Talent Acquisition steps up to the challenge

Finding the right job candidates during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many challenges at King County departments as they work to protect employees and customers from the virus while ensuring their services remain easily accessible. Continuing to recruit talented staff to fill the wide array of positions at the County, while maintaining social distancing is one of those challenges.

Alongside the Talent Acquisition team within the Department of Human Resources (DHR), many departments at King County have their own recruiting teams. As you might expect, initial outreach to candidates is typically done by phone and email. The process of interviews by hiring managers and others has been historically in-person for the most part. When mandatory telework was announced last March, it was all hands-on deck for recruiters in the various departments across King County to manage a major shift in bringing on new talent.

“Interviewers needed to ramp up quickly to get comfortable with the technology and logistics that would now dictate the online interviews they would be conducting,” stressed Jamie Robinson, Sr. Analyst in DHR who leads the process and strategy for King County Talent Acquisition.

Jamie and her colleagues are involved in the development and distribution of recruiting tools and training for King County departments, flexing to provide guidance and support for those who converted to virtual recruiting.

Technology would be the answer and, fortunately, the NEOGOV recruiting system was already in place. Recruiters were accustomed to using it as a tool to house candidate resumes, interview schedules, and track recruitment steps. But there would need to be some training to get Human Resource practitioners, subject matter experts, interviewers, and hiring managers accustomed to the additional functions that could be used to streamline and digitize a formerly paper-heavy process. 

The big lift came when the team needed to convert the New Employee Orientation — normally held in person — to completely online. This would take a concerted effort working with several teams in DHR.  The NEOGOV system was equipped for onboarding and the team quickly got to work building out the processes, tools, and training to launch it in just a few days.

Some teams that were just getting started using Skype, MS Teams, and Zoom for internal meetings were finding it difficult to transition to online interviews, so the DHR team stepped in to offer assistance in a variety of spaces and provide training in using the Zoom technology for virtual interviews. Jamie stated, “No detail was too small. Things one might not think of, such as making sure the interviewer is in a quiet space or how to create a background that isn’t distracting, became part of the guidance toolkit.”

Not all recruiting steps went virtual

Just as there are many jobs in King County that cannot be performed virtually, some recruiting continues to call for in-person activities. For the Civil Service team, creating a pool of candidates for deputy sheriff openings requires some of the most intense testing and interview processes of any job in the County. One of the initial hiring elements for a deputy position is a physical test, for which there was already a national vendor in place to handle. Now that Civil Service can manage more of the initial rounds of interviewing virtually, they have a broader pool of out-of-area candidates to choose from.

Initial challenges of going virtual for this team included figuring out the logistics on how to provide interview panelists the resources they need. MS Teams was used to create a closed, confidential location for interview materials, and the team converted to using Zoom for interviews. By April last year they were able to shift most work to remote processes, but some required a hybrid approach.

Last summer the team conducted a sergeant’s promotional exam in a gymnasium to accommodate a proctored test for 100 people, on the same day, with enough space for the candidates to socially distance. Those who passed had to come in for an in-person assessment, a set of practical examinations that lasts approximately six hours per candidate. 

“I was impressed with how quickly the team adapted, and feedback from candidates has been positive,” said Brannon Mark, Interim Civil Service Administrator. Though she admits the team still deals with “virtual fatigue” from being online so much, since they’re doing eight to 11 interview days per month because the process takes longer and there’s less flexibility in scheduling.

Working with the job candidate

The Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) has been successful in transitioning its processes to a virtual experience. One of its main efforts is to ensure the interview process is fair to all, so if a candidate doesn’t have sufficient online access, they might come into the office to use a computer while the interview panel remains virtual. 

Another positive element of working virtually is being able to run everything using the NEOGOV platform from scheduling and confirmations through onboarding and training.

“It really drives efficiencies for us, especially since everyone’s calendars seem to be so full,” states Diana Eberly, Sr. Analyst in DNRP. “The next step we hope to implement is a follow-up survey to measure satisfaction from everyone – candidates, hiring managers, SMS’s and interview panelists. That will help assess how successful we’ve been.”    

Find out more about King County careers and open job opportunities at kingcounty.gov/careers.

Accommodations for mental health

As we recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to remember King County’s commitment to supporting employees with mental health conditions in the workplace.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about one in five American adults, or roughly 43.8 million adults, experience mental illness in a given year. Approximately 39% of employees in the U.S. workforce have a mental health condition. And more than 50% of individuals with mental illness still avoid needed treatment. Untreated mental illness can result in other illnesses and behaviors, such as chronic pain and substance abuse, leading to further challenges for individuals experiencing mental illness and higher costs for employers and society as a whole. Regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, mental illness affects everyone, whether through our own experiences or the experiences of individuals we know.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on individuals. According to a CDC survey, almost 41% of respondents are struggling with mental health conditions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to contain it, including physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. Mental health risks of social distancing, isolation and quarantine have led to, among other things, increased fear, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, anger, frustration, irritability and stigma. Those particularly more vulnerable include older adults, individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions and healthcare workers.   

For many people, employment is an essential part of our identity, well-being and health. It provides a sense of purpose and allows us to build connections. Fostering a work culture that promotes self-care and focuses on mental health as an important part of overall health and well-being is critical to building inclusion and providing support to employees. A key part of this focus is to provide employees who experience limitations or restrictions associated with a mental health condition with reasonable accommodations in the workplace to be able to perform their job duties productively and effectively.

Yet employees with mental health conditions continue face barriers when requesting reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Those barriers include:

  • An employee is not willing to come forward with their conditions due to denial, shame and stigma
  • The lack of supervisor knowledge to recognize and/or understand the impacts of mental health
  • Difficulty knowing how permanent or temporary the symptoms are
  • Discrimination or judgement against people with mental health conditions
  • Lack of HR knowledge about how to accommodate employees with mental health conditions
  • Treatment providers not documenting the health condition accurately, resulting in inadequate treatment and/or accommodations

Providing reasonable accommodations

King County is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to all its employees and applicants for employment to ensure that individuals with disabilities, including mental health conditions, enjoy equal access to all employment opportunities. It is important to note that while some individuals with mental health conditions may experience limitations that impact their ability to work or perform certain job functions, the degree to which they are impacted will vary. Some individuals with mental health conditions may not need accommodations to help them perform their job duties.

Examples of reasonable accommodations that may be provided to employees with mental health conditions include the following:

  • An employee with depression may benefit from noise cancelling headsets to help with concentration and focus.
  • An employee coping with an anxiety disorder may need to have flexible and/or additional breaks built into the workday to step away when feeling overwhelmed.
  • An employee with PTSD who experiences sleep problems due to their condition may need a flexible work schedule or later start time to help them cope with morning fatigue.

These are just a few of the many examples of reasonable workplace accommodations King County have provided to employees with mental health conditions to stay at work or return to work. For additional ideas or suggestions for accommodations to assist individuals with mental health conditions, please visit the Job Accommodation Network at Mental Health Conditions (askjan.org). In addition, providing such accommodations lead to greater employee loyalty, increased employee retention, better employee morale, more positive employee relationships and higher productivity and lower costs. Providing reasonable accommodations to employees with mental health conditions, contributes to our goal of building an inclusive workplace for all.

This is one of the many ways we can support employees experiencing mental health conditions at King County. If you need assistance with accommodation in the workplace, talk to your Human Resources representative, supervisor, or Disability Services staff at 206-263-9329 or DisabilityServices@kingcounty.gov.

Language Access Team provides information in multiple languages to support community needs

This year saw the first time that the King County Employee Survey was translated into multiple languages – six to be exact – and the feedback about this offering has been overwhelmingly positive. The translations are primarily an outcome of a busy, dedicated team that until a little over a year ago, did not even exist at King County.

The Language Access Team provides COVID-19 information in over 30 languages.

The COVID-19 Language Access Team has been receiving kudos and recognition within the enterprise as well as the community for their success in putting information into the languages that our diverse community needs. The team grew out of an urgent call to action last year to provide up-to-date, concise, and relevant information to the various people in the area that do not speak or read English as a first language. King County is known to have one of the most prolific collections of languages spoken in the country and the pandemic amplified a need that had already been identified.

In fact, Senayet Negusse had been recently hired for purpose of providing leadership for the county and operationalizing and integrating language access for the County departments and agencies in the newly created position of Language Equity Program Manager in the Office of Executive’s Equity and Social Justice. However, she was quickly tasked with helping to build a team and process that could support COVID-19 communications.   

There was a strong partnership already underway with the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Peggy Liao, Negusse’s counterpart at the City of Seattle, had been assigned to work with King County Public Health to support the language access efforts. When Negusse joined in March, they worked closely together and began creating a system for King County. Negusse developed a COVID-19 language access guide and the team co-created processes for items such as translation requests, project tracking, and invoicing translators.

“The vendors we had in place for translation were taking 8-10 days to turn around work,” Negusse stated. In the early months of COVID, this was obviously not good enough. The team began building a base of “over 100 local translators, individuals committed to making sure our communities receive information quickly, while considering their cultural needs.” 

Negusse explained that this team did not just manage the translation, but also helped to provide guidance on such things as how to reach audiences. It involved connecting to people in numerous ways, like the distribution to ethnic media and by harnessing the power of targeted social media as a strategy.

It started with a call for volunteers

When the message went out that there was a need, a team of volunteers began to come together in  February last year for the enormous task of reaching out across a county that is as varied in cultures as it is in landscape and structure. One of the first to join up was Francesca Collins, who was working as an Education Consultant in the HIV/STD program at the time. She was recruited by the team to work with Liao, having previously collaborated with the Communications team on health education campaigns. With the support of her manager, she offered her community health expertise to do whatever was needed.

“It was bananas last year,” Collins laughed, bringing a little levity in retrospect to a serious issue. “Health and Medical Area Command (HMAC) was overwhelmed with emails, people just wanting answers to every question you can think of.”  According to Collins, HMAC was serving as a hub for COVID-19 updates, tracking cases, providing reports, talking with the public, strategizing testing and response, and COVID-19 communications, “on top of managing many other COVID-related things.”

When Liao returned to her duties at the City of Seattle, “It was just Francesca and me, until Amanda came on,” Negusse said. “We all worked together and brought on more coordinator staff.”

Amanda Kay came from Communities of Opportunity in response to the call for volunteers to join the team. What started as a four-week rotation helping to operationalize the work, kept getting extended. It has since turned into a Special Duty Program Manager position. She’s also a leading evangelist for the Language Access Team.

“The team has flourished in the last year, there’s a lot of passion and encouragement,” says Kay proudly. “Our team has become a cohesive service for COVID-related materials.”

“It would be nice to see a service like this expanded in the future,” she continued, “but for now we are only funded to provide COVID-related translations and reviews through September.”

Another early team member to join was Angélica Esquivel, a contract Spanish translator and interpreter working for the City of Seattle, who was recruited last February to help with the heavy workload. She’s now a regular member of the Language Access Team, working as a Coordinator, and bringing a wealth of experience beyond just reviewing documents.

“There are multiple Spanish-speaking cultures here,” Angélica explains. “Taking into account the words and expressions requires research and review. You have to make sure the language is appropriate across cultures.”  That includes elements such as other language bases or CDC resources, and even outreach for input from the translator community for direct feedback.

The work continues

Equity and accessibility are key components to the future of a thriving, successful King County. The gaps that had been identified highlighted the need for language access services to be implemented into the practices, policies, and procedures of King County. The goal is building trust and relationships with limited English proficient communities. 

The arrival of COVID-19 accelerated the implementation of these programs, resulting in over 30 in-language website pages, plus videos and public service announcements in over 20 languages. The team’s accomplishments had other regional, national, and even global jurisdictions looking to King County as an example in how to reach out to culturally diverse constituents.

Now back in her regular role for the Executive’s Office of Equity and Social Justice, Negusse is tasked with leading policy development and operationalizing and integrating language access in collaboration with King County departments and agencies. In conjunction with her colleague Hamdi Mohamed, they have been creating a hub of materials and resources, including a training on KING COUNTY CODE 2.15 Immigrant, Refugees and Language Access Ordinance (KCC 2.15), which, in part, requires all departments to have a language access plan.

Negusse has also been working closely with KCIT to develop what will be known as the Community Engagement Translation Program. The Office of Equity and Social Justice and KCIT are preparing to launch the Community Engagement Translation Program (CETP). This program will provide funding for translation of select web content into the top six most spoken languages, and an enterprise translation management platform.

If you have COVID-related materials that need translation, or you would like to know more about the Language Access Team, please contact ESJLanguages@kingcounty.gov.

Celebrating you during Public Service Recognition Week

from Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Dow Constantine

Over the past year-plus, as the nation and world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of public servants has come into clearer focus. I want to take the opportunity this week during Public Service Recognition Week to thank you for your service.

When the pandemic struck, you stepped up to make sure that our community continued to receive the vital in-person services people count on. Our public health professionals, supported by employees and community partners across King County, provided guidance and care to help our residents protect themselves and their families from the virus. Now they are partnering again – to vaccinate our region at record rates. Other employees adjusted the way they delivered services – in-person and remotely – to ensure that people could access the support they needed while slowing the spread of COVID-19. However you have been helping to serve the people of King County during our COVID-19 response, please know that I am grateful for your efforts.

We are still in a precarious phase of this pandemic. Our vaccination program has been extremely successful, with two-thirds of King County adults already receiving their first dose, and nearly half fully vaccinated. Yet the virus continues to spread at concerning rates, and we must remain vigilant to slow its spread and end this pandemic.

This remains a challenging time, one with a lot of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety. I know we are all anxiously awaiting a return to our normal lives. An end to the pandemic is in sight and I know that by working together and supporting one another we will get there.

I am grateful for everything that you do for the people of King County. I have never been more proud to lead this County and to be your colleague in public service.

Day Care FSA limits increased; enrollment and changes allowed in May

With the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), you are now able to contribute up to $10,500—pre-tax—into your 2021 Day Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

For this year only, if you are currently enrolled, you can contribute up to $10,500 to your Day Care FSA, or $5,250 if married and filing separately. (Normally, per year, you can contribute up to $5,000 per household or $2,500 if married, filling separately.) This means you can save up to an additional $1,650 at tax time.

In addition, during May 2021, new enrollments in the Day Care FSA are allowed without a qualifying life event.

To increase your current Day Care FSA election or to newly enroll, use the FSA Change Form. New enrollments must be received by the Benefits team by May 31, 2021.

If you need help finding day care during the pandemic, your Day Care FSA offers Kinside, a free service that can help you find day cares and preschools nearby that are open and have availability. Day Care FSA participants receive 10% off day care services.

Reminder: The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, a COVID-19 relief bill, allows any unused funds from 2021 FSAs to be rolled over and available for use next year.

For additional information, go to the Flexible Spending Accounts page or contact the King County Benefits Team at KC Benefits or 206-684-1556.

Support a Veteran in launching a civilian career

King County’s Vets 4 HIRE program, which launched in 2015 and receives funding annually from the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL), provides six-month or longer on-the-job training experiences to help current and former military service members with their transition to civilian employment, and funding is available to support departments in recruiting veterans to their teams.

Participating King County agencies provide their program participants with part-time or full-time, practical experiences in a variety of fields to help them become more competitive for King County and other civilian jobs. The VSHSL will reimburse agencies half of the participant’s first six months of wages up to a maximum of $7,800.

So far, 12 county agencies have provided experiences for 83 military service members since 2015, in positions as diverse as human resources, parks maintenance, IT security, civil engineering, and more. Of these 83 participants, almost 85% reported a positive outcome, and almost 40% obtained regular positions with King County after their participation in the program. The remainder either went on to school or secured employment at other organizations.

Veterans bring unique skills, ideas, and perspectives to the workplace that are extremely valuable to organizations. If your department has a body of work that can help support a veteran in obtaining their civilian career goals, please consider creating an on-the-job Vets 4 HIRE opportunity. The Levy provides funding to support 16 positions each year. There are still 2021 funds available and there is a current candidate pool established to help simplify your hiring process.

To learn more about the program please contact your department Human Resources or Vets 4 HIRE Program Manager Susan Navetski at susan.navetski@kingcounty.gov.

How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

All Washington residents age 16 and up are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, so how do you go about scheduling an appointment?

There are several ways you can make an appointment for the vaccine:

  • Go to vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov to search for COVID-19 vaccine appointments near you by zip code.
  • WA COVID Vaccine Finder covidwa.com is a volunteer-driven effort to help Washingtonians find appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Call your doctor’s office or health care provider to see if they have available vaccination appointments. 
  • Whether you’re a Kaiser Permanente member or not, King County employees can follow these steps to get a COVID-19 vaccine with Kaiser Permanente.
  • For language interpretation, call the Washington state COVID-19 Assistance Hotline: Dial 1-800-525-0127 or 1-888-856-5816, then press #. Available Monday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Tuesday to Sunday and observed state holidays 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. For language interpretation, state your preferred language when you are connected. Phone support is also available from the Public Health COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • If you live in South or East King County, check out additional options at kingcounty.gov/vaccine for the Kent, Auburn, and Redmond vaccination partnership sites.
  • Sign up for the City of Seattle’s vaccination appointment notification list to be notified when appointments become available at any of the four city-affiliated vaccination clinics. You can also call 206-684-2489 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday through Saturday for sign-up assistance. The sites are Lumen Field Event Center (330 South Royal Brougham Way), North Seattle College Community Vaccination Hub (9600 College Way North), Rainier Beach Community Vaccination Hub, 8702 Seward Park Ave. S., and West Seattle Community Vaccination Hub (2801 S.W. Thistle St).

Making an appointment may be difficult in the short-term while we continue to experience some challenges with vaccine supply, but we do expect the supply to increase in the coming weeks, so please continue to check all options for appointments.

Notice of King County Personnel Board Candidate Filing and Election

King County Elections will hold a candidate filing period for the elected member position on the King County Personnel Board.  The candidate filing period will begin on Monday, May 3 at 8:30 a.m. and will end at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 7. There is a $5 non-refundable filing fee. Visit kingcounty.gov/elections/personnel-board for more information.

The Personnel Board conducts hearings on appeals of certain personnel actions as provided for in Section 540 of the King County Charter.

The Personnel Board consists of five members, four of whom are appointed, and one member elected by county career service employees. The elected term is for a 5-year term.

The county charter requires the elected member of the Personnel Board to be a resident of the state of Washington and not currently employed by King County.

A primary will be held on Tuesday, June 1 to determine the final nominees up for election on Tuesday, June 22.  The primary and election will be conducted through the mail.  If any candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, they will be deemed elected and no further election will be conducted.  Only career service county employees are eligible to cast ballots.

For more information on filing for office, contact King County Elections at 206-296-1565 or election.services@kingcounty.gov.

For more information on the position, please contact the Personnel Board at 206-477-3400 or  PersonnelBoard@kingcounty.gov.

April is National Records and Information Management Month

As King County employees, we have the responsibility of managing our records all year long. So what makes April so special?

“Records Management Month is the time we set aside to celebrate and recognize the important and valuable work that we all do as records managers!” County Records Analyst Lisa Mankin said. “Whether you’re a department director, an administrative specialist, or an inspector in the field, we are all records managers.”

The records employees create and receive are valuable assets.

“The Records Management Program is always happy to use the month of April to recognize the work that we do every day to organize and preserve our records, especially when we do it as part of our standard work processes.”

Follow these tips to help improve your records management best practices:

 Get more records management tips and resources.

COVID-19 vaccines: Providing reassurance to communities

This is an excerpt of an article in the Public Health Insider. Read the full article here.

Many community organizations worked to reassure people who feared the vaccines were unsafe, even though they have been extensively tested. Online misinformation about vaccine safety has been rampant.

Reaching people with such concerns requires trust, said Janice Deguchi, executive director of Neighborhood House, which supports immigrants and refugees, many of whom speak limited English. 

“Our staff speaks over 45 languages,” Deguchi said. “As a trusted messenger, we can combat rumors with accurate information.” 

Vaccine volunteers in Shoreline

The Ethiopian Community in Seattle has hosted three community clinic events, providing vaccines to over 600 people. “People are grateful for the opportunity and the support they received in a place that speaks their language and answers their questions,” said Tsega Desta, a program manager for the organization.  

“Through the workshops we provided in Amharic about the safety of the vaccines, we were able to convince the older generation and demystify any myths they have. As a result, they came to be vaccinated in numbers,” Desta reflected. 

Close community ties are the key to successful outreach, agreed Dr. Anisa Ibrahim of the Somali Health Board of King County. 

“Trust is the keystone to strong relationships, and it is earned,” Dr. Ibrahim said.