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How Public Safety Agencies Can Use Social Media to Engage Their Employees

The Los Angeles Fire Department is a pioneer among public safety agencies and emergency responders in the usage of social media. The Department’s initial social media efforts began in 2005 and have since garnered recognition nationwide. LAFD’s presence is spread across multiple social media channels including Twitter, Facebook (look up the group “Los Angeles FD), YouTube,Blogspot and BlogTalkRadio. We owe a debt of gratitude to our Department’s Public Safety Officers (PSOs) for their foresightedness and continued attention to the evolution of social media tools. They regularly connect with the communities we serve and do so not only by providing a steady stream of important information, but also by engaging in two-way conversations on-line, posing and answering questions, offering encouragement and solace, and recognizing the heroic efforts of everyday people.

In 2008, I established the Department’s Workforce Excellence Unit which employs techniques to foster increased employee engagement. Among our tools to reach employees are various internal social media platforms.

I will be sharing some of what I’ve learned at The Social Media In Law Enforcement Conference (SMILECON). My workshop “Social Media for Internal Relations” will be delivered at the LAwS Academy on April 7th, the opening day of the conference. I plan to focus on how public safety agencies can:

1) Effectively communicate with employees through social media channels; and

2) Prepare employees to embrace the roles of supporting the Department’s social media strategy and representing the Department positively through their usage of social media.

Discussions of effective social media usage focus mostly on the private sector and relationships with potential and existing customers. Return on Investment (ROI) measurement indicators include brand recognition, customer loyalty, purchases, and revenue generated. Public safety agencies well-versed in social media welcomed Mashable.com’s recent post “6 Ways Law Enforcement Uses Social Media to Fight Crime” which featured examples of successful public safety outreach efforts. In this arena, ROI could be measured through increased levels of trust and awareness, tips provided, crimes solved, and arrests made.

What, then, would be some appropriate ROI indicators for social media strategies directed at employees? In general terms, they could be tied to the following areas:

  • Employee identification with and embodiment of the agency’s guiding principles (e.g. mission, vision, core values, service statements)
  • Employee awareness of new policies and initiatives
  • Communication from the workforce of suggestions for increased effectiveness, enhanced productivity, and cost savings
  • Reputation of the agency as characterized by current employees

By reviewing just these four areas, it becomes clear what some components of an internal social media strategy might be:

  • Clear communication of an agency’s guiding principles and expectations of associated behaviors and outcomes
  • Regular and frequent updates on initiatives and policies that affect the workforce
  • Opportunities for employees to provide input/feedback and to receive timely responses
  • Climate surveys to gauge employee satisfaction, morale, and trust levels

Although internal relations may not garner the attention that external relations do, they merit more care than we may be accustomed to giving them. Employees of public safety agencies truly are our industry’s greatest asset because their trust and respect for one another, their higher-ups, and the public they serve are the keys to exceptional service.

I would enjoy hearing your feedback as well as any successful policies you’ve implemented at your department or agency.

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