The primary purpose of digital signage in government offices is to get information to people efficiently in a timely and engaging way. But what sort of information do your employees need? How can you help them feel motivated at work?
The public sector has some unique challenges when it comes to engaging employees. Extrinsic rewards (like money or gifts) can come into conflict with ethical, political and budgetary considerations, so the focus needs to be more on intrinsic rewards – things that result in a feeling of pride and satisfaction in their work.
The four main intrinsic rewards are:
- Meaningfulness – the feeling that what you do matters in the larger scheme of things, and is worth putting time and energy into.
- Choice – the feeling that you are trusted and can use your own best judgement on how to best accomplish your purpose. Choice gives employees a sense of ownership in their duties.
- Competence – the feeling that you are performing your duties well, and that your work is of a high quality. This gives a sense of satisfaction, even pride.
- Progress – the feeling that things are moving in the direction they are supposed to, and that you are improving as you go. This gives a sense of confidence in the present that becomes confidence in the future.
Get your employees excited about what they accomplish. Display messages that make your focus and passions clear and exciting, and give them a picture of what can be accomplished if everyone puts in 100%. Call it “cheerleading” if you like, but displaying messages like “We’ve built 150 new low-cost housing units in the past six months – keep up the good work!”, or short quotes from citizens on how something your office has done has helped them can remind people that their work has real-world consequences. Adding messages that connect actual work with the overall vision helps create a sense of relevance. Sometimes, something simple can have great impact on your employees’ psychological outlook.
For example, sometimes the public thinks people who work in the public sector are “faceless bureaucrats” that have easy jobs for huge salaries. This negative attitude can rub off on workers, demotivating them1. But you can let your people know that they are accomplishing good things for the public they serve, displaying messages that show how the work they do directly impacts people’s lives.
Remind them that the things they do have positive real-world effects. This creates a virtuous circle, improving your employees’ approach to their jobs, giving them a sense that their work has meaning, which improves their interactions with the public, which in turn makes the public have a higher opinion of government. A Gallup/Partnership for Public Service poll showed that people who have a positive interaction with a public servant are up to three times more likely to have a positive opinion of government2.
Access to relevant facts and sources is key to good decision making, and employee engagement is critical in every organization. Display messages on your screens that have statistics relevant to people’s jobs, and supply the source with a QR code or short URL linking to an external website so they can get more information if they want it. Messages that clarify the purpose of your organization or of a particular project also help keep everyone on track and on the same page. And people won’t take any risks or innovate if they don’t feel secure, so remind them of the benefits they get from working where they do.
You workers need positive feedback, so why not let everyone know who’s doing a great job by displaying shout-outs on your screens to hard-working individuals and teams? Have not just an employee of the month, but an employee of the week. Recognize not only achievements on the job, but employees’ overall skills and experience.
You can also show that you trust your workers by giving them the ability to create messages, or come up with procedures or success measurements. You can either publish simple guidelines for design and submission of messages, or simplify things even further with message templates that all have the same look so all people need to do is add their own text.
Using your displays to remind workers of training opportunities reminds them that there are opportunities to get even better at what they do. With touchscreen kiosks and hot spots, you can put simple training modules right there, with employee scores being fed directly into a database for future reference.
Training doesn’t have to be all formal, though. The city of Baltimore started the “Good Government Book Club” open to all 14,000 of its city employees, where books that will stimulate discussion in areas such as citizen engagement and urban planning are read and talked about at meetings every two or three months4. Implementing a similar scheme is simple, and digital signage makes advertising the book club and titles easy. But your displays can be used to do much more – you can ask people to contribute messages or quotes after post-reading discussions to tell others what they took away from the book and conversation.
Let people know how they’re doing by displaying productivity stats on a weekly or even daily basis. Have teams compete with one another to meet or exceed quotas, with some sort of reward for those who win. This could be customer satisfaction feedback scores, number of items processed, funds raised for a specific project or anything applicable to your organization. Milestones are important for people psychologically – create some and let your staff know when they have reached them, and celebrate that. This really gives a sense of progress and creates a sense of urgency.
Because the public sector is under constant scrutiny, managers need to make their employees feel that they can share their opinions, and that it is okay to take risks and innovate1. According to a 2009 McKinsey/Government Executive Magazine survey, less than 30% of GS 12-15 workers feel they are consulted on matters that affect them, only 34% think they work in an open and trusting environment, and the same percentage feel they are encouraged to provide honest feedback3. Many public sector managers encourage a self-management approach for their employees, empowering them to choose which behaviors will best accomplish the tasks they have, adjust those behaviors in the performance of their duties, monitor progress towards the end goal, and have some say in how success is determined and measured.
No one gets into the public sector for the money – they do it because they want to serve their community. Let these folks know they are part of a team of people with the same goal. Use your digital signage system to remind them that their jobs are meaningful, to give them the tools to make good, independent decisions; to recognize them for good work and present them with opportunities to improve their competence; and let them know how they are progressing along with the entire organization.
1 “Why Government Workers are Harder to Motivate”, Robert Lavigna, Harvard Business Review, November 29, 2014 (https://hbr.org/2014/11/why-government-workers-are-harder-to-motivate)
2 “Gallup Study Provides Valuable Insights on the Individual Experience With Federal Agencies”, Washington Post, Novemebr 16, 2009 (http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/gov_experience_final_111609.pdf)
3 “Improving worker performance in the US government”, Eric Braverman, Aaron De Smet, and Bill Schaninger, McKinsey & Company, November 2009 (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-sector/our-insights/improving-worker-performance-in-the-us-government)
4 “Can a Book Club Improve Government?”, Heather Kerrigan, Governing Magazine, February 12, 2014 (https://www.governing.com/archive/gov-good-government-book-club.html)