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Spokane County Sheriff’s Office

Internal Communication Plan

Background: Concern was expressed by leadership and staff about

the need to have a formal communication plan to handle issues with
Agency-wide impact where time is an important factor. The
Communications Team was formed to create a plan to ensure effective
internal communication throughout the Agency. The Agency’s ability to
provide an internal communication plan will assist in providing timely
and accurate information to employees.

Challenge: The Agency faces many challenges to efficient internal

communications. These range from those which can be resolved by a
simple management decision or administrative effort; to those which
arise from the Agency’s structure and geographical locations.

Primary challenges have been identified as follows:

• The Agency is a complex, fast moving organization and

must keep pace with the needs of staff and the public we serve.
• Employees work in a variety of work locations and
environments with a varying combination of days and hours,
24/7, 365 days a year.
• Over reliance on electronic communication and no
mandatory use of email.
• There is little practice in promoting good communications
across the Agency.
• Employees don’t always take responsibility for their role in
internal communications or actively seek accurate information,
instead rely on rumors.
• The spirit of “One team – One Vision” is growing, yet within
the Agency’s complex structure, employees still have a widely
varying loyalties and allegiances (e.g. Division, Specialty Units or
area assigned)
• Limited opportunities for two-way communication, informal
communications, dialogue and feedback.
• Inconsistency in key messages and communication

Solution: The Communication Team has been tasked with developing

a plan which facilitates the flow of information between Agency
decision makers and staff on important high impact issues in a timely,
accurate, and consistent manner.

Stakeholders: All Agency personnel

Lead Division(s): All Divisions

Participating Divisions(s): All Divisions

Start Date: June 2011

Finish Date: Ongoing

How Will You Measure Success?

• Approval of an internal communication plan by Executive

Command Staff.
• Implementation of the plan within the Agency.
• Acceptance of the plan by Agency staff.
• Inclusion of effective internal communication practices within the
Agency’s culture.
• 90% of employees indicting they understand the Agency’s
Mission, Vision and Goals.
• 90% of employees indicating they understand how their Division
and individual goals connect with the Agency’s Mission, Vision
and Goals.
• 90% of employees indicating job satisfaction.

Who Is Responsible for Measuring Success?

• Executive Command Staff and Agency staff.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Internal Communication

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is committed to:

Developing an informed workforce;

Ensuring effective two way communication across the Agency;
Ensuring communications are open, honest, accurate and timely.


• To ensure every employee has access to the information

they need to allow them to contribute to the Mission and Vision
of the Agency; and
• Ensure an understanding of roles and responsibilities and
to continuously improve communication across the Agency.


• Ensure all employees receive and are aware of the

Agency’s Mission, Vision and Values;
• Raise awareness that it’s every employee’s responsibility
to support internal communication;
• Create a positive workplace and enhance employee
retention by providing timely, accurate and relevant information;
• Recognize and empower employees in their positions;
• Encourage and enable behavioral change through dialogue
and engaging employees;
• Enable consultation with the workforce;
• Manage the Agency’s newspaper, intranet, and video
• Identify new and creative methods of communication; and
• Use the internal communication methods to celebrate
success, service and achievements.
Roles and Responsibilities

Employees have a responsibility to:

Receive/access appropriate information;

Take part in meetings, read key documents, use the Internet;
Be consulted and provide feedback; and
Ensure communication is easily understood/seek clarification if

Managers and Supervisors have a responsibility to:

Facilitate the flow of information to support performance and the

Agency’s Vision;
Share the Vision, priorities, divisional plans and performance
Prioritize communication to staff particularly during times of
Ensure communication is timely, accurate and of use to staff;
Encourage feedback on the communication;
Strive to be good “communicators”; and
Be a role model for communication and demonstrate leadership.

Division Commanders have a responsibility to:

Manage the distribution of messages across their division;

Manage the communication process for the Sheriff and
Command Staff;
Act as an internal communication consultant;
Support major change throughout the Agency; and
Facilitate feedback and consultation.

The Sheriff and Undersheriff have a responsibility to:

Develop internal communication strategy and direction;

Review performance and progress against the internal
communication plan;
Utilize the monitoring and feedback of the internal
communication processes; and
Undertake an annual review of the internal communication

Key Principles to Effective Internal Communications

1. Unless management comprehends and fully supports the

premise that Agencies must have high degrees of
communications (like people needing lots of water), the Agency
will remain stilted. Too often, management learns the need for
communication by having to respond to the lack of it.

2. Effective internal communications start with effective skills in

communications, including basic skills in listening, speaking,
questioning and sharing feedback. These can developed with
some concerted review and practice. Perhaps the most important
outcome from these skills is conveying that we value hearing
from others and their hearing from us.

3. Sound meeting management skills go a long way toward

ensuring effective communications.

4. A key ingredient to developing effective communications in any

agency is every employee taking responsibility to assert when
they don't understand a communication or to suggest when and
how someone could communicate more effectively.

5. Communications should be tailored to the target audience or

group. Always start from the basis that the individual will ask,
“What does it mean for me?”

6. Communication must be positively encouraged up, down and

across the Agency.

7. Sufficient time and resources must be put into internal

Basic Structures/Policies to Support Effective Internal

The internal communication plan for the Spokane County Sheriff’s

Office can be looked at as communications downward and upward.

Downward Communications:

1. Every employee will receive a copy of the strategic plan, which

includes the organization's mission, vision, values statement,
strategic goals and strategies about how those goals will be

2. Every employee will receive an employee handbook that

contains all up-to-date personnel policies.

3. Every employee will have a copy of their job description and the
organization chart.

4. Division Commanders will regularly hold management/supervisor

meetings (at least once a month), even if there's nothing
pressing to report. If you hold meetings only when you believe
there's something to report, then communications will occur only
when you have something to say -- communications will be one
way and the organization will suffer. Have meetings anyway, if
only to establish and affirm the communication that things are of
a status that there's not immediate problems.
5. The Sheriff will hold full staff meetings every month to report
how the organization is doing, major accomplishments, concerns,
announcements about staff, etc.

6. The Sheriff will regularly hold meetings to celebrate major

accomplishments. This helps employees perceive what's
important, gives them a sense of direction and fulfillment.
7. Managers and supervisors should have face-to-face contact with
employees at least once a week.

8. Managers and Supervisors will ensure all employees receive

yearly performance reviews, including their goals for the year,
updated job descriptions, accomplishments, needs for
improvement, and a plan to help the employee accomplish the

Upward Communications:

1. Ensure all employees give regular status reports to their

supervisors. Include a section for what they did last week, will do
next week and any actions/issues to address.

2. Ensure all supervisors meet one-on-one at least once a month

with their employees to discuss how its' going, hear any current
concerns from the employee, etc. Even if the meeting is chit-
chat, it cultivates an important relationship between supervisor
and employee.

3. Use management and staff meetings to solicit feedback. Ask how

it's going. Do a round table approach to hear from each person.

4. Managers and supervisors will act on feedback from others. Write

it down. Get back to it -- if only to say you can't do anything
about the reported problem or suggestion, etc.
Key Messages

Target Communication

Internal audiences are just as important as external audiences and

employees are the Agency’s best ambassadors. The Sheriff’s
Office should reflect this in the priority and speed of the
communication to its workforce.

The following should be used when considering how to breakdown the

workforce into key target groups for communication:

Agency Wide
Divisional Staff
Staff assigned to a Facility/Station
Specialty Unit Staff
Remotely Based Staff
Staff on L&I, FMLA or Military Leave
Staff assigned outside the Agency
Volunteer Staff/Interns

It is essential to consider how to reach an employee who is away from

the work.
Methods of Communication

Information should be delivered through a number of channels, not just

one or two. The impact is greater when it reaches people in a
number of different forms. Saying it once is not enough.

Face to Face:

Senior management team meetings

Staff meetings, Roll Calls
Performance reviews and appraisals (Monthly and Annual)
Informal visits to work areas
Telephone communication


Text Messaging
Sheriff’s News Network
Audio/Video Messages
Digital Bulletin Boards



Supervisor and Employee Communications

There are several basic and regular activities which provide a solid
foundation for effective supervision. These basics ensure that everyone
is working together. Just as important is that staff feel they are
working together, towards a common cause.

1. All managers and supervisors, including employees in specialized

positions or assignments, will provide weekly written status
reports to their supervisors.

2. Include what tasks were done last week, what tasks are planned
next week, any pending issues and date the report. These
reports may seem a tedious task, but they're precious in
ensuring that employee and their supervisor have mutual
understanding of what is going on, and the reports come in very
handy for planning purposes. They also make otherwise harried
staff and managers stand back and reflect on what they're doing.

3. All division/unit managers and supervisors will hold meetings at

least once a month.

4. Have these meetings even if there is not a specific problem to

solve -- just make them shorter. (Holding meetings only when
there’s a problem to solve cultivates a crisis-oriented
environment where managers believe their only job is to solve
problems.) Use these meetings for each person to briefly give an
overview of what they are doing that week. Facilitate the
meetings to support exchange of ideas and questions. Again, for
clarity, focus and morale, be sure to use agendas, take minutes
and ensure follow-up minutes. Have each person bring their
calendar to ensure scheduling of future meetings accommodates
each person's calendar.

5. Have supervisors meet with their direct reports in one-on-one

meetings every month.

6. This ultimately produces more efficient time management and

supervision. Review overall status of work activities, hear how
it's going with both the supervisor and the employee, exchange
feedback and questions about current programs and services,
and discuss career planning, etc. Consider these meetings as
interim meetings between the more formal, yearly performance
review meetings.

Key Success Factors

• Targeting and coordination of communication at all levels

across the Agency;
• Employees should find out about change or proposals
before they are made public;
• Employees’ understanding of the messages. Using plain
English and ensuring clarity is essential, as is the use of Problem
Solving groups;
• Agency messages must be prioritized and a consistent flow
to avoid information overload among employees; and
• Internal communication requires adequate resourcing to
make things happen and monitor developments.