Miri McDonald attended Advanced Learning Institute’s Strategic Internal Communications Conference in Chicago.
Like many government agencies in today’s economic environment, Washington State’s Attorney General’s Office is experiencing budgeting issues. Sarah Lane, the office’s communications consultant, is using social media combined with traditional communications to try to keep employee morale up during this climate.
At her session, Lane shared her communications goals:
- Keep employees engaged, connected and informed.
- Help employees accept change and transition.
- Recognize employee achievement.
- Maintain high employee morale and satisfaction.
Part of the way the state accomplishes these goals is through what Lane calls “HOT communications,” HOT stands for honest, open and two-way. Lane believes that a key part of engaging employees is keeping them informed of issues the office is facing, such as budget cuts and hiring freezes.
One such vehicle is the attorney general’s blog, Monday Minute with Rob, available on the employee intranet.
Another popular feature on the intranet is a monthly video that Lane produces herself with a $10 lamp, a $100 video camera, and free editing software. She says the quality isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the employees. The videos feature the attorney general as well as other leaders within the office. The attorney general has his own video camera that he uses on location. Lane uses those clips to help employees feel a part of what he is doing on behalf of the office.
One video that received a lot of attention was a promotion for an employee wellness initiative the office calls “recess,” which means taking a quick break to recharge. Lane saw a few spoofs of the 5-hour energy commercials and thought it might be fun to use that format to show leadership support of the program.
Other key AGO communications vehicles include:
- A monthly newsletter, AGO Up Close.
- Speakups, a forum where people can suggest ideas.
- A feed of the office’s Facebook page on the employee intranet.
- An electronic suggestion box on the intranet.
The approach seems to be working. Lane shared data indicating that the office’s employee satisfaction levels are 8% higher than the state average, and she said they are up nearly 1% since 2007 even during budget crises. She attributes these statistics to the offices’s honesty about the budget and efforts to involve employees in the solution.