When the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, or IMRF, started its engagement journey in 2009, career growth for employees wasn’t a priority. With little turnover among its 175 employees, “there are not a lot of advancement opportunities,” says Dan Duquette, deputy executive director of the Oak Brook-based organization, which administers employee pension plans for nearly 3,000 units of government in Illinois.
In fact, engagement was an afterthought, Duquette says. The organization’s vision is to “provide excellent customer service” to its 400,000 members, yet until recently it had no formal way to determine if employees met that expectation.
As a government entity, the IMRF faces no competition, which presented additional challenges, says human resources manager Linda Bieniek. “We’re not going to lose customers because of poor service, since our members have nowhere else to go.”
So in 2009, IMRF applied for a continuous-improvement award from the Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence, a not-for-profit based in neighboring Naperville. The aim: Have an independent source analyze the IMRF’s operations and workforce and pinpoint areas that need improvement.
The two-year-long process was worth it, Duquette says, and not just because the Lincoln Foundation bestowed a Bronze Award on the IMRF in January 2010. The icing on the cake, he says, is a 63-page “feedback report” issued by examiners after spending nearly a week at the IMRF’s offices, including interviews with employees. Copies were given to every employee.
“They told us: ‘You identified employees as key stakeholders, yet you’re not measuring anything about your workforce,’ ” Duquette says.
That finding prompted the IMRF to implement an annual engagement survey by Washington, D.C.-based LeadershipIQ. Although the IMRF has scored well overall on the first two surveys, taken in 2009 and 2010, Duquette notes areas needing improvement.
Two priorities: Provide employees with the resources they need to excel and train supervisors to praise employees for specific job accomplishments. Results of the next survey are due in August, Duquette says, and “we’re anxious to see if we’ve moved the needle.”
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