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.

 

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.

 

Steve Baskin

Culture Is Not The Product

new product grunge retro blue isolated ribbon stamp

It’s good to keep in mind that culture is not the end goal. It’s the means to all sorts of desirable ends. But the culture is not the thing that your company is selling.

Remember when they came out with this thing called the World Wide Web? The Boomers and some Gen X-ers among us might remember the initial confusion in the business world about what the Internet really meant for business. Companies wasted millions as they chased ideas that didn’t make sense for them. Of course, over the past few decades, the Internet has changed the way we do just about everything in business.

But for 99.9 percent of businesses, the Internet is not the product. It’s simply a channel that makes conducting business more efficient. The Internet is an enabler.

Dealing with culture has some parallels. Culture, like the Internet, is a tool that we can use to make businesses operate more efficiently.

A culture that’s aligned with the vision is the best kind of enabler. It allows the ideas to flow through the organization more freely. It allows the products to get through the production process quicker and more efficiently. It allows the kind of communications that are necessary to insure that the products we’re making or the services we deliver align with our customer and client needs.

When a culture is toxic, unstable or unpleasant, it’s very difficult for company to work efficiently. We may have dreams of Google Fiber, but when the organizational culture is broken, things can move about as fast as dial-up speeds of the 1990s. But even in companies with happy and engaged employees, culture can be used as an excuse for not evolving to more effective tools or policies.

The culture determines whether the brand promise is fulfilled. When an organization goes about building its brand, it’s making a promise about what potential consumers should expect when they purchase the product or service. Inside the company, the employees are responsible for making sure that the promise is delivered. A strong and aligned culture helps make that happen.

Interested in communications that help align your culture? 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

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.

Steve Baskin

Amplify your company vision through cultural communications

Communicating your organization’s long-term vision is a critical element to building and maintaining a strong culture. Said another way, building understanding and consensus among your employees about where the company is headed and why that direction is the right way to be heading will help your employees in any number of ways. It can build employee confidence; instruct them on how they should approach their job; and help them manage more effectively, among other things.

Having your employees aligned with your executive leaders means that everyone is moving in the same direction. This is how top companies meet and exceed their goals and benchmarks along the way to achieving that stated vision.

To get there, the leadership of the organization has to be crystal clear on a couple of items: 1) Defining a clear vision. 2) Understanding the kind of culture are you trying to cultivate.

In a recent Tribe survey, we learned that 68 percent of our respondents said they want to learn about the vision of the organization directly from corporate. Here are some of the comments:

  • “How can I do my job well if I don’t know the goals of my organization?”
  • “Knowing executive management’s vision for the company is important because it helps me understand the company’s long-term and short-term goals and helps me identify my personal goals.”
  • “Not knowing the vision will lead to working groups focusing on the wrong things.”
  • “Comforting and encouraging to know that we have a vision.”
  • “Understanding the corporate vision helps employees understand where they fit in the organization and how their actions contribute to the success of the company.”

Of course, communicating the vision isn’t just about scheduling a company meeting and having the CEO read from a power point presentation. Company meetings and open forums should be a part of the conversation. But if that’s all you do, it’s likely to come off as more corporate blah, blah, blah. In order to drive understanding, communicating the vision should be part of a longer-term communications plan. Here are some ideas:

  • Develop a culture book – a document that clearly and elegantly defines the company’s vision and leadership’s expectations of all employees. Best if the book is of a quality that would motivate employees to hang onto it and refer to it from time to time.

 

  • Put on an event or throw a party. Draw a line in the sand with an event that draws attention to the vision and culture.

 

  • Find examples throughout the organization that positively of achievements that support the vision. A number of Tribe clients have in-house culture magazines. Each article in these issues represent and opportunity to illustrate and area of the vision that supports the culture.

 

  • Leadership blogs are a great way to regularly reinforce the vision and culture while communicating progress or changes in the organization.

 

The key to this conversation is that there are numerous ways that we can communicate the corporate vision while supporting and building a cohesive culture of the organization. We just have to take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves.

Questions about amplifying your company’s vision? Tribe can help.

Effective Communication Tips for Leaders

Great leaders tend to all have one thing in common – strong communications skills. This isn’t news, nor should it surprise anyone. Regardless of whether it is in a corporation, military, political or sports arena, successful leaders are best-in-class communicators and are able to connect with their audiences. How do you sell products and services? How do you share the vision and strategic plan? How do you motivate and inspire teams? All use communication.

Communication is not a one-way street. The biggest ah-ha moment for most leaders is when they recognize that communication is a two-way process. You need to be able to send clear messages using different channels that resonate with your audiences, but you also need to ensure you are being understood and are answering their questions and concerns.

Improving your communication skills is not rocket science. There are a few basic steps that will help your develop your own two-way communication process:

  • Determine the goal and outline the specific objectives for the communication
  • Anticipate how you want the reader to feel and what action you want them to take after reading it
  • Outline your key messages and ensure they help you meet your goals and objectives
  • Understand your culture and determine the right tone for the piece
  • Provide a forum for the reader to comment or ask questions
  • Select the appropriate channel(s) to reach your target demographics
  • Send the communication and keep an open mind on comments and feedback

Even if you are a natural communicator you still may need outside help.  Within your corporation, your internal communications department can help provide tips and may even have capacity to develop your communications.  Your PR team may also be a good resource.  If both of those departments are at capacity, there is a benefit of using an outside internal communications agency.  Not only will they have capacity but will have the expertise and knowledge of the latest technology to be a huge asset to you.

Do the few basic steps of communication leave your head spinning? Please feel free to contact Tribe, we would love to help explain.

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

In Mountain Biking and Business: Look Out, Not Down

It’s tempting to look at what’s right in front of you. But when you’re moving fast, whether it’s in your work or on a mountain bike, the pros are looking way out in front.

This is the most important thing I learned from a recent mountain biking class. At an off-site meeting at Miraval in Arizona, I signed up for mountain biking one afternoon. Nobody else signed up, so I had two amazing guides from the Adventure Department, Josh and Michelle, all to myself.

One of the first things they did was take me out to the desert to ride through this obstacle course of rocks. Josh kept telling me to look out and not down, but of course I didn’t listen because I was too worried about banging into the rock I was about to hit that was right in front of my tire.

Finally he convinced me that my brain had already processed the terrain right in front of me. By looking a little further out, I’d give myself a chance to get ready for what was coming next. Turns out that works.

I’ve been applying that same principle to business since I’ve been back  in the office. Instead of thinking only of what needs to happen today and this week, I’ve been looking ahead to next week or the month to come.

So far, I think I’ve hit fewer rocks than usual.