Named by Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) employees and based entirely on news and information staff have requested, ASC's internal newsletter, 'In Depth', has become an integral internal communication tool.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Originally developed to replace two parochial and poorly-produced newsletters, 'In Depth' has revolutionised communication within ASC and has offered a mutually inclusive medium in which all staff can contribute.
To reinforce employee ownership over the newsletter, a competition was held in which staff could enter their suggestions for the newsletter's name. Over 250 responses represented high immediate interest from South Australia-based and Western Australia-based employees.
The development of each subsequent issue features a strong contingent of contents submitted by employees, in addition to news stories and features researched by the editors designed to inform and educate.
The newsletter has been a resounding success, in which part of its appeal can be attributed to each issue having a unique front cover reflecting a relevant theme for the quarter.
With a diverse workforce of blue collar and white collar employees, split across two sites, engaging everyone and satisfying a plethora of objectives is not easy, however 'In Depth' has achieved excellent results and will continue to reflect ASC's changing business environment.
Now wholly-owned by the Australian Government, ASC was established in 1985 and was subsequently chosen in 1987 as the prime contractor for the design, manufacture and delivery of the Royal Australian Navy's fleet of six Collins Class submarines.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
ASC is committed to attracting, developing and retaining high calibre employees with the high-end knowledge and skills necessary to drive business success and growth into the future.
In response to this challenge, ASC has focused on driving cultural change and evolving from having a manufacturing-centred culture to a professional services and customer-oriented culture.
This journey has further emphasised the immense value of ASC's people and galvanised the organisation's resolve to further develop and become an 'employer of choice'.
In 2003, ASC's <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Board of Directors appointed a Communications Manager to manage the Company's internal and external communications initiatives.
An audit of communication methods and tools ensued, in which it was found that two fortnightly newsletters were produced, 'Sub Conscious' for ASC's South Australian employees and 'The Golden Eagle' for Western Australian employees. Both newsletters were of poor quality and did not adequately reflect ASC's vision, achievements and ethos. The ongoing distribution of two newsletters also served to reinforce a South Australian culture separate from a Western Australian one.
The development of an internal newsletter engaging all staff across the company was seen as a welcome move to promulgate a 'one company one plan' philosophy.
Research for the development of a new internal newsletter included:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Audit of internal communication materials
A thorough review of all internal communication materials was undertaken in an effort to determine what was being distributed, what information the materials contained and who it was distributed to.
The audit found inconsistencies in the messages being espoused in the two internal publications : 'Sub Conscious' and 'The Golden Eagle'. In addition, the publications were found to be of very poor quality, unprofessional in style and content and not reflective of ASC's ethos.
Interviews with executive managers
Interviews were conducted with ASC's executive management team to identify any specific communication needs warranting attention. It was determined from these sessions that management's core concern was the 'us and them' mentality between South Australian and Western Australian employees.
To effectively gauge what ASC employees wanted from their internal newsletter, a survey form was distributed to all staff with their payslips (see Appendix A).
In addition to seeking what information employees really wanted, suggestions were sought for the name of the newsletter with the winning entrant(s) receiving a dinner for two.
With over 250 survey responses, constituting a 28% response rate, the outcome of this research was extremely beneficial to the formulation of a successful communication strategy.
'In Depth' is for ASC employees throughout <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia. Within this market, the following target publics exist:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
- White collar employees in South Australia;
- White collar employees in Western Australia;
- Blue collar employees in South Australia; and
- Blue collar employees in Western Australia.
Additionally, all seniority levels throughout ASC are considered.
It became clear during the internal communication audit that any professionally-produced newsletter would have an internal impact. The challenge was to make that impact positive from the very first issue.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
While readership of 'Sub Conscious' and 'The Golden Eagle' wasn't strong, a scattering of employees throughout ASC had become attached to the publications and were likely to be quite vocal in their objections towards something new replacing them.
With this in mind, the new newsletter, 'In Depth', was designed to fill a need not fulfilled by 'Sub Conscious' or 'The Golden Eagle'. The overall strategy was to produce a newsletter considerably different in style and content, which would over time replace the other publications.
To develop an immediate staff following, it was important then to provide staff with relevant articles and news of interest, in addition to actively seeking suggestions and feedback from readers. The incorporation of a section explaining how to submit articles and photos was published from the first issue to encourage two-way communication.
Title selection<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Over 70 names were suggested for the newsletter; the winning name, 'In Depth', was submitted by three employees.
The title was selected to reinforce that the newsletter would provide staff with less frequent but more 'in depth' information and news from across the organisation, seeking to differentiate the publication from 'Sub Conscious' and 'The Golden Eagle'.
Format and design
With blue collar workers representing almost 50% of ASC's workforce, an electronic newsletter was not possible due to e-mail access limitations in production areas. A printed newsletter was therefore seen as the only option to suit all target publics.
To differentiate the publication from ASC's external promotional materials, an A3 size was chosen incorporating a four-colour process. It was envisaged that the larger sized document would draw more attention when left on coffee tables or placed in social areas around the company.
To reflect ongoing changes and achievements within ASC, and to keep the document fresh and interesting, a new theme and corresponding front-cover image is developed for each issue.
Representative of the inaugural issue, the first edition of 'In Depth' was themed 'First Edition' and featured a photo of the ocean. To reflect a key company milestone resulting from internal teamwork, the second issue was themed 'Strength in Unity' and featured an image of a school of fish swimming together. Themed 'Forging Ahead' the third issue featured a running cheetah and was representative of ASC's efforts to chase a big new piece of business.
It was decided that the number of pages would be flexible (interchanging from 8 to 12 as required), allowing for the publication to be adapted to suit content fluctuations.
'In Depth' is also available for staff to download from ASC's intranet.
To encourage discussion amongst colleagues, 'In Depth' is distributed to all employees in the workplace, rather than sending a copy of the newsletter to employees' homes.
Additional copies of the newsletter are placed in reception foyers, the canteen, in tea rooms and even in the submarine galleys.
1000 copies are printed and distributed throughout the company.
While 'In Depth' content is determined by the newsletter's editors, the results of the staff survey have dictated what sort of information is included on an ongoing basis.
At staff request, the following regular features appear:
- Message from the Chief Executive Officer;
- Submarine activity update;
- Review of ASC and the Collins Class submarines in the media;
- Vox pop ? a question posed to a few randomly selected staff members;
- Brain teaser;
- Upcoming social club activities; and
- A list of new staff.
In addition to these features, news items are incorporated into each issue. These items are either submitted by employees or sourced by the Communications Manager.
To properly report on <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Western Australia news and activities, a Western Australia-based employee was appointed as one of the 'In Depth's' editors. This welcome move has proved fruitful in the provision of information and stories affecting ASC's Western Australian business.
'In Depth' is produced and distributed quarterly: March, June, September and December. The choice of frequency took into account both the limited resources available for production and the nature of the content.
'In Depth' has been well-received by all target publics. Employees (from all levels of seniority) are actively contributing photos and articles, the newsletter is considered by senior management to be a valuable communication tool and external high-level stakeholders from ASC's customer organisation have commented on 'In Depth's' professionalism and provision of valuable information.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Originally designed for an internal audience, copies of 'In Depth' have been requested by numerous external sources, including the Defence Materiel Organisation, the Royal Australian Navy and defence industry competitors.
The newsletter has become an instrumental part of ASC's recruitment process with new employees commenting on 'In Depth' reflection of the culture and objectives of the company; an objective it was designed to achieve.
'In Depth' has successfully taken the place of 'Sub Conscious' and 'The Golden Eagle' with no staff revolt.
Informal research indicates that the publication has created interest within ASC and meets the objectives stated at the beginning of the project. To date, no negative feedback has been received.
A sample of written feedback ensues:
'Thank you for another superbly presented copy of 'In Depth'.'
'It's great to receive such a professionally produced, high quality publication, which strikes an excellent balance between the corporate and personal faces of ASC.'
''In Depth' is terrific, I'm looking forward to the next issue.'
'I would like to congratulate you (and your team) on an excellent publication.'
''In Depth' captures not only the business-end of ASC but it's heart as well; a heart that hasn't beaten too well until the last couple of years.'
'Great mix of information, stories and tales of the future.'
Informal feedback<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Each issue of 'In Depth' contains a 'request for feedback' section inviting employees to submit their stories, pictures, comments and suggestions to one of the editors. Information on how to supply photography (required resolution and format) is also provided so that 'unusable' shots can be kept to a minimum.
Many staff have forwarded their feedback, either verbally or via e-mail, to one of the newsletter's editors. To date, no negative feedback has been received.
The Communications Manager actively solicits feedback about the newsletter during day-today conversations with staff members. A week after the distribution of each issue, the Communications Manager travels to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Western Australia to informally discuss the newsletter with employees and solicit suggestions for future issues.
It is envisaged that in the December 2004 issue of 'In Depth' an employee survey will be distributed with the newsletter as a means of soliciting formal feedback as an annual review.
An incentive will be offered as a means of increasing the rate of response.