context partnered with a benefits consulting firm to design, market-test and implement revised sick and vacation
leave policies. We developed a communication strategy that ensured employees
understood the need for policy change and supported the final policy design.
A key part of our strategy was the facilitation of focus groups, where we tested
preliminary policy designs and communication messages.
Our focus groups revealed the success we'd achieve if we reduced employees' sense
of this change as a “take-away.” Our focus group methodology allowed
us to gather initial perceptions of the policy change based on rumor and conjecture
alone, and then post-test the preliminary designs. Employee perception switched
from a sense of the change as “confusing,” “unnecessary” or “unfair” to “fair” and “very
good.” The focus groups solidified the policy design approach and developed
in-house supporters for the change. The perceptions and fears about the change
gathered in these sessions also served to shape our communication messages. The
county implemented the two new policies with broad employee acceptance.