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Recently, one of our client organizations featured our work in their internal newsletter.  We can quote many happy customers, but a story like this from Washington State Department of Labor & Industries really says it all about our work.


How Employer Services’ cutting-edge leadership training is creating a whole new environment


FUN AT WORK: Account Services Operations Coordinator Reba Johnson, left, and Technical Support Unit Supervisor Sandy Craypo remember the way it was…and celebrate the way it is. The pair tell the story of Employer Services’ rags-to-riches turnaround and the upbeat culture that continues to unfold.

Last year at this time, Employer Services was struggling.

Their program was working in silos, with little communication across teams and among supervisors. Policies and work were not being uniformly applied, problems went without discussion – or solutions.

“We all wanted consistency and standardized work processes,” said Reba Johnson, Account Services Operations Coordinator, who was Team 4 supervisor at the time. “We needed leadership skills for solving these problems, change negative behaviors to positive, and encourage an upbeat culture.”

Program Manager Doug Stewart and his management team of Account Services Manager Julie Black, Retro Manager Tim Smolen and Employer Classification Services Manager Less Hargrave decided it was time to make changes.

They started by working with OHR’s Cheryl Shaw and Kristi Morrish. Then they brought in performance management experts Scontrino-Powell to work with leadership, supervisors, leads and teams.

Initial Skepticism

“At first I was skeptical,” said Sandy Craypo, Technical Support Unit Supervisor. “I thought: Why are we taking time to sit with a consultant when we have all this work to do? Does that make sense?  I have to admit, in this case, it did. It changed everything for the better.”

Staff was immediately disarmed by Scontrino-Powell’s genuine, sincere, down-to-earth humor and style. It was clear they understood the issues the program was tackling and they created a safe environment to explore solutions.

No place to hide

The consultants assured everyone in Employer Services that the problems they’re facing exist everywhere. In fact, they’re epidemic. The firm works with courageous companies who are willing to do things differently.

Soon the consultants had silent staff speaking up, distant staff engaged, problems being solved and individuals starting to work together.

“Getting there was sometimes painful,” said Reba. “They would not let us ignore the elephants in the room. They addressed the need for openness and honesty. They made us tackle unspoken problems and resentments. Each of us had to take a hard look at the part we played in the problems. I learned a lot about myself, and I made changes within myself.”

Fun?  What’s that?

It was hard work, but staff said there was also a lot of fun and laughter. Before long, even regular staff meetings lost their tension; everyone began loosening up and solving problems with humor, candor and perspective.

“Thanks to this training,” said Sandy, “we’ve brought humor back to the workplace. The consultants taught us how to encourage input, make our needs known and listen to others’ needs. The idea is to engage people and allow everyone to have a voice.”

New Camaraderie

According to Julie, the training created an unprecedented level of energy, enthusiasm and support for each other, especially among leaders.

“Once we recognized that we all had something to learn, we became more cohesive,” said Reba. “We learned to respect each other even when we disagree. We learned how to talk about problems and come up with solutions that were fair and would benefit everyone.”

Smartest move of all: The training wasn’t just a one-time class where staff is excited at first, but eventually loses steam and things go back to normal. There was continuous follow through – once-a-week trainings at first for several months, then every two weeks until the new habits stuck.

“Things are so much better,” said Sandy. “The atmosphere is upbeat and hopeful. Even with 12 vacancies and huge workloads, we’re tackling it together as a team. The truth is, we will never ‘arrive’ because there will always be something to learn, problems to work through, difficulties to overcome. But we’re on our way.”

Source: Employer Services – Inside L&I – Story 2