit of entrepreneurship is difficult to achieve in most large companies. Some corporations like to boast they have the structure and resources of a large company, yet are as nimble and innovative as a startup. Sounds good, but in reality, that’s tricky.

To promote this type of leadership, a company has to be able to give employees a large degree of autonomy. In many large company cultures, each level hesitates to make a move without the level above them — not only to tell them how to do it, but whether or not it’s okay to do it.

Perhaps a more attainable goal is to nourish a sense of leadership in one’s own work. To encourage employees to approach their own jobs as entrepreneurs. To figure something out and propose a solution, rather than waiting to be told what to do.

From the C-suite to the frontline, the people doing the work are best equipped to create new solutions. The drive-thru attendant might see a better way to organize condiments; the salespeople might discover a faster method of processing returns; the receptionist might suggest rearranging the furniture, after noticing that waiting visitors are seated where they look straight at the break room garbage.

How do you get employees at all levels to take the lead? It starts with the C-level folks demonstrating that they respect employees — especially the oft-ignored frontline people — and value their input. Then you open channels of two-way communication so employees can share their ideas with management. You demonstrate that direct managers — and those in the C-suite — are listening. And you showcase the results of this type of leadership.

That all starts with the right internal communications. Need help with that? Tribe’s ready when you are.

Why It’s Important for Leadership’s Vision to Cascade Through the Ranks

A lot of times the long-term growth plan or the vision of the company is decided behind closed doors in a meeting that consists solely of the leadership team. The trouble with this method is that more often than not, their excellent ideas to better the company are not communicated to the rest of the employees. Or if they are, they’re not communicated correctly.

It increases engagement and buy-in. For the most part, employers understand the strong reasons why communicating the vision of the company to managers and top-level employees is important, but they might not understand why it is important to communicate this message to employees at all levels.

Open communication between leadership and their employees fosters a sense of trust and pride in a company. When employees know what is going on and what the long-term plan for the company is, they feel confident in their leadership and confident there is a strategy for the economic growth of the company. In addition, when leadership communicates to employees about upcoming plans for the company, it creates an advance buy-in from employees. They feel that their approval of the plan matters.

It is relatively simple. It doesn’t have to be the CEO calling up each employee to tell them about the new vision for the company. It can be as simple as an email, newsletter article, blog or video broadcast in which leadership shares their foresight for the company. Consider a weekly blog directly from leadership that lives on your intranet or a standard feature in an internal publication. Much like the “fireside chat” from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and 40s, these methods will improve the direct line of communication with less chance for interpretation of the wrong message.

Better-informed employees make better business decisions. If employees are aware of key decisions and initiatives affecting the company, they will be better equipped at performing their jobs. Your employees face your customers, your partners and vendors every day. They are the face of your brand. You can have a brilliant vision for the company, but if your employees aren’t aware of it, they can be jeopardizing this vision.

Therefore it’s important to equip employees with the best tools and understanding so that they can act in the best interests of the company. The information they receive soon builds and provides a rich tapestry of context they can use when making decisions.

Directly communicate to all levels of employees. A lot of companies rely on the trickle-down effect. This works fine for disseminating most information, but consider using a more direct line when communicating the vision of the company. It is essential to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Any information that affects employees personally should be communicated directly so there is no room for interpretation or creative licensing when being passed down to each level. Remember the game, “Telephone?” The end message was never the same as the original message. Like it or not, we all have filters and our own personal understanding of the missive that alters the message we pass on to others.

Sometimes reaching employees at all levels is tricky, especially if all your employees aren’t at a desk. Consider pre-shift meetings, printed publications, digital signage (like closed-circuit networks) or video/audio podcasts where front-line employees can tune-in to hear from leadership.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Does Your Company Value the Leadership of Introverts?

Must great leaders be gregarious? Because whatever happens in this presidential election, we’ll have an introvert in the White House, notes Susan Cain* in a recent New York Times article.

Here’s another question: Does your company promote leadership primarily in extroverts? Without any conscious decision to do so, many many company cultures emphasize leadership development in those who fit the popular image of a leader. As Cain puts it, our culture tends to “prize leaders who are eager talkers over those who have something to say.”

Perhaps unintentionally, many company cultures emphasize leadership development in those who fit the popular image of a leader. By doing so, companies are depriving their management ranks of the many innate leadership qualities typical of introverts — like vision and sound judgement and stiff backbones.

We also might train managers to better understand the true differences in extroverts and introverts. One critic of President Obama, John Heilemann, said, “I know he doesn’t like people. He’s not an extrovert; he’s an introvert.”

As Cain points out, his understanding of the word introvert is incorrect. As she writes, “Introverts like people just as much as introverts do, and often care deeply about them. They just don’t want to be surrounded by crowds 24/7.”

Interestingly, many  of this country’s most successful companies happen to be led by introverts. Jim Collins found many chief executives in the best-performing companies he studied to be known “primarily by their fierce will and dedication — and were often described with words like ‘reserved’ and ‘understated.'”

Can your culture become the sort of place introverts are valued as leaders?  Of course. Not so long ago it seemed radical to emphasize and nurture the sometimes different leadership qualities of women.

Placing value on leadership qualities more typical of introverts can start any number of places in the company culture. Some logical points to begin would be the company values and internal branding or your training and development programs. For help with any of the above, call Tribe.

*Cain is the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”