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Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice (2004)

Chapter:Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan

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Suggested Citation:"Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13736.
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Suggested Citation:"Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13736.
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Suggested Citation:"Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13736.
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Suggested Citation:"Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13736.
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Suggested Citation:"Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13736.

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1COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN Positioning the Public Transportation Operating Agency as an Employer of Choice  INTRODUCTION In September 2002, the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) embarked on a journey to evolve the trans- portation industry into the next millennium as an “Employer of Choice.” The first step was to select a partner to develop an Employer of Choice (EOC) Toolkit that can be tailored by any transit agency regardless of size. Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a human resources consulting firm, along with Focus Group Corporation, worked with an expert panel selected by the TRB to develop the Employer of Choice Toolkit. This project was completed on October 1, 2003, and the Public Transportation Agencies as Employers of Choice Toolkit (Toolkit) was delivered to the panel for final distribution. The “Com- munications Strategy and Implementation Plan” (Plan) is a companion document for the Toolkit. As discussed in the Toolkit, the designation of Employer of Choice is achieved by an individual agency, not an industry. It is acknowledged that an industry’s reputation can assist in attracting potential employees, however, keeping and motivating them depends on their day-to-day experiences at the agency where they work. As such, the objective of this Plan is two-fold. 1. At an industry level, the intent is to provide direction and tactics for developing a communications program that creates industry awareness for maximizing roll- out of the Toolkit—an awareness that will facilitate not only the distribution and use of the Toolkit, but also will encourage the development of opportunities to dialogue about strategies, exchange learning, and share successes and evolving best practices among the agencies that are actively pursuing this designation. 2. At an agency level, the Plan highlights the communication needs for the individ- ual transportation agency. The transportation agencies will need to customize the Plan to reflect their unique organizations. The Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan offers guidelines on the key messages and primary stakeholders with recommendations on how to convey the appropriate messages. The industry-view includes a wide range of stakeholders such as national partners, associations, unions, suppliers, federal jurisdictions, and politicians. The agency-view looks at communications and implementation from a smaller geographic domain with more issues and concerns outlined at the state, local, or community levels. For an effective communications plan, it is essential that the two are aligned and not at cross-purposes. As the EOC journey begins, the industry- view focuses on the rollout of the Toolkit across the agencies for specific suc- cess stories, lessons learned, and other opportunities to share best practices, which will enable other agencies to follow quickly or at least to avoid some common pit- falls. Each agency will ultimately decide the best way to reach their intended audi-

ence and what messages are important to convey based on their specific direction, capabilities and resources. Any transportation agency interested in institutionalizing the EOC programs should first closely review the contents of the Toolkit. The researchers’ recommendation is to read and fully understand the EOC materials and concepts starting with the Toolkit Introduction and EOC Boot Camp. It is essential for the transportation agency to under- stand their location on this EOC journey, because actions and steps will be different. Each transportation agency will have their own assessment of their starting point, needs, priorities, strengths, and weaknesses. Section II, “Building Your Agency’s Employer of Choice Strategy,” is critical if none exists, or essential for aligning the EOC objectives to established operational goals. The Toolkit also provides additional information on effective communication under the Program Areas. The Communications and Implementation Plan does not intend to provide details on the contents of the Toolkit but highlights the key messages that should be communi- cated to whom, how often, and in what way. The Plan starts with the objectives for the first year and offers suggestions beyond the Year-1 time frame. It also focuses on the communications and collaboration between the transportation industry and individual transportation agencies and offers suggestions on how to measure effectiveness. Sam- ple key EOC messages are included as a framework for starting the communications and subsequent implementation. A Tactical Plan for Year 1 begins the process for implementing the EOC changes and identifies some of the key messages, suggested timings, channels, and responsibilities. While the Plan focuses primarily on the communications for the first year, it also pro- vides suggestions for measuring effective communications, communications for beyond Year 1, and implementation guidelines.  COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY AND IMPLEMENTATION The Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan objectives for the first year focus on understanding the characteristics and key issues of being an EOC. Industry and agency representatives can find an overview of the EOC concept in the Toolkit Introduction section. In addition, the Toolkit’s Program Area for Communications pro- vides additional suggestions for establishing the communication strategy and guide- lines for effective communications. For both the industry and the individual agency, Year 1 is about raising awareness of key audiences. For the industry, awareness means educating audiences—what is an EOC, why is it important, how does an agency become one, and what resources are available to assist an agency who wants to embark on the journey? The industry com- munications should be developed to create broader understanding and support for the EOC transformation. They target transportation industry partners, unions, and related associations such as APTA. Industry’s role is to inform its constituents and members, to facilitate sharing across transportation agencies, to develop outreach programs, and to create committees that focus on specific transportation issues. Other key stakehold- ers in the industry include lobbyists, politicians, and media members. At the agency level in Year 1, the agency will want to focus on creating awareness for the audience, so that everyone knows that the agency has embarked upon an EOC journey and that change will occur. Each transportation agency will have to tailor the messages, audience, and communications channels that fit best within their organiza- tion, culture, budget, and resources. All communications and implementation plans need an owner or an EOC Champion, someone who is responsible for the overall development, deployment, metrics, and 2

enhancements. The role of leadership is one of the major tenets for becoming an EOC; Section I of the Toolkit, entitled “EOC Boot Camp,” details the important role that lead- ership plays in building commitment, energy, and productivity. At an agency level, without organizational and senior managers steering the process and agreeing to be accountable for the results, the transportation agency should not embark on the EOC journey. Aspects of the Plan can be delegated; however, successful communications and implementation should have one responsible champion for the EOC journey. For an agency, the champion must be a visible leader in the organization and respected by peers, subordinates, and senior management. Likewise the industry needs to identify champions for EOC communications. These champions need to work closely with transportation agency leaders in developing and highlighting the EOC journey success stories and best practices. Using industry groups (such as subcommittees within the APTA) to serve in this capacity can springboard the ability to communicate. The best way to begin crafting the awareness message—the EOC Awareness Cam- paign—is to begin with the Toolkit. The Toolkit contains all the key EOC messages, the what and how to’s during the first year for any agency communications focusing on becoming an EOC. The key topic areas below highlight the critical messages that should be communicated for all transportation stakeholders. Specific tailoring of these messages should be done for each constituency as to detail, length, roles and responsi- bilities, and communication channels and frequency. Communications for the first year are focused on the following messages, which frame the EOC Awareness Campaign: • What is an EOC employer? • What are the fundamental concepts for an EOC? • Why is a capable, committed, diverse workforce so important? • What is an EOC Toolkit? • How was this Toolkit developed? • How do we use the Toolkit? • What is our agency’s strategy for becoming an EOC? Exhibit A contains sample key message for the questions highlighted above. The industry and each transportation agency have identified their most effective forms of communication, such as newsletters, association magazines, emails, bulletin boards, or weekly staff meetings. The risk of over-communicating is small. Adopting a creative approach that solicits feedback can not only effectively communicate the message but can also help model the desired ways in which EOCs operate. This approach may mean using different forms or styles of communication or simply different ways of expressing the message using the usual communication approach. For example, a town hall meeting may represent a typical communication vehicle for an agency. This approach could be struc- tured so that the entire meeting is devoted to targeted employee questions, which could be submitted in advance or taken during the meeting so that the town hall meeting becomes an “Ask the General Manager” session. Moreover, new ways of communicating will demonstrate that “it’s no longer business as usual.” Transportation industry partners play an important role by providing a platform to collaborate and share agency lessons learned and success stories. Future industry meetings should focus on capturing, sharing, and disseminating experiences across the transportation industry. In addition, the EOC Champions and transportation- transformation subject matter experts can be identified to assist other transportation agen- cies in their EOC journey. The industry associations and unions should leverage existing communications such as newsletters, websites, and trade magazines to promote and 3

support the transportations EOC transformation efforts. Specific committees and meet- ings of transportation General Managers, Board Members, and HR Leaders should allo- cate time for the EOC Awareness and Collaboration Campaigns. During these meet- ings, specific roles and responsibilities should be discussed on what and how they can contribute to the overall success of the industry evolving to an Employer of Choice. Exhibits B and C contain sample Year-1 communications plans for industry and agency, respectively. After the first year, when the EOC Awareness Campaign is complete, the industry and individual agencies should perform a “year in review” by evaluating and trending feedback, measuring effectiveness, and assessing impact of the communications against stated objectives. At an industry level, the next step begins the Collaboration Cam- paign, where transportation agencies work together to address specific EOC issues and solutions. An organized effort to actively capture and share EOC experiences is devel- oped and maintained at the transportation agency and industry levels. Communities of transportation constituents begin to focus on the codification of the EOC experiences into Transportation Industry Best Practices that become the basis for the ongoing Com- munications and Implementation Plan.  MEASURING EFFECTIVENESS OF INITIAL COMMUNICATIONS The measure of effectiveness will depend on the communication objective. In the initial EOC Awareness Campaign, the objective will be awareness. As the Industry embraces EOC issues and the agency pursues its EOC journey, the objective will shift away from awareness to measuring impact and outcomes. For agencies where measuring progress in the EOC journey will take on a critical roll, the Toolkit offers more details in developing EOC metrics and linkage to the strat- egy and action plans in Section II, “Building Your Agency’s Employer of Choice Strat- egy.” In this section, an agency will find instructions for developing a process and examples of metrics to monitor its journey. The researchers recommend that an EOC Scorecard be developed by each individual agency that includes metrics that track the overall success of the communications program. An action item for the Communica- tions Strategy and Implementation Plan then becomes the need to report the status and trends as measured by the EOC Scorecard. At an industry level, a handful of critical metrics—those that are being used by individual agencies—could be identified, adopted, and aggregated to form a modified Industry EOC scorecard. The Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan outlines many different events targeting various stakeholders. Progress against measures is reviewed regularly with each measure being considered based on its individual merit as well as how it fits into the larger set of measures. Data are collected over time and trending is used to find patterns of performance and opportunity. Each communications event should carefully detail the distribution list, means or type of communication channel (e.g., presentation, town hall, email), and timing. In addition, the targeted audience should be asked for feedback regarding the communication in order to guide future improvements. Creat- ing a continuous improvement process for communications and implementation of the Toolkit will strengthen the success of the transportation agency and industry toward evolving to an EOC. Some initial measures to determine the transportation agencies success in imple- menting the Toolkit may include the following: • Number of employees targeted in the EOC Awareness Campaign as a percent of total employees. 4

• Number of employees involved in EOC follow-on activities, committees, work- groups, and so on. • Number of managers incorporating EOC objectives into staff appraisals. • Number of presentations delivered to constituents such as board members, employees, community forums, and so on. Some initial measures to determine the industry’s success in implementing the Toolkit may include the following: • Number of industry constituencies or associations actively involved in EOC Awareness Campaign. • Number and types of communications regarding EOC Awareness Campaign. • Number and types of EOC follow-on activities, communities, articles, and so on. • Number of success stories and lessons learned developed during the quarter. • Number of presentations delivered to constituents such as board members, com- mittees, and so on. • Number and types of communications delivered to stakeholders found in tactical communications and implementation plan.  COMMUNICATIONS BEYOND YEAR 1 The Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan should be reassessed at the end of the first year. At an industry level, this “year in review” and debrief should include board members, general managers, human resources leaders and transportation partners such as association staff. In an agency, the reviewers should include members from the EOC rollout team, such as leaders, human resources staff, line managers, union representatives, and employees. The participants should be a cross-section of the specific agency that had varying levels of responsibilities in regards to the rollout of the agency’s EOC strategy. The “year in review” should focus on understanding whether the initial EOC Awareness Campaign was a success. Based on this feedback, the Com- munications Strategy and Implementation Plan should be adjusted to reflect the sug- gestions and recommendations of the participants.  COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN GUIDELINES Deploying a successful agency or industry Communications Strategy and Imple- mentation Plan depends on many factors. The Program Area for Communications in the Toolkit provides additional information on selective methods for harnessing employee involvement and outlines the basic principles for effective briefings that should be considered when tailoring the final Plan. Other considerations for a success- ful Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan include the following: • A visible leader or EOC champion that is accountable and responsible for the agency or industry-wide communications. • A clear commitment for supporting the EOC journey. • Resources to support the development and deployment of the communications (i.e., people, budget, and time). • Thinking big and starting small—ensuring that people are aware and onboard. • Soliciting and acting on feedback from the agency or other constituencies for improvements. • Keeping the messages short and simple so they can be easily repeated. • Planning for and taking time to manage the organizational change. 5

Next: Exhibit A: Sample EOC Key Messages »
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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 103: Public Transportation Operating Agencies as Employers of Choice documents principles, techniques, and strategies that are used in workforce recruitment, development, and retention. The report includes a companion document, Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan: Positioning the Public Transportation Operating Agency as an Employer of Choice, which describes strategies and solutions that offer the greatest potential for positioning public transportation operating agencies as employers of choice.

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