Five questions with Kara Hannigan, Training and Organizational Development Manager, Human Resources Division

img_3332bWhy did you start as a Training and Organizational Development Manager with King County?

I’ve worked in learning and leadership development for many years across different sectors. Initially as a high school teacher, then training librarians and patrons to use computer applications and the Internet while working for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and most recently, at Starbucks leading management and leadership development. What I love about learning and development is that, in an organization that cares about its employees and makes learning a priority, you can really make a difference.

Coming to the County may seem like a big change, but I was excited about the focus on employee engagement and best run government. These priorities really said something to me about the kind of learning culture County leaders want to create here. And, being in service to people who are in service to others really spoke to my values.

What do you do in your role?

I will be leading the centralized support for Learning and Development. We connect employees to learning opportunities that help them “bring their best” to work every day. While there are resources out there, like KC eLearning and instructor-led classes, there’s an opportunity to make sure more people have access to these resources. It’s also important to ensure we’re offering development in the skills most important to achieving our mission of being a best-run government.

Through our offerings, and more communication about when, why and how to use them, we can help employees excel in the roles they have and prepare for their next role.

Why did you choose this field of employee learning as your career?

The theme throughout my career has been connecting people to learning that improves their lives. I didn’t have a master plan; I’ve just followed work that interests me and feels like it’s adding value.  Leading learning in many contexts has kept me learning and growing as well. You know the saying about taking your own medicine.

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

I’m still new to the County so right now it’s learning the organization and understanding the King County landscape. There are so many different departments, divisions and diverse audiences. Our small team is looking to make an impact in a large organization, which is a challenge. We’re working right now to identify the areas where we can add the most value, and we’ll be looking for partnerships with others to tackle the barriers to accessing learning.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I really do love the spark that learning something new creates for people. I love leading a team that gets to do that for others, and I love the collaboration and creativity that comes from a group of people with that shared passion for helping others grow.