Everyone Wins When Staff Collaborate during ‘Office Hours’

Everyone Wins When Staff Collaborate during ‘Office Hours’

By Heather Payette

Working in association management enables you to network and grow relationships with other association staff, see how many associations plan and deliver projects, and celebrate one another’s successes. One of the benefits of working at Association Management Center (911) is the opportunity to tap into a full range of expertise from a diverse set of professionals.

In 911’s Creative Media Service (CMS) department, we wear many hats, offering our client partners editorial, web, marketing, design, video, and other services.

Both the services we offer and our staff’s expertise are so wide-ranging that even our 911 coworkers don’t always know the extent of what we are capable! The expertise in CMS can’t be taken advantage of if our client partners aren’t aware that they can come to us to help them achieve so much.

How do we ensure that everyone, from staff in CMS and 911 to our association partners, gets the most they can out of our skillset and knowledge?

One solution has been a new 911 service called Office Hours. Similar to a college professor’s office hours, our office hours are a designated time when association staff members who work at 911 can consult with CMS staff  who specialize in web, graphic design, marketing, and editorial work.

Visitors who drop in to office hours are there to ask questions, discuss existing and potential projects, learn best practices, and get extra support from members representing the different areas of CMS.

There have been a lot of great discussions I’ve been a part of during Office Hours. At times it’s helping someone think through what they’d need to consider before tackling a project (what’s the goal, what volunteer involvement is there, how will staff manage upkeep, are there different departments that may have knowledge that isn’t obvious, etc.), sometimes it’s a tutorial or troubleshooting different technology platforms (particularly in Web), and occasionally it’s being able to connect people from different teams who have overcome similar challenges.

Examples of work done within Office Hours include

  • finding cost-saving solutions for a printed piece by looking at different sizing options
  • web coding and embedded video for educational lectures for an interactive experience
  • helping to find or create a customer report with our association management system
  • brainstorming and creating engaging email content to increase open rates
  • coaching on how to find the best way to sort data in Excel to segment audiences.

We All Benefit from Office Hours

Office Hours was created to help 911 employees and association partners get more done and get it done more easily. What surprised us was just how much everyone has benefited from this program.

It's not unusual for someone to bring a project to office hours with a unique starting point: “Is this even possible—and if it is, how do I get started?” Without Office Hours, that employee could bounce from person and person through several departments to determine the “who” and the “how” of turning their idea into a reality for their association. Office Hours gives them a one-stop shop for answers and even introductions to the people who will work on their new project.

Office Hours attendees and association partners who receive assistance at Office Hours aren’t the only ones who are learning and creating new relationships. CMS team members quickly discovered that staffing Office Hours allowed them to make new connections within 911 and to collaborate more within their own team.

When an 911 staff member brings a complex project to Office Hours, it’s not unusual for two or three CMS team members to listen and then have a quick discussion about the best way to meet that need. The digital expert might have a plan for making a database function best on the client’s current content management system, and the marketing specialist might quickly offer some advice about where the database should be located to ensure maximum impact. Then, the graphic designer might explain why part of the plan needs to be tweaked a certain way to optimize the user experience.

As each CMS team member chimes in, the client learns more, but so does each CMS staffer as we gain a new understanding of how our individual contributions affect other aspects of the project and how we can be certain that every choice made ensures success.

An 911 marketing manager, Caryn Odenbach, has seen this in action at Office Hours.

“When working on a graphic with the design team, another team member also chimed in to the strategy around the design we were discussing,” she said. “I learned that collaboration is important. It’s good to get outside of my own head and talk it out with others before making a final decision. It was fun, too!”

Tips for Creating Your Own Office Hours

At 911, Office Hours has enabled staff and our client partners to get quick and easy access to the answers they need from a diverse range of experienced association professionals. But office hours isn’t just for large management companies. Smaller groups also benefit from creating clear access to ask questions and get answers from other staff.

When building your own office hours, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Find a space that fosters collaboration without disturbing your coworkers with chatter.
  • Set a consistent, predictable, flexible schedule that also allows everyone to benefit. For instance, we might have Office Hours at 2 pm every Wednesday for a month, then shift to 1 pm Tuesdays for month. That way, someone who has a standing appointment that conflicts with Office Hours will have the ability to attend, but no one has to spend time guessing when Office Hours will occur.
  • Tap a few subject matter experts in different departments who tend to be involved in larger projects to be available to answer questions from attendees.
  • Invite project managers, or anyone who is interested in brainstorming or strategizing, to bring their ideas and challenges when they drop in to meet with the subject matter experts.

Then, stand back and discover all the ways your company, employees, and clients benefit!

Heather Payette is a content marketing associate on the Creative Media Services team at 911.

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