From the Hip: Pat McLaughlin, King County Solid Waste Division Director

‘Book ‘em’, and they will come

Pat and a WTD truck driver

Pat and a WTD truck driver

We are in the midst of collecting responses for the 2016 Employee Engagement Survey. I cannot express just how important it is for each and every one of us to complete this survey (I know I’ve already submitted mine). As King County Executive Dow Constantine has shown, your opinions directly influence the changes division, department, and county leadership implement to make your work life more enjoyable.

The Solid Waste Division is no exception, and for the past four years we have used the results of the Employee Engagement Surveys to establish our cultural values, set our mission and vision, and focus our efforts on becoming the “Employer of Choice.”

After receiving the results of the 2015 Employee Engagement Survey, it was clear staff felt senior leadership wasn’t as involved in the day-to-day operations as they could be, and that the quality of our communications needed work.

With help from a small committee, the Solid Waste Division Management Team and I developed a two-prong approach to meeting these staff needs.

The first was very simple, but also very effective – issuing weekly Director’s Updates. Every Wednesday, we send these updates to staff that include success stories, progress on major projects and initiatives, long-term planning goals, updates from the management team, and the general status of the division. The updates have the added bonus of giving staff recognition for the work they do, while also giving the entire division insights into workplace challenges of coworkers.

WTD getting work done

Smiling at work

The second approach we took is called “Book ‘ems.” This initiative had two purposes – get senior leadership into the workplaces where value is being created and give staff the chance to showcase their successes.

Using “Book ‘em” cards, staff are able to request leadership from across to the division to hear presentations, see workplaces, and, as I got the chance to do, spend a “day in the life” of staff.

As you can imagine, we have quite a few “dirty jobs” in the Solid Waste Division, and one of our workgroups took advantage of the “Book ems” and invited me to help them clean out our truck wash. This vital piece of equipment ensures that our trucks aren’t bringing any muck or litter they may have collected while disposing of waste at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill out onto public roads and highways.

Hard at work

Hard at work

Despite the conditions (you know they put my right in the thick of it), I truly enjoyed this experience and was thrilled to see the dedication of our staff who work tirelessly to keep our environmental controls functioning properly day in and day out.

This is just one example of the sort of outreach I and the rest of our division’s leadership have conducted to increase our visibility and enhance the quality of our communications, and to date, we have conducted more than 100 morning huddles to inform our efforts, published 29 Director’s Updates, and hosted more than 65 engagement events that have resulted in nearly 1,300 employee impressions.

These numbers are meaningful to us and it’s a good way to measure our success, but we know the work must continue. If our efforts have taught us anything, it’s that furthering employee engagement is constantly a work in progress, and we look forward to the results of the upcoming survey to better understand how we can continue to improve our employee experience.

Pat and members of his team

Pat and members of his team