Curiosity and Gratitude

Jennifer Hills, Director of the Office of Risk Management in the Department of Executive Services, was “devastated” when she looked at the engagement scores for her division. Lower than she expected “I was surprised because we’d been doing a lot of strategic planning and our 2012 employee survey results were so good.”

Hills resolved to approach the conversation with her 22 person division with “curiosity and gratitude”: curiosity about the underlying reasons for the scores and gratitude for the opportunity to be able to address concerns. This opened the door for honest communication that has benefited both the atmosphere and work in Risk Management.

To have the conversation, she kept it simple and borrowed from the engagement training. The agenda:

  • What is your biggest fear?
  • What are your hopes for how the data will be catalyst for change?
  • What does the data tell us about our workplace culture?
  • What action can we take that will have the biggest impact?
  • Let’s pick 1 thing…

After 90 minutes of discussion where everyone participated and valuable ideas were generated, they created this list of three categories of things. “We couldn’t choose just one thing so we narrowed it down to safety and security, communication and our physical space.” Ideas were collected, discussed and people took on action items.

Safety and Security:

  • Key Card Entry to Restrooms: can FMD designate some floors in the Administration Building as public restrooms and other floors employee only restrooms with key card or numeric keypad entry? (Jennifer)
  • Safety Training for de-escalation techniques (Christine)
  • Enhanced security in the lobby (Jennifer)
  • When county employees arrive for ORM meetings, allow them through to wait in the conference room rather than in the lobby (Administrative Staff-implement now)
  • Install a main phone on the 3rd Floor for visitors to call the county employee they are meeting with (delivery and county employees ask ORM front desk to use their key cards to provide entry to non-ORM spaces on the 3rd floor) (Jennifer)
  • More visible FMD security patrol in Admin Building (Jennifer)
  • Invite Collin Sanders, Chief of Security, to ORM staff meeting to discuss security concerns (Jennifer)
  • Eliminated IN/OUT board and are using Lync and Outlook Calendars to identify staff availability. Training needed on Lync and Outlook calendar functions (Chauntelle will offer tutorial in conference room)


  • Section meeting minutes will be reported out to entire office (Managers)
  • Claims Section will invite Insurance/Contracts Section to roundtable meetings (Karen)
  • Insurance/Contracts Section will provide a presentation to Claims staff after April policy renewals (Winnie, Liz)
  • Jennifer will send out a monthly newsletter to ORM staff to share information from senior leadership, DES Management Team meetings, provide updates on ORM projects, section activities, ORM staff recognition, etc. (Jennifer)
  • Lack of departmental responses to claims is having a negative impact on our TCIs’ ability to investigate and resolve claims, and provide good customer service. TCI’s will provide Jennifer with a specific list of claims that are waiting for responses. Jennifer will schedule meetings with Department Leadership to include a TCI ambassador to share examples and impact, starting with DAJD. (Jennifer, Christine, Miesha)
  • Risk Mitigation Funds may be available to assist departments with better document management, information flow, responsiveness. (Sean)
  • Improve incident reporting by other departments to ORM. In particular, vehicle accidents need to be reported more timely. We need to create standard work around incident reporting. Use of technology for smart phone/tablet applications for incident reporting from the field directly to ORM. (Christine, Robert H., Sean, New Claims System)
  • There is a strong need to access other departments’ documentation via a shared drive (transit reports, videos, photos, etc) (Stephen, Sean, Pam)

Physical Space:

  • Since our first Employee Engagement meeting, staff noticed a reduction in the office noise level. Thank you everyone!
  • Everyone was issued LED lights for use at their cubicles. Blue indicates recorded statement or phone call in progress, red indicates a need for uninterrupted time (Joan completed)
  • We submitted a work order to FMD to have them consult on better noise absorbing or sound proofing of cubicles (Joan completed)
  • Plum Room can also be used as a resource for phone calls, quiet work area, etc.
  • White noise generators-would this help with noise level? (lack of consensus-Safety and Claims uses white noise generators if anyone would like to see/hear them in action)
  • Earplugs will be ordered on the next Keeney’s office supplies order (Joan)

Follow-up to the discussion was quick and impactful. To address concerns about noise in the office that made transcription difficult, everyone was issued LED lights for use at their cubicles. Blue indicates recorded statement or phone call in progress, red indicates a need for uninterrupted time. A short term win was realized as staff noticed a reduction in the office noise level.

Hills issued the division’s first newsletter with kudos recognizing excellent work by employees. And, looking longer term, Hills engaged Integris to focus the division’s Lean journey.

“I’m really happy we got the scores we did because now I know what we can do to create a better work environment. I’ve seen a big change in our office.” People are more helpful to each other and communication has improved.

Her advice to those faced with difficult scores? “Approach the conversation with curiosity and gratitude. And, don’t fill in the pauses,” when you are having your discussion. “It’s tempting to try to fill in the pauses with solutions, but that’s when people come forward with their thoughts and ideas.”