Adding value for your employees and your clients

We’ve all been there. You are assigned a task and know it can be done, but have no idea how to do it.

That is a reality of the workplace. This reality is actually an opportunity waiting to happen. It’s an opportunity for employers to make the workplace valuable, make their employees feel valued and turn around great, valuable products for clients.

Making the workplace valuable can be tricky. Many things go into competing for those “best places to work” competitions. Companies trying to attract young people have Jello fights and chicken petting day. Companies trying to retain people who have been in the workforce offer benefit packages that include health insurance and discount warehouse memberships.

But one key way to make the workplace valuable is by encouraging staff to try and learn new things.

I am given this opportunity every day. On a weekly basis I use at least four graphic design programs from Adobe, an animation software, a video editing software and multiple Microsoft products. I started using all of these in high school or college more than 10 years ago.

Because I’ve worked at places that encourage learning and self-growth, I’ve been able to keep up my skills in all of these programs, and add new programs to my repertoire.

It takes time to learn the programs and practice, but that time equates to having more graphic design, video editing and design skills in general. This space for growth has made me a more valuable employee, but it’s also made my workplace valuable to me.

By investing in training time and skill development, it’s also made the products I produce improve. Now when a client comes to us with a specific need, we have a multitude of options to help find a solution.

Need to explain an infrastructure project? AE2S Communications gave me the opportunity to learn how to create animations last year.  Now I’m able to easily create fun-to-watch cartoons about how or why a clients’ project is needed and how it will be built.

Want to support a successful voter-approved initiative? I’ve been given the freedom to hone my design skills and can make you an entire set of infographics, handouts, GIFs and interactive websites.

By giving me time, space and encouragement to hone and expand my skills, I now add value to my company and for our clients.

So give your employees a chance to learn something new. Ask them if there is a program they are interested in learning and maybe the next time an impossible task comes your way, you will have the skills needed to do the job right.



Disassembling a disaster zone

My computer desktop is a disaster. I’ll admit it. It looks like an explosion of every file type ever created. Screen shots and video files lurk in the corners. Folders where I meant to file things during a fit of organization clutter around the center of the screen, waiting to be used.

I know how it happens, and yet am powerless to stop it. A project comes up that needs completing immediately. Instead of finding the right file to save the design, or video project, it’s easier to keep it on my desktop so I can access it quickly if I’m working remotely.

Then, it never gets moved…until last week.

It’s funny how a change in the weather sparks some deep, internal desktop cleaning mode. When the snow leaves and the sun starts to show up before 9 a.m., suddenly my desktop is a clean background full of well-labeled folders and endless space.

It takes a little time to accomplish this feat, but once completed, it’s well worth the effort.

So here are a few tips that have helped me capitalize on the instinct of spring cleaning and file my documents where I can actually find them again.

1 – Use a consistent date and project label

Finding documents using the “last opened” feature is great, if it works. Sometimes it doesn’t depending on your platform. A more reliable way to organize files is to ensure the title of the file is as descriptive as possible but in a style that’s easy to remember. I start with the year, then the month and date in number format followed by the document description and if it’s a draft or final. (2017-0501-BlogPostCleaning-Final) Try to avoid spaces in your file names as that can cause issues.

2 – Create a file structure that makes sense to you and your team. Otherwise you will not use it.

The worst thing about file structures is not being able to find a document when you need it. To create a structure that works, it takes a little bit of practice and working with others who need to use the same files.

Finding a method to organize files is tricky because everyone approaches in their own way. One method we have agreed on in a joint server space is listing files by type and giving each a letter identifier so the files are grouped logically because of their alphabetic listing.

For example, anything files relating to standard graphics, logos or photos start with A- (ex. A-Logos and A-Photos). This keeps all graphics at the top of our file list. Print documents are filed in folders that start with P instead of just their name. That way when I have informational sheets or brochures that also need printing, they can be filed in P-InformationalSheets and P-Brochures.

This has worked well for us, but would not work well for all teams. That’s fine. Because it works well for us, we use it consistently. That’s the key with any sort of filing system.

3 – Organize things by purpose, not by file type.

One event can include dozens of different file types. Videos, InDesign, Illustrator, Word, Excel, PDF and Access files are just a few of the different file types that could be necessary. Saving things by their use may make more sense for your team if you ever plan to have repeat events. This makes it easy to pull that file and use it in later years.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can stick to. Make spring cleaning easy on yourself and happy filing!

Let’s Celebrate Drinking Water, Infrastructure, and Public Works!

May is the month that public works and water utilities receive some much deserved recognition for the services they provide.  Of course AE2S and AE2S Communications really get into celebrating Drinking Water Week, Infrastructure Week, and Public Works Week because they provide great opportunities to spotlight the important work cities and utilities do year round.

This year, Drinking Water Week falls on May 7-13, Infrastructure Week is May 15-19, and Public Works Week will be observed the week of May 21-27.  We know everyone is busy serving their customers, but here are a few simple things you can do on your social media sites to celebrate the utility services you provide.

Drinking Water Week:

  • Announce Drinking Water Week and post a photo of the local water treatment plant.
  • Invite the community or schools to an open house at the water treatment plant and provide tours to show the treatment process. Serve ice water with snacks so attendees can sample the water being produced at the facility. Remember to post photos of the event and thank people for attending!
  • Post an illustration that shows the water treatment process at your facility.
  • Post the average number of gallons of H2O used by your water customers each day, month, or year.
  • Share water conservation tips to help customers reduce their water bills.
  • Post a photo from inside water treatment plant with the number of gallons the plant is capable of producing daily.
  • Post a group photo of the water treatment plant staff, thanking them for their hard work.

Infrastructure Week: 

  • Announce Infrastructure Week and thank residents for supporting infrastructure projects.
  • Thank the legislature for financial support of important infrastructure projects that benefit your community’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure, or projects that will benefit roads, bridges, and airports.
  • Post a photo of an infrastructure project that is under construction with an explanation of how it will benefit residents.
  • Post photos of completed infrastructure projects in your community with fun facts such as “Did you know ___ number of vehicles travel over the bridge or on this stretch of road each day?”

Public Works Week:

  • Announce Public Works Week and list all of the services Public Works provide to residents.
  • Invite community to any events being held in honor of Public Works Week and post photos from the event. Some cities host an open house with refreshments, tours of facilities, and put their large equipment on display for people to see up close.
  • Post a photo of a garbage or recycling truck picking up trash with a fact about how much trash the solid waste crews pick up weekly, monthly, or annually.
  • Post a photo of street crews at work with a fact about the number miles of roads in the city.
  • Post a photo from inside water treatment plant with a fact about the city’s average daily water use or the plant’s daily capacity.
  • Post a photo from inside the wastewater plant with a fact about how much waste the plant handles daily, monthly, or annually.
  • Post a group photo of Public Works staff, thanking them for their hard work.

Additional Resources

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has lots of public outreach materials on its website, from draft news releases to official Water Week logos. Use the official hashtag #DrinkingWaterWeek17 or create one specific to your city or water utility for all of your social media posts during Drinking Water Week.

Several organizations come together to promote Infrastructure Week, which has its own website, including graphics that can be shared on social media. Use the hashtag #TimeToBuild to link your social media posts to other Infrastructure Week posts online.

The American Public Works Association (APWA) website has a toolkit that includes suggestions for activities to celebrate Public Works Week.  Use the hashtag #NPWW in your posts to denote National Public Works Week or make up an original hashtag for your City or utility.

If you would like help creating personalized graphics for your city or utility, AE2S Communications is here to help.  I hope you have a great month of celebrating Public Works and Drinking Water!