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Sep 17, 2021

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In this episode of Manager Minute, Joe Xavier, the Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Jane Donnellan, the Administrator of the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, join Carol Pankow in the VRTAC-QM studio to discuss the importance of succession planning and knowledge translation for VR agencies.


 Joe and Jane highlight how they tackle the challenges of losing quality employees by utilizing strategies such as long-term planning, adjusted hiring practices, cross-training, and promoting from within.


 This episode's conversation will encourage agencies to have more discussions about succession planning and to think about the significance and dynamics of knowledge translation -- one manager at a time, one minute at a time.

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Partnering with State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs) to enhance service delivery and maximize outcomes through quality program and resource management. 

The purpose of the VRTAC-QM is to provide training and technical assistance that will enable State VR agency personnel to manage available resources, improve effective service delivery, and increase the number and quality of employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. The VRTAC-QM provides TA and training in VR program and performance quality management, fiscal and resource quality management of the VR program, and general quality management of organizations. You can request technical assistance from the VRTAC-QM by contacting your TA Liaison directly, contacting any member of the Center you wish, or by filling out the information on our main website and clicking on submit. While on the main website, join our mailing list to receive updates on training and new activities occurring within the center. 


Full Transcript


Announcer: Manager Minute brought to you by the VRTAC for quality management conversations powered by VR, one manager at a time, one minute at a time. Here is your host Carol Pankow.


Carol: So welcome to the manager minute. Today I'm joined by Joe Xavier, Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Jane Donnellan, Administrator from Idaho General. Thank you both for taking time to join our show today. So, Joe, there's a lot happening in California right now. You had fires, floods, drought, all on top of the continued pandemic. So how goes it in California?


Joe: First of all, hello to everyone. It's great to connect with everyone. And certainly I know that what we're experiencing in California, everybody else is experiencing in some fashion. But Carol, I must say it's not that we had. It's we have all of those disasters are all taking place at the same time. And I think the good news is that we're working through it and we were able to get a state budget this year that really addressed the gaps that were exposed and accelerated through COVID 19. So I think on the grand scale of things, we're moving in the right direction. Many, many challenges, lots of work to do. But these are the times we're in and we're leading and navigating through them, and I'm confident we'll come out on the other side.


Carol: That’s good to hear, Joe. So Jane, as Joe would say, you also have your share of things going on besides the pandemic. You had that incredible heat wave out there. How are you doing in Idaho?


Jane: Well, I'd like to say yes to everything, Joe said. He articulated that very well. Yes, we continue to have some challenges that are going on between the pandemic and a lot of smoke from the fires for sure, as well as excessive heat throughout the summer. But as Joe indicated, we're resilient. We're a resilient people here in Idaho and particularly the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. I am just so appreciative of the committed staff that I have to the mission and really seeing beyond all those barriers.


Carol: Well, I love to hear it. I was so excited to talk to you both. I know with all the moving pieces and parts in VR, succession planning can often take a backseat or even just finding time to plan and manage the continued churn that VR is experiencing. Sometimes the focus is only on top leadership when I get the statistics from CSAVR. There's been seventy seven director changes in seven years in VR, and it's really easy to focus that succession planning for top leadership. But we also need to think about those individual contributors. And I think it can become easy, you know, to get comfortable with having your subject matter experts there to make sure everything runs smoothly. But what happens when those subject matter experts are no longer there? How can you translate knowledge when the owners of the knowledge aren't around to translate it? So we're going to take a little deeper dive into that conversation today. When I was at Minnesota Blind, I remember H.R. handing me a document my very first week that I was there and it had the names of all the staff and the dates that they were eligible for retirement over the next five years.


Carol: And when I looked at the list, it was over one third of our staff could leave within the next couple of years. And I remember thinking, yikes, like everybody's hopefully not going to retire on that exact day, but quite a number did or really close to those dates. And in addition to the retirees, we had other individuals, you know, moving on for more pay or other opportunities and then a small agency. I had a lot of subject matter experts that were over a single area and we had zero backup. So believe me, when they left, it really left a void. So we started working on developing processes and procedures that would document what they did. And when I talked to folks around the country, you two are both known as being amazing leaders and all around good human beings. And you both have done so much with a lot of thoughtful thinking around managing your organizations. I couldn't think of two better people to chat with, so let's dig in. So, Joe, I'm going to go to you first. I know you had a big retirement with your deputy, Kelly Hargraves, in the last year. How did you handle that move?


Joe: Yeah, thank you for asking. So real story. Kelly started, and I think almost immediately I sat down with her and I said, So Kelly, who's going to replace you when you retire? And she's like, Well, how about if I move into my office before you kick me out? And I said, Well, fair point. But literally the way you handle this is as a leader, you have to do two things simultaneously that are very difficult. You have to put a telescope in one eye and look way down that road and see what's coming and playing for it, like a retirement, like somebody that has opportunities to go somewhere else. And you have to put a microscope on the other eye and put existing leadership, existing development, existing acts under that intense magnification and make sure those two are aligned. I often find that people will focus on one, but not the other. Rarely are they focusing on both simultaneously. So I think you start planning for the way, way ahead of time. And I would just add one piece here is a teaser. It's not just a knowledge transfer. That's not what scares me the most. It's the relationship and the experiences that you need to draw on so you can appropriately act on the knowledge that scares me when that is lost.


Carol: I love that, Joe. That is a really you are always profound. But I like that that thinking about the telescope, the microscope and the relationships, you're dead right on that. So can you paint us a little picture of what's happening in your agency regarding both retirements and general turnover? Like what does it look like, your numbers? What have you been experiencing?


Joe: I've been the director since February of two thousand eight, so every single person on our 14 member executive team is new to the position, meaning lots of turnover right now in this current year. We expect three and as many as six executive turnover senior leadership team. We expect to see anywhere from five to 10 members of our senior leaders turning over. And that is exemplified throughout the ranks for us. One of the things that we know is that that retirement wave that was coming got a bit delayed and frankly pushed back a little bit for a couple of different reasons, but certainly the pandemic included in some of that. But we're feeling it and we're going to start feeling it very quickly. We see that in our rank and file ranks, we see that in our counselor ranks. So this is it's a real deal. It's a real issue. That's a scope of what we're dealing with. And the benches are never as deep as we'd like them to be.


Carol: Yeah, I'm here in that. I mean, it is a real deal. It's all across the country. So how about you, Jane? Can you paint us a picture of what's going on in your agency with retirements and also just general turnover here?


Jane: And I think, as Joe stated, I we have a mixture of retirement as well as some significant just general turnover, specifically in our counseling staff in our FY 20 or counselor turnover was about twenty three percent and I anticipate that it's probably higher at this point. We haven't analyzed it quite this year, but we do have regions that I'm seeing are aging out in both management and in counselor senior counseling staff. And so recruiting new individuals to really fill those slots has been quite a challenge. Currently, we have a region that doesn't have an assistant regional manager and we've tried to recruit for that position three different times and have had a failed search on that. So it certainly is something that is continuously on our mind. And therefore, what are those strategies that we can identify to either help recruit or help retain qualified staff that we can grow from within for that point? As for my executive leadership team, we're a little bit small, but we're a little bit smaller of a state in terms of population than California. So I have five on my executive leadership team and I anticipate in the next two to three years losing about half of them to retirement. So we really are looking at that lens of where we need to go for the future to make sure that we have a strong and vibrant agency.


Carol: That's amazing what's happening with both of you and it's indicative of everything going on across the country. We're just seeing such a shift. So how's that pandemic played into staff decisions to move on and what have you done in response to that? I'm going to ship that to you, Joe, first.


Joe: Yeah, I think initially the pandemic there, those people that were thinking of retiring and moving on, and they kind of held back a little bit because of a lot of uncertainty. And thank goodness they did. We really needed that solid, steady leadership over the last year and a half plus. But now they're leaving, as I described earlier that leaving at all levels of the organization, and it's great that they can. So a number of years ago, one of the things that we had done is create some positions in our service delivery that allowed people to come in from different pathways. So not necessarily through the master's credentialing and vocational rehabilitation business engagement specialists working central planners as an example. So that helps because it broaden the candidate pool that we can bring in. Of course, we then have to sort of tailor the functions and activities to better align with each of those individuals. So we have our master staff credentialed staff on VR focusing on more of the complex aspects of VR, we have the other folks focusing on the other aspects of delivery, that's sort of one of the strategies that we've used over time. I think remote work is going to be a nice piece on the recruitment side. It'll offer the challenges, but I think it'll do some of that. And frankly, at the end of the day, just the shortage in the workforce in the vocational rehabilitation field as a whole is going to cause us to continue to have to be creative on how we staff up. And I think it'll change a lot in the coming one, three, five years or so.


Carol: Yeah, I agree. I agree completely. I keep thinking, what's VR going to look like, you know, just five years down the road? So Jane, how about you? How's the pandemic played into staff decisions to move on and what have you been doing in response?


Jane: You know, as I looked at this area? I thought the pandemic really has had less of an impact to our staff, I believe, than some other factors that are going on specifically in Idaho. We have really strong economy in Idaho. Our unemployment rate is about two point six percent and we have a shortage of a workforce which plays into that competition. We have a difficult time recruiting and retaining qualified staff because they can go and get a job in another business, utilizing some of their skills and talents than to stay and work for the wages that we can pay in our restrained from with what the Legislature has appropriated for us. For example, I had an administrative assistant come on board in March. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. Skilled individual. And she left in July because she was offered a position with one of our hospital systems earning five dollars and fifty cents more an hour. I could not compete with that. So that has probably been our largest challenges the competing with private industry, as well as some other state agencies that have less educational requirements and have higher entry level wages. The last thing that I've really noticed, particularly in what we call the Treasure Valley area and that's where Boise is, is our cost of living is significantly higher. And so our wages don't always afford individuals to live in a manner in which they can afford to live, either through a rental or purchasing of home. It's just exploded in terms of the cost of living. So although I think the pandemic had maybe a slight impact, I'm not sure it's really been our greatest challenge.


Carol: Yeah, you're leading us into my next area I was thinking about because I know some directors have talked about having hiring freezes that have been imposed, limitations on the public merit system or union contracts, or some other state edict that might be going on. And so, Jane, you obviously had been talking about what you're experiencing from that vantage point. Joe, have you experienced anything like that in California as well? And what are you maybe doing to address that?


Joe: So yes, we have this last budget cycle. So about a year ago now we had what's called a soft hiring freeze that really fully new positions was pretty challenging. So we did two things to immediately respond to that one was we used our delegated discretion to limit the freeze on the non-direct services position. So in other words, get a direct services position vacancy. You were able to fill it. If the position vacant was not direct services, then that was less so the case. The second thing that we did was really get more nimble at redirecting staffing resources to where we needed them within the organization. So if there was a function that needed to be performed and staff that could deliver on that function, we're in another section slash division. Then we just redirected them for that period of time because just the need is you have to be nimble, you have to be flexible in these challenging times. Thank goodness we're out of that short term hiring freeze right now. But here in California, we deal with that fairly routinely, fairly frequently. You know, we do the best that we can with it. We adjust the volume between what we can provide directly and what we might be buying from our partners and services that we procure across the state. So it's juggling of a lot of different methodologies to ultimately today make sure people are getting the service they need.


Carol: Absolutely. Juggling is good. That's a good word for it. I know folks have talked about, you know, counselors starting at thirty thousand with their master's degree in some of the state agencies and having to take a second job just so they can afford housing in the area they're in. You know, it's kind of like what you're talking about, Jane. It is. It's been pretty wild. So I know the pandemic had certainly brought out some different things to light in the way we think about the world of work. I know in just even five years ago when we were talking to our HR about. Allowing for remote work, everybody is like, Oh my gosh, you can't do that, there's going to be workers comp issues and all of this. Wow. You all did it overnight, you know, people went to working differently. And there are still some really good old fashioned attention that can be given to staff development, you know, and looking at how to grow your own, so to speak in the organization. So, Jane, I'm going to kick this one to you. What practices or processes do you use to help grow your own talent in the organization?


Jane: Sure. And I think that's always evolving because we're always looking at various ideas and practices so we can grow our own and retain our own. Piggybacking on a little bit of what Joe said about being nimble with our staff. We really looked at throughout the state when we have positions come open, how we can repurpose that for another purpose. Another thing that we actually I spent two and a half days last week with all our managers and our assistant regional managers throughout the state having discussions really about the future of our agency and what we want to do and how we need to do that. And one of the things because staff are so there's so many detailed parts of the counselor job that we're really looking at. Are there areas that people have greater expertise in? Am I a better pre-employment transition counselor and specialize in that versus a general counselor? So we're really trying to be again, to Joe's point, nimble in that regard. One of the things we did several years ago, we created permanent assistant regional position manager positions in all our eight regions. Prior to that point, we did not have permanent assistant regional managers. We at first thought it was a great way to get people interested in management if we had rotating assistant regional managers, but then realized there were some complexities with that by making them a permanent position, it really gave them a track to upper management if that was something of interest. We've also been engaged in certain leadership training that we find really beneficial, specifically the Emerging Leader series, which is run out of the Center for Continuing Education and Rehabilitation, or Caesar, as we call it, out of the University of Washington.


Jane: And that's really directed by Paul Jay Jack. And we love him, and he's really created opportunities for staff that may not even be in management yet, but have expressed some leadership how we can raise them up in those areas. We provide other tools for our managers to include supervisory kind of academy training so that they really are equipped with tools and resources on how to best support the staff that they're managing. One other area that we've been really committed on is cross training. So within different areas, for example, our fiscal department, they all have a primary job, but they also understand the jobs of their peers that they're working side by side with. So that's been a great opportunity for us as well. So we're always looking at where we can provide growth with our current staff and opportunities to strengthen our program. We created some area transition counselor positions. We have a Social Security cost reimbursement position that actually was an admin staff who just said, I really am so committed to helping the agency with cost reimbursement. Allow me to take this on. We created a position she brings in over a million dollars a year to our agency, so all those that helps the agency helps that staff to be really committed in their positions.


Carol: I love that that is super creative. I could see it firsthand to when you were going through that monitoring, talking about people were cross training and all those really cool ways to understand. In that fiscal year, I was super impressed. Super impressed. So Joe, what about you? What practices or processes do you have to help kind of grow your own talent in the organization?


Joe: Yeah. So a lot of what Jane mentioned, I think, applies to us as well. One of the things that we've been we're piloting right now that we're working on is instead of aligning our caseloads based on population based on disability as it were, we're really looking at aligning our caseload based on sectors, employment sectors. So you have a team that focuses on individuals that want to go into the health care profession or sector as an example. And we're really looking to see how we can use that to really get a better connection between the individual work, preparing for employment and the available jobs, and they're being skilled up into that. So that helps staff to focus their development on a specific sector as an example. Lots of internal trainings, lots of webinars and those kinds of things to keep people skills up to date, as well as introduce other elements that they can be including in the work that they're doing. And then. More broadly in terms of upward mobility and leadership, when we talk about the positions that I mentioned earlier, creating them, some individuals have used that to then catapult themselves into the counseling profession. So that's a win win. We hope that would happen more. But salary is always, of course, an issue. As Jane mentioned earlier, lots of semi-formal, informal, formal leadership development. I think that is one of the big things. And earlier I mentioned the experience.


Joe: A lot of times we focus on the transfer of knowledge, and I think it's important. I think it's essential to what we do, but it's really when you miss someone, if the experience they have in applying that knowledge, it's the relationships they have to draw on to really know when to make what judgment call. So for us, exposing individuals that have an interest in leadership to the why behind what we do to understanding the benefit of that relationship, not only getting the experience but learning how to draw that experience through others where they don't have a direction. We're finding that to have as much or more value than just the basic knowledge of delivering the services, because where things fall apart is not always where the knowledge is, not it's where you don't have that judgment call taking place, that experience being applied, those relationships to draw on. And then, of course, leverage like the National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute, every chance that we get and similar trainings that expose folks to that. We send a number of staff to participate in the forums, especially now that they're virtual. That helps a lot with gaining perspective and gaining awareness, especially the leadership issues around VR. So those are just a couple of the things that we do. I'm sure if I think about it, there's probably another half dozen, but we'll save that for another time.


Carol: Well, I know you're always cooking up ideas. I think I borrowed your team model concept back several years ago to help us through some sticky times, and it really did work well because we wrapped around that whole team around an individual. But I liked your sector approach. That's very unique. I think that's interesting. I've not heard of anybody doing that before.


Joe: Yeah, it's one of our deputies for our field services is really been focusing on sort of changing the mindset from geographical boundaries to this whole sector approach. And we'll focus on the sector that is really aligned with where the district is. So for example, we have part of our state that really focuses on agriculture. And, you know, those are folks that can lead that and anybody else in the state that is interested in that arena. We can move the caseload into that direction. And you know, the beauty of the virtual services now is those boundaries become much less needed to be physical than they can be virtually engaged.


Carol: So cool. That's cool. So Jane, I know you did some really good work because the monitoring team kept raving about how you were documenting processes to help in transitions and staff, and they just gave such glowing praise in that whole area. Can you tell us about your approach and how that's working here?


Jane: And is it work in progress. But we specifically are fiscal, and our planning and evaluation team really started this practice several years ago in which they developed desktop manuals that specifically outlined a positions job and what they did in a very detailed format to include screenshots and descriptions links. So if it was something that needed to go to the state controller office or if it was an RSA report, all the details that position needed to perform in order to get their job done. So if somebody won the lottery and didn't show up the next day at work, somebody could go in and actually have some step by step guide on how that job was performed, and that has been really helpful for internal control purposes. That's been really important and we recognize that, but it also helps in that keeping that continuity of the job if something were to happen. As I said, it's a work in progress, our fiscal and our planning and evaluation team, they really have perfected it. We do have assistance that also have desktop manuals. They can get more complex with some of the other positions, but we're looking at developing one for our regional manager positions and our assistant regional manager positions. So it is a work in progress, but certainly it's been a fabulous tool for us to use internally and as well as to highlight the work that we're doing from an internal controls perspective to RSA.


Carol: Well, I know Jane too. I really appreciate that you all had shared some of those examples with us at the VRTAC for Quality Management. And so we could share with other states as an approach on how to do it because it really is very well done, very well done. So I know both of you are super creative like you guys are talked about so many cool things that you're coming up with. But I'm sure you have some frustrations or challenges in planning for change, whether it's that longer term succession planning or navigating just that fast pace of employee movements. So what kind of what are your biggest frustrations or challenges and how are you addressing that? And Joe, I'm going to go to you first on that.


Joe: Yeah. So it's a really good question because it is not always peaches and cream by no stretch. So I'll use a real life example. You guys have heard me talk about this at conferences in the past expedited enrollment. The concept is really the consumer shows they're maximally interested in going to work. And that says the determining eligibility and beginning services now not waiting 60 days and 90 days to develop a plan then and do all that kind of stuff. And branches are in teams around the state. They've embraced that. They've jumped all over it and it just took off without a whole lot of push in other places. It's just really slow to get traction. And what we find is that groups of folks develop their own norms in their own culture, and a lot of these processes that you would think would be easy to change, even though somebody may not have embraced it when they showed up pretty soon. That's what they know. So getting folks to let go of something they've been doing for years to grab on to something different is not always as easy as we would like. The other one, of course, is that we layer on layer after layer after layer of do's and don'ts in the work as we approach it.


Joe: And over time, you look up and you're buried under all that. So peeling that back just takes way too long and way too much energy. And I think one of the things for us. One of my frustrations is identifying those things that we can do and then realizing they've always been there, and we just had not thought of a way to do it. So. Another example we are now instituting a debit card or credit card approach for consumers to procure certain goods and services they need. We've been wanting to do that in this organization for decades. Can't go. It can't do it, can't do it. Pandemic shows up new faces and one of our executives said, Well, we can do it tomorrow morning if we approach this as a service and not an IT modernization approach. And it's like, Oh my God, and that's been in front of us for decades. So it's knowing that there's things that can be done unearthing them and finding the people to champion them. And then when you do getting people to let go of the old and grab a hold of it, that's brilliant.


Carol: I love that. You know, it's so funny how people want to hang on to something, even though it's like awful and they've been doing it forever. But we've been doing it that way. Yeah, they don't want to give it up. No.


Joe: Don't they complain about it to you routinely and you say change? No, it's like, Wait a minute.


Carol: I know, I know. So Jane, how about you? What have been some of your kind of bigger frustrations or challenges as well?


Jane: And kind of piggybacking on that because people don't want to change in, there's constant change and then they're saying there's too much change and holding on to the old and just feeling completely overwhelmed. But I think probably one of my biggest struggles is just not having enough time to really thoughtfully carry through some of those initiatives. I mean, almost like Jo's story, you know, decades ago, you talk about a concept and finally something happens and you're able to do it overnight. So but just having that time to thoughtfully think about what we need to do to strengthen the agency and move forward, at least. And I'm sure Joe, this never happens to you, but I feel like I am constantly being hijacked with my time about something that totally takes me off the track. And so I just, you know, I'm like, I had the whole afternoon for this and something else happens, whether it's the Legislature or we have other programs under the division that sometimes do seem to get more attention than the VR program, even though the VR programs are largest program. Those are things that are really frustrating for me, but I instituted an annual planning with the LTE. Every first of every year we get together just as our core group. We go off site so that we can't be distracted by too much, and we really talk about things that are outside of the state plan goals. They're just really internal things that we really want to focus on and try to accomplish. Sometimes we're really excited and we celebrate those accomplishments, but we have an initiative right now that. We actually have talked about for a couple of years now, and that is for a CRP manager, and we have not been able to accomplish that in the two years’ time because something has taken our time where we haven't been able to really put the time in to really find the right person for that position. So if anything, my biggest frustration is not having enough time to do all the things and then getting kind of sideswiped by other people's agendas. It can be frustrating.


Carol: Absolutely, Jane. I know you were exploring some different initiatives when I was talking to you that you were exploring with your H.R. So can you tell us about some of your thinking around that on offer? Or maybe it's all secret, but I don't know if there's anything you can share.


Jane: I don't know if it's legal. No, I'm kidding.. We certainly are always trying to find ways in which we can maximize our employees in terms of again, going back to maximizing on their expertise. We did create area transition counselors about a year ago. That really works. We work more closely with school districts and parents to help have them understand the importance of pre-employment transition services. So again, looking at the expertise of staff that we have and how we can maximize those. One of the things that we've done for our counseling stuff because based on our CCPD, we do require that our counselors achieve a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or related field within five years of being hired if they come in as an under fill. One of the things we instituted about a year or so, maybe going on two years now is tuition reimbursement for those staff that are seeking their master's degree. So we do ask them to look and determine whether there's RSA scholarships and how they can utilize those funds prior to our own. But for those who may only get a partial RSA scholarship or can't find one, we will do tuition reimbursements and there's some caveats to it. We're just not giving away free money for them to get their education and then leave us because we don't want that either. But that's been an initiative. I think we started that at about January of 2020.


Jane: We also have been utilizing some of our retired counselors when we have open positions and we're having a tough time recruiting. So if we've had a recent retired counselor and they've been separated from the state with the defined time the state makes them be separated before they come back, we have re-engaged with them and some of them are thrilled to come back on a temporary basis to fill in while we're recruiting and training some staff. The last thing that we really worked on in the past year was informing our division of human resources about how underpaid our counseling staff was and to try to help increase the entry level wage for our under fill and then our counselor and our counselor senior position. It was certainly a challenge. A lot of documentation was required to demonstrate that we are well below the market and what we're paying our professional staff. And again, going back to some of the initial conversation, when you have turnover that impacts the bottom line, our customers, they're not going to get if there's gaps in counselors and we have other senior counselors trying to fill in caseloads that does ultimately impact the effectiveness of the service delivery. So we were able to impact our entry level wage. We'd like to see it impacted more because we're not sure that that really is recruiting people still at that, but we're always looking for different ways of impacting our staff.


Carol: Well, good for you and good for trying. I might have to send a couple other state directors your way that are newer in and they're trying to figure out how to do that. They've been looking at trying to get that entry level wage up, and they're having some trouble.


Jane: One of the things, Carol to that and I wanted to mention, I sit on our Workforce Development Council as representing the VR program, and we talk a lot about how we develop a strong workforce in Idaho and out of our Workforce Development Council. There's a majority of our business representatives in the private sector. I have talked with our executive director of the Workforce Development Council about state employees, the state employees of Idaho. We're the largest group of employees were twenty five thousand employees. And I said if we can't impact how we retain our own staff, but yet we're always talking about the private sector needs somewhere we're failing. So I'm trying to get her and. She and I are good friends, so that's a real benefit for me about how we can really impact that at a higher level through legislators and through our governors was to say, Look, we are the workforce of Idaho,


Carol: Bravo, Joe and I are not in our heads. Yes. That is awesome. Yeah, definitely. So, Joe, you know, I always think of you as the idea guy, and I know you like to plan that just for now, but for later in your whole microscope telescope example was the right spot on him. Like, that is awesome. I remember when the pandemic started, and I remember you planning for the end like everybody else was talking about the right now, and you're like, Hey, we're doing some planning for when we come out of this. And I thought, Wow, OK. But you're smart to do that. So how are your wheels turning right now? And can you give us a glimpse into your thoughts about the future of VR and how we're going to ever ensure the continuity of services going forward in the next three to five years? I wonder what's your magic telescope, saying Joe?


Joe: Yeah, there you go. So there's a couple of things, I think with an eye towards that future. It's leveraging the flexibility that the pandemic showed us could be done right. And I truly mean that. So earlier, I mentioned as an example the consumer payment card initiative that we have because of the pandemic, we were able to go to the Legislature and the administration and get 20 million dollars to engage business to think about hiring people with disabilities in a very, very different way. So how do you leverage the opportunity to COVID presented and run hard with it, not just tinker around hard with it? So a couple of other things are hybrid workforce, right? We first see in this department 50 to 70 percent of our staff being in virtual remote work at any one time. There's a lot to that, but that's the way the world is going. So if we try to anchor ourselves in brick and mortar, we're going to be left behind. And more importantly, think about the people that we're preparing for tomorrow's jobs. If the world is shifting to a hybrid workforce, work from home, work from anywhere and we're preparing people for the brick and mortar, what kind of jobs are they going to have? So we need to really just stop thinking about where VR wants and start looking at where business going. Where are the people who are making the hires going? There's so much to that. Let me think about the fact that we're all sitting here doing this podcast remotely, watching them remotely, right? This was always possible.


Joe: We in VR has never done it in the way that we have in the last year, year and a half right as an example. And then the other one that I think is huge is what I call a systems alignment and that is really looking at an individual from where they are very person centered and VR is excellent at individualizing to the individual, but we got to take it further. It's a whole person. Somebody comes to us needing a job, but they may need housing, they may need transportation, they may need food, they may need a number of other things. When we have true systems alignment, we're able to look at that person as a whole and bring all of the systems in a seamless way to bear around that individual, which I think only ensures their success and employment and gets them the hell out of poverty that much faster. So really, really leaning into engaging with other systems, and I'm going to borrow a term from our dear friend Robert Doyle. It's specialization without isolation and this coordination and collaboration without fear of consolidation. I'll go to anybody's table any time, any place, as long as we're talking about employment for people with disabilities as part of that mix exception. So that's a couple of things that are going through my head on where we're going and what I see VR needing to do and moving forward.


Carol: So you're always super profound. You are. I love that. I think I took a bunch of notes. I'm like, I love all of that. I was excellent. And Robert Doyle, yes, I've heard him say that. That was really that's really cool. Absolutely. So, you know, you've got colleagues across the country struggling and people are feeling even though we're virtual, but people still feel isolate like we're all having a wild Monday and lot going on. So are there any words of wisdom or advice you have for other leaders that are wrestling with the same topics you two are wrestling with? And Jane, I'm going to go to you for some last parting words of wisdom to the field?


Jane: Well, I love so much of what Joe just said in terms of being flexible, being nimble, thinking outside the box. But I do think it's leaning on your peers outside of your own organization, whether those be the other systems in your own state or your peers. We have a very strong what we call Region 10. We're connected with Alaska, Oregon and Washington and Idaho. We have our coalition. They're my peeps. I can turn to them, I can talk to them. I reach out with them if, hey, what do you think about this? Or what are you doing over there? We meet monthly, and of course, that's been great with a virtual platform to be able to do so. Our chief of field services with their chief of field services, our fiscal meets with their fiscal. And so that connectedness with your peers there, it's so invaluable. And then when I got this position, somebody said, You know, Jane, it's lonely at the top, so find the people that really can help support you. She wasn't kidding. I didn't realize that I came from the field. I was a counselor, trained and had those connections. But when I changed to the administrator, something happened. I don't know, but I really turned to my peers in the industry and those who are actually part of those systems within the state of Idaho to gain that kind of support.


Carol: And Joe and I were vigorously nodding our heads. It's absolutely I always tell people like, you've got to find a buddy, you know, you need that buddy. And Joe was always my buddy. So was Allison Flannagan. I got lots of ideas from Joe over the years, and Allison had helped me when we were facing some pretty tough stuff because it's like you have to get out of your own head. Yes, you know, you kind of think your way and then somebody gives you these other ideas and you're like, Oh my gosh, that's like brilliant, you know, to take that collection of good thinking from around the country. I love that. How about you, Joe? Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for other folks?


Joe: Yeah, I I'm just did ditto ditto ditto to what you and Jane just have said. I promise you, if you're going through it, somebody else has gone through it and somebody else can share a lot of experience with you about that. That will be invaluable. Sometimes you don't even know who that person is, right? And it's like, you know, I'd call somebody if I knew who it was. Well, if you don't know who it is, pick up the phone and call one of the three of us and say, Hey, who could I talk to about this? You have your CSAVR team, you have your TAC teams, you have folks you may not know, but they will know. And I promise you, those conversations are going to be well worth the time that you make for that. That's one thing. But the other thing that I think is really important and that is tomorrow time, tomorrow time, you have to make the time to sit back and think about tomorrow because today's problems will bury you, right? But if all you're doing, you're shoveling out from under today's problems. That's a microscope telescope. You got to make the time to put that telescope in focus because a lot of times when I do that, it takes that problem of the day and it just changes that whole focus and it changes that whole mindset of how we're going to approach it. We're not going to solve it for today. We're going to solve it for tomorrow and the day after that. And there's a very big difference between solving for today and solving for tomorrow. So building those triggers that help you be the one that looks up and out because you're the lead in your agency, you're amongst the leaders across this country, in our respective profession. And if you're not the one looking up and out and down across that horizon, nobody else is going to do it for us, folks.


Carol: Well, said Joe. Well said, I really appreciate you both being on the show today. Thank you so much and I wish you both continued success in your states. You're great human beings, and I'm really pleased that you took the time to be with us today. Thanks again.


Joe: Thank you,Carol.


Jane: And fun. Thank you.


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