On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency and changed the world in almost every way. At the time of the announcement, I was only two weeks into my role as Maximus’ director of internal communications and was relying heavily on email to communicate to staff.
My team provided recommendations to our executive committee and other key leaders and ensured that our communications and actions were based on the latest scientific and medical information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to inform and develop policies to keep our employees safe and healthy and to continue providing essential services to the public.
Maximus is a leading provider of government programs to the public for over 40 years. Our employees help solve complex social challenges, like helping the public navigate safety net programs or enrolling a beneficiary into Medicare. This approach has proved to be a lighthouse through the fog of the pandemic and kept our essential workers on the front line.
Our strategy was twofold:
- Support the business to maintain operations
- Increase employees’ health literacy
We accomplished this by concentrating resources and expertise to address health and safety measures for employees working in the office and transitioning many to remote work. Health literacy and education about the virus and vaccines were essential to our strategy of ensuring employees understood the why behind our actions.
We broadened our reach and created a new mobile app that made health information and videos even more accessible for employees and their families. We also:
- Hosted webinars with medical experts
- Implemented a crisis management tool that can text or call employees instantly
- Made resources available to employees from our public website
- Maintained current news and resources on our company intranet
- Developed print materials for workers who needed to be on-site
What the Data Told Us
We exceeded email communications goals with an 80% employee and 92% supervisor open rate and an average reading time of 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Our messages typically have an average read time of 71 seconds, so employees were spending more time reading and engaging with our communications.
Employee survey data showed 81% of participating employees said:
- The company protected their physical health and safety
- Communications were open and transparent
- Maximus provided appropriate access to physical and emotional wellness resources
Employees ranked our communications in their top three trusted resources for COVID-19 information in October, behind government websites like the CDC and major news organizations. At the core of what we do, the data told us we were able to connect and maintain a high standard in their lives.
The Gold Quill Influence
This was our first time submitting to the Gold Quill Awards. The award tells me what I already knew: our team informs, educates and inspires staff so they can continue to provide uninterrupted essential services to the public. This honor validates our hard work and dedication and recognizes the people behind the messaging, who often go unnoticed.
This award gives us a platform to highlight our accomplishments to leaders and employees and reinforce our organization's value within the company and our clients. I believe the most considerable value is that it adds credibility to the team that their outputs and products are among the best in the world.
For those planning to submit to the Gold Quill Awards in the future, I recommend starting early. It takes a lot of information gathering to have an effective entry. Also, outline what you want to convey. I found it difficult to write succinctly about the work and our accomplishments when there is so much to say.
Take a hard look at the judges’ feedback as well. Having peers in the industry review and provide suggestions adds considerable meaning and perspective to our work. Their insight was valuable and constructive about improving our submission for next time as we keep striving for gold.
Jared Curtis, PMP
Jared Curtis, PMP, is the director of communications at Maximus.