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Case Studies: Yuba Sutter County of Schools

Can government really become responsive to the needs of business? Yes...but they must go SEE Strategies.

Can a government agency, steeped in bureaucracy, actually transition into an organization that resembles a private-sector service business?

YSOS’ role was to effectively train unemployed and under-employed people to go to work, and assist local businesses assess their business practices in order to provide and retain more jobs. Not an easy feat in any circumstance, much less serving the needs of a traditionally depressed, seasonal agricultural economy.

Since most business-owners would rather have multiple root canals than have to deal with a government agency (much less government employees), this northern California job training agency had to undergo a drastic transformation to accomplish their mission.

The Problem
The challenges SEE Strategies’s client faced were threefold:

  • How to train non-sales people in the art of communicating the sale of a needed service;
  • Motivating top-level management and program managers that the fee-for-service model could and should be adapted; and,
  • Identify services that could be offered through five separate branches, each offering a different specialty.

In approaching these challenges, the SEE Strategies trainers recognized that 95% of the people would be asked to go well beyond their comfort zones. In fact, in cultivating the belief that the new philosophy would work, 75% of staff was either paralyzed by fear of new job duties (and accountability for results), or waited for the inertia of bureaucracy to slow down the process to the point where there would be no reason to respond or react to their new assignments.

SEE Strategies’s Approach
While a certain amount of sensitivity had to be given with regard to the culture most of these employees and managers had been trained within, hands-on training and holding people accountable for their activities was the most effective and logical course of action to be taken.

The employees who had worked in retail within the past  2-3 years were least affected. The more long-term employees were noticeably distraught and had the most difficulty. One common trait they shared  is that they genuinely cared about their client’s success, and getting work done.

To alleviate discomfort, and make the trainings most effective, the schedule was integral to success. Spread out over a one-month period, and each lasting 2-3 hours, employees experienced:

  • An effective learning process that did not interfere with work getting done;
  • The time necessary to absorb new information and complete homework; and,
  • The opportunity to talk off-line with outside educational resources.

First and foremost, this schedule helped alleviate some of the angst most had experienced prior to the beginning of training. Within a short time employees actually began to use this new information in their daily work.

Implementation
A top-down directive would only have led to the slow grind of bureaucratic inertia...all staff members had to be an active part of the process. Thus, a critical step in alleviating the fear and anxiety of implementing such a radical transformation was the inclusion of all staff members in pertinent discussions. This led to several benefits:

  • Staff members talked openly about the overall mission and how they could make it an intrinsic part of the daily services that were offered.
  • Trainings were an all-encompassing activity, the application of the learning achieved a much higher rate of integration toward incorporation into daily practices.
  • Staff members were able to experience direct outcomes at a much faster pace,
  • Because a new team-oriented culture was integrated into their new practices, staff members were able to hold one another more accountable for results, while also being accountable to the agency leadership.

 

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