People are constantly coming and going from legislative or public affairs roles at federal agencies, whether it be for job promotions, political party transitions, military duty, or countless other reasons. In a survey of 70 public sector leaders, 64 percent highlighted that it was difficult to attract and retain talent. Because of this frequent turnover, information sharing is more challenging, and yet more critical than the average workplace.
When employees leave, you have to make sure they don’t take all of their institutional knowledge with them. And, when you have team members with a shorter average tenure at an organization, it’s necessary to get them up to speed on that institutional knowledge as quickly as possible to maximize their time in the role. Failing to maintain this institutional knowledge has consequences beyond just time. If your team is consistently meeting with key stakeholders on Capitol Hill, you need to make sure each team member is up-to-date on conversations with that stakeholder so you can use meetings to move the conversation forward, rather than repeating what you’ve covered in the past.
To address this challenge, we recommend a meeting tracking system that team members use to log their interactions with legislators and staff. By using meeting tracking as the solution to institutional knowledge, you build a repository of knowledge that current employees can leverage and new employees can review to quickly take in critical information.
“It’s a really good record,” said Darlene Rosenkoetter, Global Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy at S&P Global. “I hate to say it, but in case you ever lose any of your team members for attrition or whatever reason, it establishes a permanent record so you don’t have to go back to someone and say, ‘Hey — what was that meeting about?’”
If maintaining institutional knowledge is challenging for the legislative affairs team at your agency, consider these four steps:
1. Set Up a System to Track Interactions
The first, seemingly obvious step is to set up or purchase a system to track your meetings. At the most basic level, some organizations use an Excel or Google spreadsheet to share who they met with, when they met, and what was discussed. Understandably, this strategy can get quickly challenging to maintain as the information scales. When the system is too difficult, adoption is difficult.
With Quorum, team members can use the interaction logger on their desktop or the Quorum mobile app to log meetings. With the mobile app, team members can log their interactions immediately after they happen, without waiting until they get back to the office and potentially forget something from the conversation.
The mobile app was critical to the Air Force’s meeting tracking system. Beyond Capitol Hill, Quorum’s mobile app allowed them to track engagements as they happened overseas as well.
“We had an Action Officer that was escorting a Congressional Delegation to Africa,” Bravo said. “Right after discussions with a member on his policy interests, she got on her phone and entered notes into Quorum. Within minutes people in our office at the Pentagon who had that issue in their portfolio were alerted to the discussion. That was instant sharing of information from Africa to the Pentagon.”
2. Decide on a Tagging System for Interactions
Once you have a logistical mechanism for tracking interactions, you should set up a tagging system so the information can be sorted and filtered for the information a particular team member is looking for.
There are a few different categories of tags you can use to provide multiple ways to slice and dice the notes:
- Issue — which part of your organization’s policy portfolio was discussed?
- Type of interaction — was this a phone call, in-person meeting, unexpected run-in?
- Quality of interaction — was the meeting positive, negative, or neutral?
3. Pitch Employees on the Value of Meeting Tracking to Them Personally
Any meeting tracking system is only as good as its users’ efforts to input accurate and consistent information. While no one wants to add more processes to their work, it is easier when employees can see the benefit to their daily work along with the work of the team as a whole.
For example, meeting logging can make team members more effective in their own engagements with legislators because they are prepared with everything that has been discussed in the past. Uber’s government affairs team uses this strategy to make sure they are always properly managing their follow up and future meeting planning.
“It has been really important for us to be able to know six months ago we went into this office and we had this conversation about this topic,” said Danielle Burr, Head of Federal Affairs at Uber. “Then we can know 1) was it properly followed up on or 2) is it appropriate to go back in again, or have we overstayed our welcome somewhere.”
Along with being well-prepared for their meetings, team members can also use the data from their meeting tracking in performance reviews to show the impact they have had on the agency. For example, a team member could quantify the amount of time they put in in engagements that led to a positive outcome. Or, they could share how many champions they built over the course of the year from their meetings.
While these may not be the number one value to organizational leadership of meeting tracking, it creates a win-win for the organization and the team member.
4. Use Past Interactions to Train New Team Members
You’ve built your system of logged meetings, now it’s time to put them into practice to get new team members up to speed. How you approach this is influenced by how your team is organized. If your team is organized by policy area, have them filter through meetings tagged to that policy area. If your team is organized by party or chamber or committee, filter by who was involved in the meeting.
If you’re using Quorum to log your interactions, the process of catching up on key information is even easier because the interactions live alongside other key legislative information like voting history, social media dialogue, legislative relationships, and more, so your team members can get up to speed on the congressional history and your organization’s history, all at the same time.
Bonus: Use Reports to Learn From Your Interactions
Meeting tracking isn’t just valuable when team members are coming and going, but provides a reporting mechanism for identifying what engagement strategies are effective for moving the needle on a policy and what aren’t. To do this, look at what patterns emerge amongst your positive and negative meetings. Are you having more positive meetings in a particular policy area than another? Is a particular team member involved in more positive meetings than others? Are you really successful with face-to-face meetings but struggle when you are just working over the phone? Learn from these patterns and apply the takeaways in future interactions with legislators and staff.
You could ask departing team members to try to dump everything they know into a memo as they prepare to move on to their next opportunity. Or, with a meeting tracking system like this, you can make institutional knowledge and information sharing a living process that team members build each day.
By logging your meetings, your team can work smarter by reporting on your engagements to identify what brings your team success. Then, you can move faster to onboard new team members and set them up for success early on in their role, leading to better outcomes for your organization.