Live from the Urban Libraries Council Annual Forum, we’re interviewing Carine Risley and Laura Liang from the San Mateo Public Library about their revamped Employee Evaluation Program.
San Mateo Public Library has transformed the dreaded annual self-review into a process empowers and motivates their many employees. Through the implementation of weekly check-ins and transparent communication, employees are more satisfied and higher performing. With 93% of their employees feeling valued in the workplace, the library can truly live up to its greatest potential...and your's can too.
Learn more about their innovation here.
Jim Heuer [00:00:17] Hi everybody, this is Jim Heuer, host of The Ingram Library Services Podcast, Two Librarians and A Microphone. I'm here with librarian number two, Donna George. We're in Baltimore, Maryland and we're excited to be recording live at the Urban Library Council Annual Forum. Ingram Library Services is a proud sponsor of the Innovation Awards that the ULC bestows upon its members. Today, we have two of the top innovators from San Mateo County with us. We have Carine Risley. Morning, Carine.
Carine Risley [00:00:47] Good morning, I'm really happy to be here.
Jim Heuer [00:00:49] And we have Laura Liang. Good morning, Laura.
Laura Liang [00:00:51] Good morning!
Jim Heuer [00:00:52] You all have been bestowed a Top Innovator award in the Organizational Change and Strategic Management category. We were talking about it this morning. Donna and I were really excited to talk to you because you guys have done something to change the employee evaluation program system, the way things go in your county. Could you explain that program to us and that innovation?
Carine Risley [00:01:19] The program is taking an approach of employee development and performance acceleration and using evidence to determine what it is we're doing. What we're not doing is annual performance reviews,
Donna George [00:02:06] I'm sure everyone's dying to know, how did you do it? If somebody wanted to start doing this, what is kind of step one and how did you create an atmosphere at San Mateo where it was okay to even think about doing this.
Carine Risley [00:02:20] It was pretty cool. San Mateo County Libraries is a joint powers authority, but our employees are employees of San Mateo County. We have a pretty cool program called The Executive Leadership Academy where higher level managers have an opportunity to do a rotation in a different department. I had a chance to go over to HR and they asked me to help them out with a project on performance. Initially they asked me to just tweak the questions of employee evaluation, but as I did the research, I saw that I couldn't find anything to support doing annual evaluations and many, many pieces of evidence to indicate that it's probably the worst thing you could possibly do if you wanted to encourage employees to do better.
Jim Heuer [00:03:01] Ugh! I hope lots of people in our company listen to this podcast! So, there's a book that I've read called Thanks For The Feedback and there's a line in there that has yet to leave my brain and it said, "The worst thing to do is to get an employee evaluation. The only thing worse than getting one is giving one. The only thing worse than giving one is getting one." You put that phrase meets expectations together and that doesn't ring very supportive, right? Selling this to the county, that seemed like it would have to be an arduous task?
Carine Risley [00:03:39] A lot of private companies have moved in this direction and there's a smattering of public agencies across the country that are looking at doing this. We did feel some reservations, but when we took it to the executive level, everyone was excited about it. In fact, everyone wanted to participate in the pilot and we weren't able to accommodate all the department heads who wanted to participate. The same thing with our board. They were just delighted. They felt like it's moving the organization forward, and really, our highest expenses are our employees. Trying to do something that's going to positively influence employee growth is something that they really wanted us to see and pursue.
Donna George [00:04:22] I'm not sure if there's been an obvious community reaction to this innovation aside from the fact that when the community walks
Laura Liang [00:04:40] From our staff there's a lot more positive reactions than when we first tried to implement it. There were some reservations and hesitations as to how it would work. But over time our staff
Jim Heuer [00:05:53] You know those are the success stories that I read about in behavioral management books all the time. That's so cool that you guys are seeing that. Time element though, you mentioned you have quite a few people that report to you, so setting aside 15 minutes every week, did you find that to be hard? Was that...
Carine Risley [00:06:11] It took a little bit of getting used to. We were in such a routine of doing monthly one-on-one check-ins, and then it was like this breakdown of
Jim Heuer [00:07:11] There's an immediate feedback loop for you working with the folks on your team then, right?
Carine Risley [00:07:16] A lot of what we're trying to do is
Jim Heuer [00:07:46] That's fascinating stuff. From Deputy Director level, what are the things that are you most excited about in this implementation, other than your program nailing
Carine Risley [00:07:58] Well one, I'm really happy to see the positive reception of staff really saying that they're building relationships with their managers and supervisors, they're feeling more comfortable. Really, you can listen to different research, but we really feel like that once a week really builds the trust and the familiarity and safety, so that you know if there is some feedback that I need to advise a growth opportunity for this staff member to work on, that it's a safe conversation and not threatening. One of the things I've really love about this whole process is every week seeing the results and also the write-in comments, and just appreciating once more how incredibly challenging communication is and it's so hard. I'll have managers say, "I can't wait until you see my results this week. They're going to be like out of the park!" Then they might be lowest in the organization and that's okay. We don't use it as a gotcha, but it's an opportunity to understand what's going on here and figuring out, okay, the team was really distracted this week and sending an email wasn't effective. Or mentioning at the staff meeting, staff aren't still understanding what's going on. But what I'm really excited about is that we've got a strong foundation here, some really healthy habits in place to really drive forward something else we've been working on which is really a culture of
Carine Risley [00:09:25] in the next year.
Jim Heuer [00:09:26] What were some studies that come to your mind as really helpful? If somebody says, "Oh gosh, I want to do the same thing in our system." What were some of the things that helped you kind of push this initiative forward internally?
Carine Risley [00:09:38] One thing that I've observed in the research is that people will accept some of the findings
Carine Risley [00:11:06] one, three, four months later, and it's really hard to act on those findings. But when you see something that your team is saying today, it can really inform your approach to the coming week.
Jim Heuer [00:11:17] Wow, that's amazing stuff. Are there things that you're thinking for next year that you want to incorporate, or is it because you meet so frequently that you don't have to wait for
Carine Risley [00:11:30] We can incorporate changes immediately. Right now, we're in the process of putting together a work group to really continue to advance this. We're going to be champions for it throughout the organization. One thing that we're continuing to look at is people are still figuring this out,
Jim Heuer [00:12:42] Wow, it seems so transparent, so empowering to employees. 93% feel valued at work. I want to find the 7% and say like, "What are you looking for here," right? Like, "What do you want," right? This seems amazing.
Carine Risley [00:12:56] Maybe we'll have that solved by next time we talk.
Jim Heuer [00:12:58] Excellent!
Carine Risley [00:12:58] We'll work on it.
Laura Liang [00:12:59] Maybe it was just a bad day.
Jim Heuer [00:13:00] Clearly, obvious to us why you guys won this Top Innovator award. That's amazing and good luck. We'd love to see this become a wave that goes across the country. Things start in California and move their way east, so we'll extend our congratulations. That's fantastic!
Carine Risley [00:13:17] Thank you so much.
Jim Heuer [00:13:17] Thank you.
Laura Liang [00:13:17] Thank you.
Jim Heuer [00:13:20] Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services, it is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer/director is Rachel Cope, sound engineering by Craig Simpson, special assistance by Essence Brisco, and Elizabeth Wilcox. The research
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