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Success Story: Improving a Hiring Process at LA County With Meghan Taylor - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Find out how Meghan Taylor creatively streamlined the hiring process for Election Operations Support. Watch this 30 minute success story to see how the LA County Registrar Recorder/ County Clerk is implementing process improvement.

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Success Story Transcript

Tracy: OK. Hello and welcome to another Project Presentation Webinar hosted by GoLeanSixSigma.com. Project Presentation Webinars are where we share stories about successful Lean Six Sigma projects because this is where the rubber meets the road.

I’m Tracy O’Rourke, Managing Partner for GoLeanSixSigma.com. And today, we are highlighting Meghan Taylor and her project presentation is titled – well, we titled it Improving the Hiring Process at LA County. But she’s going to tell you more specifically what the project really is about.

So Meghan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Meghan: First of all, Tracy, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here. I’ve been with the Registrar Recorder for almost four years now. I started off with Photo Records and got promoted last year to Senior Clerk to the Election Operations Center. And my main function is LSS consulting and I’ve become really passionate about it and I love my job. I love process improvement and I love empowering the staff here.

Tracy: Nice. LSS being Lean Six Sigma, right?

Meghan: Exactly, yes.

Tracy: Wonderful. And what’s a little interesting fact about you, Meghan?

Meghan: Well, I love Chelsea Football which is English soccer and I actually met my husband through watching that. And as he says, it’s a little bit different when you met your wife at a pub at 4:00 o’clock in the morning when they’re not even serving anything.

Tracy: Yeah, it’s a little different. Very nice. OK. Wonderful. So, I’m going to let you go ahead and tell us a little bit about what your project is about here at LA County.

Check-In-Center Loading Assistants

Meghan: Well, just a little bit more background for our audience here. We have various functions at Election Operation Center, mostly to distribute the material. So, a couple of weeks before the election, we get all that material out with the help of truck drivers and what was formally called Swampers which we are calling our loading assistants which you can see here.

Tracy: I was wondering what Swampers meant.

Meghan: Yeah. We’ll get to that in a little bit because really, no one knows what that means. And so they’re our main – they’re kind of the lifeblood of the election. Without them getting everything out at the backend, nothing else would happen.

So, they are really critical and we’ve had an issue with shortages because of various issues within the hiring process and just – it’s a short-term assignment. It’s hard to get people to commit to that. So that’s a little bit of background as far as what this whole thing is about.

Tracy: What the problem was that you were going to solve.

Meghan: Yeah.

Tracy: OK. Very nice.

Background

Meghan: So Human Resources itself has various other positions that they’re hiring for, not just for us as at the Election Operations Center. They’re hiring for ballot inspection, they’re hiring for canvass which are various other election-related activities.

Actually, in a discussion yesterday, we found out we hired the most temporary employees out of any department in LA County because of election functions.

Tracy: I bet especially with the last election I bet.

Meghan: Yes. I mean they were hiring people almost on the spot in the lobby because we were just so short of how many people we needed to hire for last election.

Tracy: Yes.

Meghan: So because of that, there are multiple assignments. People from various sections which are what we call kind of our little mini departments here are competing against each other trying – sometimes trying to hire the same people. And that one position which I previously mentioned is the Swamper position, and they’re responsible mainly for loading and unloading the trucks that are going out to our ISP locations which is our inspector ticket the weekend or so or two weeks before the election. And then also, they’re taking those same materials and loading them back on to the truck on election night. So, that’s the main position we’re focusing on here.

Operational Definitions

So just a little bit more operational definition especially on elections we’re going to have quite a few of those. So I already kind of mentioned the Check-In-Centers, that’s the same location that we use on inspector pick-up weekend and then on election night, we dropped off those.

A regional distribution center is also at that same location but they are dispatch out at 4:30 in the morning and they stay there all day just in case something happens, someone needs emergency equipment. And one of our troubleshooters which are reps that are just stationed all throughout LA County just in case something happens in an emergency situation, they can go there and get extra equipment.

Truck driver obviously is one of our drivers who is driving our trucks. And then we also have CIC, Chiefs and Clerks that are assigned at those ISP locations as well as on election night that are in charge of the actual management of that location.

Ten days prior to the election is when we actually have them pick up their supplies and then we also have ePAR which is a personal request. It’s our electronic personal request that we have as well as a stipend which is what we call our pre-set payment amount that’s basically how co-workers right now get paid. It’s a little bit different than a payroll. It’s just a pre-set amount based on the assignment.

Problem (Defect)

So in June especially, we started having a really large issue with hiring because of the large – make sure this election especially the attention that it was getting, we needed a lot of people to help us. But on training itself, we had 73% of the people that we thought we’re going to be coming for this position not even show up.

Tracy: Oh my gosh!

Meghan: And then election night, 44% of those people didn’t show up either.

Tracy: That’s scary.

Meghan: Yes, very much so especially when you’re scrambling around trying to get these people to help at that critical moment. And what we found is that this is a very short-term assignment. This is normally just one day plus training or three days plus training that requires them to go through all of the regular processes of regular employment.

Swamper Recruitment Process (HR) and Swamper Recruitment Process (EOC)

So here’s how our process map specifically for the Human Resources process. There were two different areas; Human Resources and then my area, Election Operations Center, that worked together to get these people hired. So there’s process map as well as our process map in Election Operations Center.

Human Resources has 14 steps and we had 16 steps. And there are two different segmented parts of the process.

Tracy: So they have to go through both processes.

Meghan: Yeah.

Tracy: OK.

Meghan: They basically kind of intersect at some point but there are two different parts to it because there’s the hiring process and then there’s also the assignment process.

Tracy: I see.

Impact

Meghan: So based on this lengthy assignment, we had various impacts. The turnout rate as I mentioned for election night, so the people who actually showed up was only 56%. We actually had to recruit from other areas here in Norwalk, at our headquarters. We actually got 19 different people to just – who never driven or been a Swamper before just coming to help us.

Tracy: Just begging basically like, “Please help us.”

Meghan: Something I should have mentioned before, which we’ll go into more detail in a little bit is that the Swampers and the truck drivers are intricately related to each other. So the dispatch time because we were doing more emergency recruitment for driver shortages which would then drips down into our Swampers, we were out an hour later than usual as compared to normally when we get our first trucks out to our North County assignments which are for those of you that are in Southern California, it takes at least two hours without traffic sometimes especially those trucks to get there.

As I said, we had 19 from headquarters, but then we also had 40 of our RDC drivers which were those drivers that were dispatched at 4:30 in the morning who could be potentially working up to 24 hours. Because when we don’t have anyone else to go to, that’s who we can ask to see if they’re willing to work those extra hours so that we can get all that equipment in.

Tracy: Not 24 hours in a row.

Meghan: Yeah, in a row.

Tracy: Wow! OK.

Meghan: And then because of the later dispatch time that affects our closing. So not only are those people getting them later but also, the people who are at our Election Operations Center manning the phones, helping with the closing, and everyone taking in the equipment. That just trickles down further.

So as I mentioned, it was an extensive hiring process for only about 1 to 3-day assignment. They have to go through the Livescan, the I9 Compliance, which a lot of these people don’t have the original documents that it would take off time work to go get an original passport or their birth certificate.

The application itself on the website is pretty lengthy and sometimes they don’t phrase it perfectly to meet the requirements of the position. And as they are running around last minute getting all these documents, sometimes they don’t turn them in until the day of training or maybe the day of the actual assignment itself. And if they show up without it then they’re not able to work.

And the part itself which is that request from Human Resources for the position, if you don’t meet that fulfillment of those positions to begin with, you have to go back and fill out another one. So there’s not any way to hold a spot. If you – if someone is not able to fulfill the requirements of the position to begin with, you got to go back and do another one. So that’s just delays the process even further.

The drivers and the swampers were actually signing in in the same line. And drivers themselves have more requirements because they have to have the H6 document which is basically your DMV record from the last three years. So some of them were turning those in and they’re delaying the line for these swampers who don’t have some of the requirements.

Payroll itself can take quite a long time for just this small amount of position. And then also, you’re pressed to go into overtime as well because of these lengthy assignments not just for our swampers and drivers but also for anyone who had to assist us from the headquarters as well.

Solution

So, here goes your question about Swampers. No one really knows where that term came from. And I actually found out that it’s a county-wide term. So we decided since we’re going to be taking over this process, it’s our opportunity to change the name. So, we came up with the name that really fits the assignment which is CIC Loading Assistant because that is really what they are doing.

Tracy: Yeah, because when I think about swamper, I think like black lagoon stuff.

Meghan: Exactly.

Tracy: A picture from the black lagoon. And so, I don’t know if I want to be called a swamper. So, I really like that idea.

Meghan: So, by taking over this hiring process, we’re actually end up recruiting ourselves as the EOC. And instead of an hourly rate, we are talking the same model that has been used for pollworkers for CIC Chiefs and Clerks called Stipend Model.

So, they are paid for that. And then we also take responsibility for tracking the attendants and any payroll as well. So we’re taking that burden off of Human Resources as well for up to 200 people per election.

Timeline

So we got this. This assignment was related to our Emerging Leaders program here.

Tracy: The Green Belt Project you mean?

Meghan: Yes.

Tracy: OK.

Meghan: So this project was primarily from Emerging Leaders. I’m going to be a taking on to my – to be my Black Belt project actually. But because of the assignment and the nature of it and also how close the election is, we wanted to include a timeline just to show you how quickly we were able to achieve those results because we got this assignment in August and basically had to had everything rolled out ready to go by the end of October.

So in August, we were able to identify the problem and then from there, assembled the project team and so on. Finally named it CIC Loading Assistant in late September, began recruitment in mid-October, finished in just a few weeks from late October and then confirmed attendance for election day for November and then started and finished payroll by December.

So we had a very short timeline in order to get everything done and actually was able to accomplish that, which I’m very proud of them for.

Tracy: Wow! Yeah, you looked at all the maps and everything in early August and like start mapping it at that time saying, “Wow! We really need to make a change in getting some buy-in around that.”

Meghan: Yes. And we were able to get the buy-in right to begin with and then for our executive team here to OK the Stipend Model for this position and then just get rolling with the recruitment because that’s the most labor-intensive part of any project that was like this is trying to get a hold of all those people.

Tracy: Right.

Solution

Meghan: So part of my team, Marissa and Mike got with our data scientist here, Benjamin Uminsky, and he crunched some numbers for us based on the actual assignment itself and past elections. And due to there being no taxes taken out from this model, they went with about 85% pay because they’re not going to have that deduction.

So our final recommendation for the 3-day stipend was $575 and then our 1-day stipend went from – to $195 and that’s for our election night only and then the other is for our people who are also working on that weekend before the election for an inspector pick-up.

And that puts us below the threshold for 1099 tax reporting. So hopefully, our – and as long as our recruits don’t do any other type of 1099 work then that keeps them under that threshold for reporting.

Tracy: OK.

Benefit

Meghan: So it was a huge benefit with us taking over this. Our turnout rate for – was 83% for election night compared to 56% again in that June election. We streamlined the signing process so they didn’t have to go in the driver lane, we were able to just sign in our loading assistants on their own and we were able to dispatch them one hour earlier than we did in June.

Our turnout rate for – was 83% for election night compared to 56% again in that June election.

Our RDC drivers, because again, everything is intricately related here in this position, so drivers not as much as we usually are. But because we had more loading assistants to go to to say, “Hey, do you want to go out driving?” we had more people able to step up to that position and then we had less RDC drivers who are working up to that 24-hour shift. So we only had 11 in November compared to the 40 that we had in June.

And because of that, safety increased. There are less people out there driving after working that long.

Tracy: Yes, that’s great.

Meghan: So we also – by taking ownership of this, we really focused on customer service. We spoke with these recruits at least three times as opposed to one time. And I understand with Human Resources having to recruit for multiple other positions, they’re not able to speak with these people as much not because this was the only people we were recruiting, we touch base with them as much as possible.

And instead of recruiting so far ahead of time, we were able to meet our recruitment goal in four weeks.

Tracy: Instead of four months.

Meghan: Exactly.

Tracy: Wow! That’s great.

Meghan: At training itself, we had an amazing turnout rate of 96%, so almost everyone that we talked to begin with showed up. And the application went from – up around 10 days to just a few minutes. It’s just a one page application.

At training itself, we had an amazing turnout rate of 96%, so almost everyone that we talked to begin with showed up. And the application went from – up around 10 days to just a few minutes.

Tracy: Really? Ten days to a few minutes?

Meghan: Yup. The only requirement is for you to fill out an application and to be a registered voter or a legal permanent resident. That’s it.

Tracy: Wow!

Meghan: And we also found because of this job that applicants were sharing their job within their personal and social network and we were getting a lot of calls to begin with and we were cutting down the amount of people we had to call in the first place. So, social media really helped us out with this as well.

Tracy: That’s great.

Meghan: So payroll itself in the prior model could take around five days. Here, just one day. We use our – the same system that we already have been using and it just requires putting them in the system. So this time, it took maybe a little bit longer because those people were not in the system yet. At this election, probably it will be even faster.

And the training itself, we were able to divide the line based on what they had. So if they were missing certain documentation, they went to one lane. If they had everything, they went to an express lane. Just turn in there. They didn’t even have to sign anything. They just turn the paper. Sit down. If they have more questions, they can meet with the computer so I could look at the information that we had on our Excel file and it answers their questions specifically. So we streamlined that process greatly.

The process itself was finished 45 minutes faster as opposed to the drivers who were in line. And we didn’t have a sign-out process. We just had them turn in their stipend cards, which was the model of how we’re paying them. So we just had their information, their signature just like that, that’s it. That’s how we confirm that they were there in the entire time.

Tracy: Wow!

Swamper Recruitment Process – New Progress

Meghan: So here’s our new process map. It combined both of those recruitment processes from HR as well as our process at EOC into just one process map. And we went from 30 steps to 22. It doesn’t sound like it’s that much but keep in mind these steps are much less labor-intensive.

Tracy: Yes, good. I’ll take any process improvement. Eight steps reduction was pretty good.

Ensuring the Improvements

Meghan: So we’ve made sure that we can continue this process in the future by placing it on the election calendar at the EOC. We’re going to continue to target group recruitment. We had a lot of people show up with their families. So that cut down on people not showing up and it can create instant accountability.

And we also want to create a reserve pool. So just in an emergency situation, we have those people we can call at a last minute basis.

Special Thanks

Tracy: That’s wonderful. This is a great example of a project – you guys were doing election for years, many years, and this is a great example of taking a process and really looking at it to say, “What could we do better in the interest of making it faster and more efficient and more effective?” So this is really exciting. And the fact that you guys did it in six months is amazing.

So, I will say, some people will say this, “Government doesn’t move that fast.” Well, it did. So that’s great.

Meghan: When you have to, when you have the go ahead, it could definitely happen. Sometimes those barriers with the approval, that’s what hold us back. But when there’s a necessity and you have the support of your manager, which ours is Jaime Young and who I mentioned here in our thanks, but as well as the executive level here at our headquarters as well, it really makes the process happened.

Tracy: Yes.

Meghan: So there are a few of our people we wanted to thank based off of their input in helping us with this anywhere from the tech side to the process side to phone calls to training that all of them are helping us here.

Tracy: Wonderful.

Q & A

Meghan: And then Tracy, do you have any questions?

Tracy: I do. So, just a few. So first of all, I think it’s amazing. LA County is pretty big. Can you just give people an idea of the magnitude of ballots and movements or voters that are here in LA County and maybe a little bit about how big this election was for you guys in November?

Meghan: Well, let’s put it this way. Los Angeles County is the largest as far as the amount of voters and the square footage, so that we’re bigger than some states for voting. So, I believe that the last number for just by mail ballots alone was around 2.2 million.

Tracy: Wow!

Meghan: So, that puts that in perspective.

Tracy: Yes. Yes, definitely.

Meghan: And this last election had a lot of attention due to the volatility of everything going on. So a lot more participation was seen and just the amount of involvement and also being in the spotlight.

Tracy: Yes. Wow! So that is amazing. I mean the fact that you guys are bigger than a state even and having 2.2 million voters just voting by mail itself is pretty amazing.

So, you had a very successful project. You got the support that you needed from your manager, from leadership here at the County Clerk or just the Recorder County Clerk, what advice might you have for people in government applying process improvement? Do you have any advice for them?

Meghan: Don’t be afraid to ask. I think a lot of things – people – I came from the outside. So for me coming into the government, I’ve already asked because I was used to be unable to make process improvement or ask questions no matter what. And having this program really empowered me and a lot of the other staff so that we could be able to. But even if you don’t have a project like this, continue to ask those questions. Present those ideas so that you can get people thinking because the main thing that holds people back is just not saying something to begin with.

Tracy: Right. Yes. So I also hear from a lot of people that they don’t have time to do process improvement. There’s not enough time. We don’t have time. Do you have any advice for them around that?

Meghan: You don’t have the time not to. I mean just from this process alone, just four months to four weeks, maybe it took a little bit of work from the frontend but the savings for future elections, it’s going free us up as well as the HR team to do a lot more.

Tracy: Yeah. And kind of what you said too, it seems like the customer who is the recruit, who is this new CIC Loading Assistant, they’re going to be happier in the job too. They’re not going to be working ungodly hours or really long time and their processes are going to be faster and it would be more efficient for them too, right?

Meghan: Well, the main feedback we actually got from them is the customer service benefit. So they were able to contact us. They were able to get answers. They were able to really reach the people and a lot of people came up and said, “Oh, you’re the person that I talked to. Oh, thank you so much for this.” Because the assignment is still basically the same. It’s more how it affects our drivers. So that has improved.

But for our loading assistants, it’s pretty much the same. But what has improved is the lack of extensive requirement and the customer service aspect.

Tracy: That’s great. Wonderful. So what was the best part about this project for you?

Meghan: My number one thing is we had great emerging leaders on this project that did an amazing job. But we’re also were able to incorporate someone who has become a good friend of mine, Sophia Petoskey, and she had been working for the County for I think 15 years working as a temporary employee. And this project empowered her and gave her the capability to do something that she had never done before. So for me to be able to help her and coach her with this and just show her potential, that was really my favorite part.

The other favorite part is that it’s leading to another project that we’re working on right now with the truck drivers recruitment. So by putting this out in the light again, the executive team said, “Oh, that’s right. We do have people working this long. Let’s try to cut that down to zero.” So we’re currently working on that and I actually have a meeting after this to go over our status on that.

Tracy: Great. So, continuous improvement doesn’t end.

Meghan: No.

Tracy: Alright. Wonderful. Well, I want to thank you very much, Meghan, for sharing your project success story with me and our audience at GoLeanSixSigma.com. I want to thank our listeners for tuning in as well.

Project Presentation Webinars

These project presentation webinars are where we share stories like we said about successful Lean Six Sigma projects. I love these. I love doing these because process improvement can be hard. It could be challenging. It could be using our brains in ways that we haven’t used before and it could be exhausting for people.

And so to me, these are the things that give me the high like they’re just really, really fun to hear about. And so, I really appreciate you sharing your story with us.

So if you guys have any successful stories out there that you want to share just give us a call or send us an email at [email protected] We’ve got lots of free templates, blogs, and webinars and product presentations like this on our website. So don’t forget to leverage all that free stuff for our audience.

So thanks for joining us for this project presentation webinar. And I’m going to go ahead and say goodbye now. Until next time.

Meghan: Bye-bye. Thank you.

Tracy: Bye-bye.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at University of California San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.