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Your Employees are Your Customers, Too

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I’ve talked a lot in my posts about reaching out to customers, and so far I’ve focused on people outside the agency. But don’t forget a core set of customers that you interact with every day: Your agency’s employees. According to Gallup, in 2015 only 32% of U.S. employees were engaged in their workplace.

It’s my experience that staff who are engaged are the ones who are well informed, and they are more likely to stay and perform well. Engaged employees buy into their agency’s mission and deeply understand where it’s going. They have a strong sense of commitment to their work and their customers.

But you can’t just reel off your mission or future road map to people once and expect them to internalize it and implement it. You have to emphasize it over and over again, while keeping people up to date on agency plans.

The bottom line is that employees are the ones who carry out the mission, and leaders must keep them informed. When the Census Bureau embarked on its organizational transformation a few years ago, we designed an internal communications initiative that engaged and informed our employees and helped them become invested in our shared future.

We call it “Future On.”

We didn’t want Future On to be dry or talk down to employees or seem disingenuous or superfluous. We wanted it to be authentic, useful and interactive. Here are some of the principles that got us started:

Give Your Employees a Voice

 Since the beginning of the Future On initiative, many changes have happened across the agency. Our leadership, from every department, has made it their mission to communicate openly and fully with every single employee. One of the ways they have accomplished this is through town hall meetings at which employees are able to voice their opinions and ask questions about the many changes taking place.

At the end of last fall, we began to structure the meetings around the 10 Change Principles that guide our organizational transformation. Giving the meetings a clear shape provided a good structure for employees to be heard. And as leaders, we were better equipped to receive their feedback and work it into the Census Bureau’s transformation.

Respect Your Audience: Be Clear

 Whether you’re reaching out to an internal audience or an external one, it’s easy to fall into the same old communication traps:

  • Using jargon that obscures what you’re really saying
  • Burying leads and inadvertently hiding the most compelling information far down a page
  • Failing to include vital information that audiences really want to have

To make sure employees hear our messages loud and clear, we’ve taken a journalistic approach to our communications efforts. We use clear, straightforward language and make a point to have data readily available to our employees. These steps have cleared up staff confusion about the intentions of the Census Bureau and allowed them to investigate the truth on their terms.

Collaborate

In addition to individual employees voicing their opinions about our transformation, we wanted to get direct insight from every corner of the Census Bureau. So for the Future On initiative, we created an editorial board made up of representatives from each department.

The Census Bureau Future On Editorial Board meets once a month to pitch stories and plan the editorial calendar.

The Census Bureau Future On Editorial Board discussing June’s Organizational Health topic.

Now, instead of drawing only from the communications branch of the Census Bureau to plan our outreach to employees, we are able to get fresh ideas from editorial board members. They’ve given incredibly valuable input on our internal communication efforts, including the development of the Future On editorial calendar, and they’ve helped us explain to a wider audience of employees the ways their particular departments work and how they are changing.

Try reaching out to groups who can offer more innovative ways to get your message across; the younger generation of workers will undoubtedly have a lot of ideas for you. What they know about your office culture might surprise you, and they also have great insights about how information travels in the organization.

Since we launched Future On, we’ve averaged about 8,900 page views per month. We’ve also found that employees are spending more time on the site – about seven minutes during each visit, and they typically visit two or three pages at a time. So, it’s definitely worth the effort to keep your employees in the loop and informed. After all, when employees are better informed they’re more likely to stay and excel, and most importantly their (and your) customers will be better served.

Jeannie Shiffer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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