Regular, direct and face-to-face

We have over 3,000 employees with a wide range of critically important responsibilities serving our community.  So, effective two-way communication with our colleagues is crucial!  I work hard to share our values, priorities, and success stories of our work.  Equally important, I appreciate listening to your concerns, perspectives, and ideas about how to make things better.  There are several ways I regularly share with you and your Pierce County colleagues – including this weekly blog.  But the best way to really communicate is through regular, direct and face-to-face meetings – and I had three of those meetings this past week!

Monday mornings nearly always start with New Employee Orientation (NEO) at 9 a.m., and this week was no exception!  Getting to know our newest colleagues is a great way to begin the day.  I ask each of our new employees “Where are you from, what were you doing before you joined Pierce County, and why did you come to Pierce County?”  These questions prompt rich discussions – about them and our work in the County. 

I also share our values: Integrity, Accountability, Innovation, Partnership, and Respect. Each NEO is unique, reflecting the background and experiences of that cohort.  This past Monday, we welcomed a colleague originally from Brazil!  We also were joined by two new Juvenile Detention Officers and our new Assistant Director in Planning & Public Works!  NEO also gives me the opportunity to see and hear first-hand the results of our recruiting and hiring efforts.

But it doesn’t stop there.  We approach every new employee like they will be serving the people of Pierce County with us for more than 20 years.  Therefore, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding them is absolutely critical – first impressions are lasting impressions! About three times per year, we invite our most recent hires to give us direct feedback on how we are doing.  This past Wednesday afternoon, I was joined by the Human Resources and Benefits teams to listen to how our processes work.  I ask our recent hires “What went well, what could be better, and what did we miss entirely?” Over the years, we have made many changes based on their feedback.  Early on, our newest colleagues were confused by the paperwork needed to sign up for their benefits.  So, on Wednesday it was very gratifying to have more than one person thank Mandi Mills for her personal attention with their benefits selection! 

Some issues are out of our direct control, like the 30-day lag in health care coverage for one of our plans.  Highlighting those issues for new employees helps them not be surprised – and we provide feedback to that plan provider. 

Sometimes we hear something entirely new.  Last Wednesday, Rachel Elliott shared she was confused while trying to get her Lenel badge, because there was no signage on the door outside the badging location. While we were still in the meeting, the amazing Maura Maye printed out a sign, and posted it before we had even finished our conversation. Now, that’s process improvement in the moment!

But this vital communication is not limited to new employees.  On Tuesday, I hosted a small gathering at the Tacoma Mall Plaza office.  It was one of my occasional feedback sessions where I invite randomly selected employees to join me for a longer in-person chat over coffee and snacks.  My thanks to Craig Peters, Christina Bailey, Mani Vairapandi, Paula Felkins, Larry Perez, Noelle Kaku and Lacey Hal for taking the time to meet with me.  Their time with the County ranges from 9 months to nearly 3 decades!  They also live across our community from just down the street to Eatonville!

This time is less structured (I didn’t have three questions for them) as I respond to their questions, which allows for deeper conversations – we met for 1-½ hours. Our discussions ran the gamut from affordable housing and rent control, to benefits and our hiring practices, in addition to homelessness.

One person asked what I want my legacy to be once I leave the County at the end of next year. I mentioned that I hoped our commitment to transparency would continue (Have you been to Open Pierce County lately?). Unfortunately, this level of accountability is not the case in government at all levels and in all locations.  I also shared my concern that the work we’ve taken to ensure long-term financial strength needs to be maintained.  This has taken a lot of work and fiscal discipline but provides both stable programs for our community and a professional County workforce serving them!

Before I close, I want to thank our Planning & Public Works Maintenance & Operations and Surface Water Management teams for all their hard work over the past week responding to minor flooding and keeping our roads safe!  And we also appreciate our indomitable Emergency Management pros who continue to support multiple challenges throughout the County!

My thanks to every one of you who takes the time to read this blog, send me an email or participate in one of our employee events. Your ideas and input are critically important to me and help us make our work for the people of Pierce County the best it can be!

Thanks for reading,