May The Support Be With You! – Engaging Staff with Fun Themes

By Amelia Rosas, Section Manager – Sonoma County DCSS

At Sonoma County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) we kick off every Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) with a new theme to accompany our new Performance Plan. Developing a theme and using it throughout the year gives us a fresh way to work on the Performance Plan each year. We have experienced our staff to be more engaged and enthusiastic in their approach to work as a result of this fun program.

The theme and activities are developed by the Theme Committee, which is comprised of approximately 10 members ranging from our Director to support staff. The main purpose of the committee is to encourage staff to rise up to the challenge of another year of great service and great performance for the families we serve. The special trait of the current committee is that the group has fun in the process of creating inspiring themes and activities. We speak freely about ideas and suggestions and are genuine with our feedback to each other. We also make the best of any challenge, such as the lack of a budget to coordinate activities or decorate projects associated with promoting staff engagement. We joke and laugh about our ideas and suggestions and in the process mold them into something that works for our department. Some past themes we have used include the Oscars, Children Around the World, and Sports.

This year, Star Wars is our theme. One of our staff members that recently retired chose this theme as a special request.  Although not all of the theme committee members are Star Wars fans, we all pulled together to make it memorable for our co-worker and the department in general.

The main tasks of the committee are:

  • Create a motto for the FFY: “May The Support Be With You!” is this year’s motto.
  • Decorate our large conference room with images and quotes based on the theme; for example, these modified quotes from Star Wars characters, “Help me DCSS, you are my only hope.” (Princess Leia), “Much to Collect, we still have.” (Master Yoda), and “Remember, DCSS will be with you always.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi).
  • Develop a staff acknowledgement award to recognize staff’s great work. This year we call it a   “Jedi Award.”
  • Coordinate a staff appreciation lunch.
  • Create engaging activities throughout the year for meetings and special acknowledgements.

At our quarterly all staff meeting, the theme is incorporated with trivia games, music, and presentation design. This year we also created a keepsake for each staff member using individual photos to design “Jedi badges.”

Regardless of the theme, what counts is how the individuals responsible for working with the theme demonstrate an attitude that is welcoming, fun, and sincere. When staff notices this energy, they tend to appreciate the efforts of their co-workers and are more likely to participate in the fun and productive atmosphere.