USGS ditches all-employee emails for engaging interactive newsletter

Employee feedback drove the decision to create a weekly bulletin that promotes intranet readership.

NeedToKnow Weekly Digest - Logo -

We’ve all experienced it: A torrent of one-subject emails distributed to an all-employee mailing list flooding our inboxes and dampening everyone’s productivity. That was the situation at the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which employs some 10,000 people in more than 400 locations. To end the overload, communicators tried a different tactic—one that has earned USGS first place in the “Newsletter (Electronic)” category of Ragan’s 2016 Employee Communications Awards.

A survey found a clear majority of employees would find a weekly newsletter summarizing all those messages “very valuable,” launching the effort to create the weekly bulletin Need to Know. The team achieved a successful launch by unifying leaders accustomed to sending all-employee emails around the idea of consolidation, and they did it at virtually no cost. 

The publication dramatically increased the number of employees who were aware of messages they had previously ignored, guiding them to the intranet if they wanted to get more information. Employees can quickly grasp the importance of each item with icons that highlight “important updates” and “action required.” 

Employees are also able to comment on the articles; managers are notified when comments appear on items they submitted, and employees are notified when someone else comments on a story to which they contributed a comment. The shift to an email newsletter also enabled communicators to launch polls as part of the content, inspiring far greater response than previous employee feedback methods had produced. 

Congratulations to Blake Edwards, Aubrey McMahan, Dave Hebert, Mia Drane-Maury, Stacy Bushée and Elizabeth Stewart. 

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