Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Engraining recognition into your corporate culture

Communicating appreciation in the workplace, both top-down and peer-to-peer, is critical to building engagement. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” can often hold the same value to an employee as a monetary reward. Creating a culture of appreciation will let your employees feel valued and know that their efforts are appreciated, but it is something that happens over time and involves all levels of employees.

It starts at the top. Regardless of the type of culture a company is trying to create, leadership sets the tone for the entire organization. Culture cascades through the organization just like tangible communications, so appreciative behavior is likely to be mimicked as employees observe their managers. From there, they set the example for the next level of employees and this trickledown effect permeates throughout all employee groups.

Change how employees view recognition. Many companies make the mistake of treating recognition programs as a box to check without considering the requirements of keeping the program fresh, effective and sustainable. Launching a recognition initiative should be strategic in order to ensure that associates aren’t jaded by “just another program” that falls by the wayside. You might tie recognition to the company values or other objectives that you want to reinforce over the long haul.

Consider using perks to encourage recognition. Intranets and microsites are great solutions to track who is being recognized and why. We at Tribe promote gamification of your recognition program, such as points-based systems that can translate into giveaways or drawings. Engagement for programs like these are often higher – as it’s hard to beat free stuff.

Publicize recognition to the whole company. Part of fostering recognition within your corporate culture is to communicate it to everyone. Take specific examples and print them on posters, post them on digital signage or include them in your newsletter. Employees value seeing their peers recognized on a broad scale and will use the indirect appreciation as motivation to be the next one. Make sure to spotlight all levels of employees – down to the part-time, hourly workers. In doing so, you’re promoting equality and inclusion, key aspects of an appreciative culture.

Interested in showing your employees how much they mean to your company? Tribe can help.

 

Stephen Burns

Asking the age-old question: Should your company values stay the same?

In a perfect world, your company would start from day one with a firmly-rooted set of values. These values would be strong enough to sustain you through the first few stages of your business, and adaptable enough to apply as your company expanded and changed. After all, consistency is key in values and culture. Right?

But that’s a tall order. It’s hard enough to predict business from year to year. Foreseeing how your company will evolve five, ten years in the future is nearly impossible. Businesses, even entire industries, can alter in their trajectory in unpredictable ways. Your values need consistency, but they shouldn’t be written in stone.

Not all big changes in the company warrant a shift in values. There are a few times, though, when you may need to reexamine your company values and tailor them along the way. Here are a few questions Tribe recommends asking yourself if you’re considering a change in values:

Is there a new company vision?

Many companies reinvented themselves during the recession. Market conditions forced some reevaluation and that closer look often revealed new opportunities to redefine the business model — and a new vision for the future.

Do the employees understand the new vision and the role they play in reaching it? Do they know how they’re expected to change their behavior to meet this new vision? Values will be an important part of that equation. A new company vision may require slightly different values from the ones that were appropriate for the old way of doing business.

Has there been a change in leadership?

A new CEO will also generally mean a new vision for the company. A change in top leadership is a prime time to take a close look at the values and how they align with management’s vision for the future.

Has there been a merger or acquisition?

Since values are at the core of the company culture, merging two cultures will usually require some revamping of values. Occasionally, the acquiring company’s values will prevail, but it’s sometimes easier to create a cohesive culture if both companies are becoming part of something new. Evolving your values is a process that begins with defining and articulating what those values are and then moves to actually launching those values company-wide. But the job’s not done once the values are launched. In fact, it’s never done. For values to truly become guidelines for how business is done at your company, they have to be made relevant and meaningful to employees at all levels. Employees will need to see examples of their management putting the values into action. And those values must be communicated with sustaining efforts over a long period of time.

You’ll know you’ve succeeded when you see employees using the company values as the basis for the decisions they make in their work, day after day.

Want more insight? Whether you’re trying to call more attention to your current values or rewriting them completely, give Tribe a call. We would love to help your company communicate.

Steve Baskin

Connecting front-line employees to the company vision

McDonald’s invests over $1 billion annually in advertising, but the business all comes down to the hourly worker at the register or the drive-through window. Early in my ad agency career, I worked on the McDonald’s Restaurants business. At the time, I didn’t realize the significance of what I was learning regarding internal communications issues, but this is the mantra that we repeated quite often.

It’s the major concern for many retail organizations whose point of contact with their customers happens in face-to-face meetings in a restaurant, at a drive-through window or on a sales floor. Whether its McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, Target, BestBuy, Wells Fargo or the regional health care system, success depends on a knowledgeable and engaged frontline employee base.

Let’s face it, the revenue at these companies literally passes through the hands of hourly workers. These folks typically account for the majority of employees in the company. They’re also the most difficult to reach with internal communications. They’re the least likely to have a company email address or have regular access to the company intranet. They’re typically reluctant to allow the company to send work communications to their personal smart phones. And there is high rate of turnover on the front lines.

Most major retail organizations offer extensive training programs that tell employees what to do operationally. The programs help employees understand the proper way to execute their tasks and hopefully to help them grow into positions of greater responsibility. Most have communications systems that alert store employees when a new promotion will be advertised.

Less ubiquitous are programs that help employees understand why their individual roles are important – even critical – to the success of the organization. At Tribe, we’ve found that this knowledge is a key ingredient in employee engagement, and engagement is the key to individual success within an organization.

In a retail environment, there are many competing priorities when it comes to communicating with frontline employees. It’s a challenge to add another layer to the mix, but this is quite important. Here are some thoughts:

  • Make connecting the vision to frontline employee roles a corporate priority. We don’t just mean posting the corporate vision statement on the intranet. We’re talking about an ongoing communications campaign that peels back the layers that make up the company’s vision and values. With thought and planning, this conversation can be integrated into tactical communications and doesn’t necessarily require additional layers.
  • Provide tools for frontline managers that help start and maintain the conversation with their employees. These might include talking points for pre-shift meetings, presentation templates or a range of situational examples that help managers apply the values to the everyday work environment.
  • Recognize the employees that do it best. Strategic recognition programs offer several benefits for the organization: 1) Highlights best practices that already exist. 2) Provides real-world examples of the vision. 3) As employees learn about peers from other parts of the organization, the vision is reinforced. 4) Allows for a spark of competition since frontline managers will benefit from the halo of recognition as their employees are highlighted.
  • Understand the reality of communicating to frontline employees. As we mentioned, frontline employees can be almost as difficult to reach as customers. Posting on the intranet or posting a flyer in the break room just won’t cut it. As with consumer advertising, we have to approach this kind of communication with a campaign mentality. Ask your employees how they prefer to receive communications and offer interesting options. You’ll likely be surprised by their receptivity when you ask opinions and provide choices.

Do you have questions about communicating with non-desk employees? Give Tribe a call. Perhaps we can help.

Steve Baskin

Just how aspirational should a company mission/vision statement be?

At Tribe, we often say that the primary goal of internal communications is to help align the actions of employees with the company’s mission and vision. If the mission defines the ultimate goal of an organization, the vision provides a roadmap for getting there – how they will cross the gap of where they are versus where they want to be.

But how aspirational should that mission/vision be?

The destination should be worthwhile. When they come to work in the mornings, employees should be able to imagine that they’re part of a journey that deserves their attention. Let’s think about vacation spots as a mission: A weekend at the nearby lake might be relaxing, but perhaps it doesn’t excite the imagination with long-term potential. If you like to travel, several weeks in Hawaii or on an African Safari might be a worthwhile long-term vacation goal. A trip to the moon or Mars – while far-reaching and potentially very exciting – isn’t currently all that realistic.

The mission statement should describe a goal that’s worth striving for. It should describe something that’s worth the long-term effort, but still believable. It won’t work if employees find it beyond the realm of possibility. As an aside, I just read the mission statement for Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX. It’s pretty much about traveling to Mars. I assume that the sort of folks he employs actually see that as a real possibility.

The point is that when Tribe is working with companies to align employee actions with organizational goals, we first have to ensure that the primary message – the mission/vision – can be appropriately woven into employee communications. The goal of these internal communications is to try to get employees excited about and proud of coming to the office every day. These communications should instruct employees about how their specific roles contribute to the mission and (particularly) the vision.

Honing in on the correct aspirational range requires quite a fair amount of homework. It’s not an easy task.

  • It requires deep internal awareness of what the organization produces. Obviously, the mission and vision must closely relate to what you produce or who you serve.

 

  • It requires knowledge of how the organization goes about achieving its goals. What is the company all about? Global reach? Market share? Quality? Creativity? Comfort? Dominance? Community? Philanthropy?

 

  • It requires an understanding of the trends that affect your market. Is your industry undergoing dramatic change? Is it on the decline? Is it about to explode?

 

  • It requires knowledge of how the company stacks up against competition. Are you a market leader? Is it realistic that you could become one?

 

  • It requires a realistic timeframe. There’s a reason why strategic plans tend to look three to five years out. If the timeframe is much longer, employees may wonder if they’re going to be around to see the result. If the timeframe is shorter, the company will constantly be reloading with new plans.

 

  • Finally, it requires knowledge of how individual roles within the company contribute to the realization of the vision. Employee engagement begins with a role that matches the employee’s personality and skillset and that challenges that person to grow and improve over time.

 

Companies work best when employees are engaged in their work. Employees are engaged in their work when they believe in what the company is trying to achieve and that their daily actions contributes to the company’s goals.

 

How aspirational is your company’s mission/vision? Do you know? TRIBE can help.

Why the Evergreen Trees Never Lose Their Leaves

Winter was coming, and the birds had flown far to the south, where the air was warm and they could find berries to eat. One little bird had broken its wing and could not fly with the others. It was alone in the cold world of frost and snow. The forest looked warm, and it made its way to the trees as well as it could, to ask for help.

First it came to a birch tree. “Beautiful birch tree,” it said, “my wing is broken, and my friends have flown away. May I live among your branches till they come back to me?”

“No, indeed,” answered the birch tree, drawing her fair green leaves away. “We of the great forest have our own birds to help. I can do nothing for you.”

“The birch is not very strong,” said the little bird to itself, “and it might be that she could not hold me easily. I will ask the oak.” So the bird said: “Great oak tree, you are so strong, will you not let me live on your boughs till my friends come back in the springtime?”

“In the springtime!” cried the oak. “That is a long way off. How do I know what you might do in all that time? Birds are always looking for something to eat, and you might even eat up some of my acorns.”

“It may be that the willow will be kind to me,” thought the bird, and it said: “Gentle willow, my wing is broken, and I could not fly to the south with the other birds. May I live on your branches till the springtime?”

The willow did not look gentle then, for she drew herself up proudly and said: “Indeed, I do not know you, and we willows never talk to people whom we do not know. Very likely there are trees somewhere that will take in strange birds. Leave me at once.”

The poor little bird did not know what to do. Its wing was not yet strong, but it began to fly away as well as it could. Before it had gone far a voice was heard. “Little bird,” it said, “where are you going?”

“Indeed, I do not know,” answered the bird sadly. “I am very cold.”

“Come right here, then,” said the friendly spruce tree, for it was her voice that had called.

“You shall live on my warmest branch all winter if you choose.”

“Will you really let me?” asked the little bird eagerly.

“Indeed, I will,” answered the kind-hearted spruce tree. “If your friends have flown away, it is time for the trees to help you. Here is the branch where my leaves are thickest and softest.”

“My branches are not very thick,” said the friendly pine tree, “but I am big and strong, and I can keep the North Wind from you and the spruce.”

“I can help, too,” said a little juniper tree. “I can give you berries all winter long, and every bird knows that juniper berries are good.”

So the spruce gave the lonely little bird a home; the pine kept the cold North Wind away from it; and the juniper gave it berries to eat. The other trees looked on and talked together wisely.

“I would not have strange birds on my boughs,” said the birch.

“I shall not give my acorns away for any one,” said the oak.

“I never have anything to do with strangers,” said the willow, and the three trees drew their leaves closely about them.

In the morning all those shining, green leaves lay on the ground, for a cold North Wind had come in the night, and every leaf that it touched fell from the tree.

“May I touch every leaf in the forest?” asked the wind in its frolic.

“No,” said the Frost King. “The trees that have been kind to the little bird with the broken wing may keep their leaves.”

This is why the leaves of the spruce, the pine, and the juniper are always green.

How to Know if Your Workplace Culture is Thriving

Many companies dedicate a significant amount of energy and financial resources to trying to build a stronger corporate culture. They develop goals and plans and have success implementing them, but are left wondering how much of what they do transcends into loyalty from their workforce. Here are some easy ways to tell if your efforts are paying off with your employees.

  1.  How does the communication flow? If your work processes are running smooth and teamwork is operating at an all time high, it shows people are communicating at an elevated rate. Resources such as quarterly magazines, internal portals and other communication channels create positive connections between employees that allow everyone to work and move forward on the same page.
  2. Have you brought your company values to life? Most organizations have an established set of values. Sometimes they only exist on their website, but when companies dedicate themselves to bringing them to life in the hearts and minds of their employees, they can act as guiding principles. They can provide employees with the road map for how their organization operates and how they treat their workforce. This provides a level of transparency that allows employees to fully embrace their employer and makes them more secure in their roles.
  3. What are they saying? If you’re looking for a more scientific approach that provides real numbers on the thoughts and feelings of your workforce, develop a companywide survey. People appreciate being asked for their opinion and it will provide you with solid results that let you know where you have succeeded and where you should re-dedicate some of your efforts.
  4. See any smiling faces? A company culture that thrives is full of people that enjoy coming to work. Of course we all appreciate a good vacation and a weekend to decompress, but when a company builds an environment where people don’t dread going to the office each day, it creates more productive employees.

Tribe specializes in building corporate cultures that boost employee morale, help increase production and improve workplace communications. Using multiple means and avenues, Tribe provides the solutions that connect people with their companies.

Unwinding for the Year

Well, it’s that time of year again. Holiday season is upon us and the most wonderful time of the year as it is known typically signals the end of another very grueling (and hopefully) successful year. While many employees are busy planning holiday parties and trying to squeeze the last little bit out of their annual vacation days, it’s important to remember that there is still business to be done. By finishing strong, you can put an exclamation point at the end of an already positive year and be ahead of the game when the new year rolls around.

Plan accordingly. For many businesses, the holiday season equates to extra time off. On top of the normal time off for holidays, many employees use a significant amount of their vacation in December as well. While it is important to use this time to refresh and even out the work/life balance that so many of us have trouble maintaining, the added time off also means less time to finish what needs to be done. Resist the natural inclination to let your productivity level decline as a result. If you have time off approaching, plan accordingly and map out what assignments need to be completed and when. By establishing personal deadlines, you’ll have a better understanding of which days to focus on each respective project and be able to hold yourself accountable for staying on track.

Get answers. The end of the year can often be an ideal time to get answers and wrap-up some of the projects that seem to have been going on forever. Clients typically like to tie-up as many loose ends as possible at the end of the year to get a fresh start at the beginning of the next. Without putting too much pressure on them, bring up past projects that they have been non-committal on before and see if it’s worth revisiting in the first quarter of the next year. Companies will often have annual budgets with additional funds that may go unused if they don’t allocate them by the end of the year. This could be an opportunity to introduce a program in the coming year using a past budget. Good or bad, try to get an answer one way or another!

The most important thing to remember is that you’ve worked hard and earned a little R&R before the new year. Take care of business in the office so you can enjoy a stress-free and relaxing holiday season at home.

Communicating Values Through a Book

Business leaders have been writing biographies about how they got to the top for years, but not many have taken the time to write a book targeted to their employees to communicate company values. Here are three reasons why books are so effective at communicating values and how they can help your company foster an understanding of them with your employees.

1. Stories are interactive – They provide examples and imagery for the readers to visualize and understand the value in action. Instead of just telling them the value and giving the definition, you are showcasing an instance where this value comes into play. This also helps solidify the meaning. Instead of a different interpretation of the definition (which happens frequently) you are giving a firm example of what the value encapsulates. We recently wrote a book on behalf of a client in the hospitality industry and throughout the narrative we gave real examples of their values at work in the hotels. The end result was much more powerful and impactful for the readers since they were learning about their fellow team members’ experiences doing the same jobs they were doing.

2. Everyone has access to the values discussion – A book provides a great (and easy) opportunity to share knowledge and allows you to articulate the information without assistance. They have it in their hands to read.  At Tribe, we have spoken about the importance of spreading information within a company for all to hear, not just a few key members of leadership in a conference room. Communicating your values through a book is another great tool for this.

3. They are thought provoking – When using a book to communicate, you are asking the reader to think about what is written, not to react right away. The reader is able to process and internalize the meaning, going back to the written words for clarification if need be. Discussion points are also a great method to provoke any questions you would specifically like to be raised.

Again, our hospitality client used their recently printed book to raise group discussions based on the questions we included at the end of each chapter. The results were two-fold, they were sharing the knowledge and inviting feedback and discussion from their staff.

Values are an integral part to every business. They provide a base for every employee within the company to build on and use throughout their everyday work lives. Each decision they make on behalf of the company should be rooted in the company’s values, so it is important that each employee understands what they mean. By communicating them through a book, you provide an opportunity to connect with them on a personal level, which is more effective and impactful than an email in an inbox.

3 Ways to Bring Your Values to Life

Breath life into your company values by using these three methods that will take your values off the written page, and into the hearts and minds of your workforce.

1. A Companywide Event – An event that not only promotes, but also celebrates the values of a company will easily put these ideals front and center for your workers. An event like this reinvigorates what the values mean to the company and how they are a part of the way business is conducted. Tribe organized and produced an event like this full of fun activities and giveaways that helped reconnect employees with the values of their company. The result was a more engaged workforce with a clear understanding of the direction and goals of their organization.

2. A Book on Values – Writing a book that provides a detailed explanation of each of your values and gives examples of how they are put into practice paints a clear picture for employees. It can be written from a CEO perspective or more of a narrative format that interweaves real business life experiences with corporate messaging.

3. Signs and Swag – The concept of “out of sight, out of mind” really does exist when it comes to company values. If things are kicked off and then everything goes radio silent, the developed momentum and employee engagement will be lost. Placing signs around the office in hallways, lobbies and break rooms will keep your values in front of your workforce and remind them of the finer qualities of your company. Branded swag-type items like mini-posters and mugs that contain values messaging can be used as reinforcement pieces employees interact with each day.

Sustaining – Once your values are created, it becomes an unending process to bring your values to life for the people within your company. Having values that sit on your website and have little to do with the day-to-day activities of your general workforce are not only a waste of time, but also a wasted opportunity. Establishing and consistently acknowledging a core set of values for your company should be an essential part of your culture building strategy.

Built on Values by Ann Rhoades

At Tribe, we know that a successful, engaged culture is key to attracting and retaining star talent, which leads to attracting and retaining loyal customers.  We realize that in order to have a strong culture, everyone from the front line to the C-level suite needs to understand the company’s values and feel empowered and comfortable enough to act on them.

Built on Values provides a strategy for leaders to create a winning environment enabling their employees and company to thrive.  Ann Rhoades clearly illustrates that companies that can build or improve value-based cultures become higher performers financially and will improve customer and employee survey results.

Stephen R. Covey foreword supports Ann’s efforts in stating, “By aligning all of your processes- hiring, rewarding, leadership, metrics and communication- with values that are meaningful and profound for your people, you can reinforce the idea that your people matter and their actions matter.”  Ann shared a great framework for building and maintaining a winning culture.  Three highlights from the book include:

Takes a team.  Successful values and culture can’t be built in the corner office.  In order to create a culture that resonates and will be sustainable, employees from all levels need to be invited to join your Values Team.  Ann recommends a group no smaller than five employees and no larger than 30.  Also, using outside agency support as part of that team helps move the process along and provides objectivity.

Hire and depend on A-level talent.  No matter if you already have an outstanding culture or are working to build one, A-level talent is imperative to the process.  A-level talent should be invited to be on your Values Team. In addition, you should develop hiring criteria based on your values so that you only attract and hire A-level people.

Communicate Up, Down and Backwards. Companies can develop really great values but if you don’t communicate them to your employees and customers they won’t move the needle.  Utilize your Values Team and agency to develop a long-term comprehensive communications strategy to ensure your employees not only understand your values but also feel confident to act on them during their daily interactions with customers and other employees.  You can’t assume a great launch day will change your corporate culture – you need to have sustaining programs in place.

Enter for a chance to win a free copy of “Built on Values” by emailing [email protected]