Five Questions with Brooke Bascom, Employee Engagement Manager

Brooke Bascom_Final1. Why did you start as an Employee Engagement Manager with King County?

My work with Healthy Incentives led me to employee engagement. We started examining workplace stress and what contributes to it. Turns out that there is a lot of crossover between the factors that cause stress and the factors that lead people to be engaged in their work. For example, if there is conflict in your team it can cause stress. On the other hand, if your team works well together, appreciates each other and encourages everyone’s best, that can be really engaging. I got even more excited when I learned the positive impacts engagement has on the organization. An organization with a highly engaged workforce produces better quality service with fewer injuries, grievances, sick leave and turnover. Engagement is really the point at which individual well-being meets  organizational performance to produce really powerful results for the individual, the organization and the public we serve.

2. What do you do in your role?

I help improve employee engagement by ensuring the organization is responsive to what we hear from employees.  This involves both long and short term planning, individual behavior change and organizational development. In concrete terms, I support the action planning that happens as a result of the survey. With a lot of other great people, I help with the creation and administration of the survey, I  get the data out to executive leadership, separately electeds, department directors, division directors and workgroups. Last year, I helped train about 450 managers and supervisors on how to work with their teams on action planning and I created an in person forum and online searchable database where groups can share what they are doing so we can learn from each other. I also do a lot of communication about how things are going.

3. Why did you choose employee engagement as your career?

It’s all part of my interest in making government more open, transparent and responsive to what people need. When people trust government they are more likely to participate in the democratic process and that is how their voices can be heard. Throughout my career I have jumped between the public and private sectors. I started my career in Washington, D.C. in the office of Senator Jack Danforth, have worked for private consulting firms and have been a speech writer and Deputy Communications Director for the Mayor of the City of St. Louis. My time at King County started as Deputy Communications Director for King County Executive Ron Sims and since then I have had the opportunity to work on some really great efforts to improve government effectiveness, like Parks moving off of general revenue funds, elections becoming more accurate and then Healthy Incentives.

4. What is the biggest challenge of your job?

Change is hard. It’s exciting, and it’s hard. We have a lot going on and a lot of people feel overwhelmed with the number of things coming at them. We also have some skepticism to overcome about whether we really will follow through. Having these conversations about what is working and what isn’t is new to us and it can feel uncomfortable. That being said, I am so impressed with how people have embraced this and thrown themselves into it with the resourcefulness we know to be unique to King County employees.

5. What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love working with other people who have chosen to serve our community. I also love the diversity in our workforce – diversity of thought, diversity of experience, age, gender, race, ethnicity, all of it. It makes this a really interesting and enriching place to work.