After several employees expressed curiosity about other departments, Laura Picking decided to let them see for themselves. She created a job-shadowing program through which employees sign up to follow two jobs for two hours each.
"We try to encourage communication between departments, but sometimes you need to just sit with them so you can see what they do," Picking says.
The successful program reflects the record of this human resources manager, who has earned a reputation for innovation at Delta Dental of Kansas, the largest dental benefit plan administrator in the state.
"She's always learning, pursuing other opportunities, trying to integrate what she does with the company's strategy and always making this a better place to work," says Amy Ellison, vice president of human resources for the Wichita, Kansas-based insurer, who nominated Picking for a Game Changers award. For example, when Picking became responsible for training in early 2009, she increased the number of learning hours among employees by 26 percent to 3,641 hours in 2010 from 2,881 in 2008.
Picking, 29, also organized the company's first career-development week last year, with each day focused on topics such as employees who had gone back to school.
Picking reminds attendees that the company offers tuition reimbursement. "If one person decides that they want to go to school after that, then that's a benefit to us," she says.
Picking says she has a passion for employee relations, and she takes particular pride in being part of the team that wrote the 60-page job application that won the company the Kansas Excellence Award.
Outside of work, Picking for three years served on the board of directors of Dress for Success Wichita, which provides professional clothes and coaching to disadvantaged women. She continues to speak to groups in the organization about various job-search topics.
"The organization itself was an eye-opener for me," she says, "because you get to meet a lot of women in the community whose backgrounds are different from your own."