How we doin’?

Former New York mayor Ed Koch was famous for his impromptu walking tours of the city. He asked everyone he came across the same question: “How am I doin’?”

Our version of “How am I doin’?” is an Internal Services Survey, an opportunity for employees to evaluate the performance of departments we all rely on: Communications; Facilities; Finance; and Human Resources.

Of about 3100 employees, 566 responded — about 18%. Complete results will be available in the next week or so. Most of the ratings are positive or very positive, but the survey raises questions similar to what I hear at meetings and in conversations. They deserve answers.

Predictably, they’re all related to wanting faster service.

FACILITIES. Despite high ratings for the quality of their work, I’m occasionally asked about delays in getting work done. The simple answer is that staffing has never been sufficient to meet our expectations and probably never will be, especially with supply chain disruptions and crises like the pandemic.

FINANCE. Staff get high marks for expertise and the quality of work, but I’m frequently asked why some contracts take so long to be approved. Most of the questions recently have been about Human Services contracts.

Most contracts are simple and quickly approved, but Finance needs to make sure every contract is correctly drafted, with fully vetted providers and clearly stated performance standards. That takes time despite our urge to deploy funds as quickly as possible. It’s the only way to assure public funds are used properly.

Along with Human Services and Executive staff, Finance is developing contract templates and improved staff training that will speed up the process.

HUMAN RESOURCES. Rated highly for customer service, the most frequently asked question I hear is, “Why does it take so long to fill positions?” Part of the problem is workload. Nearly 90 new positions were authorized this year in addition to the normal turnover of about 30 positions per month.

Another part of the problem deserves celebration. We now have an integrated, professionally managed hiring process that assures everyone has equal employment and promotional opportunities. It includes a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The new system has more steps and involves more people. But it’s a better system.

What’s more, recent data show the hiring process took an average of 71 days in the third quarter of 2019 but only 33 days in the second quarter of this year.

Another question I’ve been asked that’s not part of the survey is why it takes Human Resources so long to process the back pay employees are owed following contract agreements. For better or worse, most of delay is beyond HR’s control.

One recent contract took 111 calendar days from the time it was ratified by members to the time payments were entered in the system. The contract was with HR only seven of those 111 days. It was with Finance only two of those days. The rest of the time it was with the union and the County Council.

Contracts require close attention, whether they are for labor or Human Services or any other department. The more complicated they are, the more time it takes.

Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey. I look forward to the complete results and additional questions they might prompt.

While the performance of our internal service departments is important, we can’t ignore all the great work of our external departments.

Highlights of the week include:

The U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is being held at Chambers Bay.

The tournament started last weekend and runs through this Sunday. Don Anderson from the Executive team had a celebrity turn as a “starter” last weekend. He correctly pronounced most of the names.

Golf wasn’t the only event going on at Chambers Bay. Roxanne Miles and the Parks staff hosted the popular Kite Festival. It was a beautiful, sunny weekend made even more so by all the colorful kites. Kudos to everyone involved.

While the weather was beautiful, it also was hot; too hot for many. Thank you to Jody Ferguson and Heather Moss and the staffs at Emergency Management and Human Services. Cooling sites and water trucks offered welcome relief for many, including our unhoused residents. I was pleased to learn that no homeless individuals perished from heat-related problems.

Finally, I stood in for the Executive at a Human Services all-staff gathering Wednesday, complete with water balloons. This is what it got me.

Thank you to those who took the time to respond to the survey, especially those who offered comments. And thank you for all you do for the residents of Pierce County.

Have a great weekend!







Dan Grimm is the Deputy Executive and Chief Operating Officer for Pierce County.