February 6, 2016

County to continue hiring freeze through 2012

Mark Taylor
Johnson County Commissioners have extended the county’s hiring restriction policy through 2012.
The county has suspended the hiring of new employees — with the exception of those deemed necessary for the delivery of essential services — since 2009.
Only Hannes Zacharias, county manager, has the authority to make exceptions to the policy.
“The continuation of this process in 2012 allows the county to be more strategic in finding budget savings through attrition and discretionary expenditures,” Zacharias wrote in a memo to the commission.
Commissioner Ed Peterson opposed extending the hiring freeze, and cast the lone dissenting vote.
“We’re one of the largest employers in town,” he said. “I think it’s time we start taking a different look at our role and responsibility. I am not convinced that necessarily means a tax increase. But I think we need to start evaluating our decisions based on the employment in the community.
“It’s the public sector that is declining in employment right now. The private sector is holding it’s own. It is the public sector that now needs to step up.”
Commissioner Ed Eilert disagreed, saying any changes to the hiring restriction policies should be “vetted” during the budget process.
“I think we should continue the process,” he said.
Commissioner Michael Ashcraft added, “We are in difficult times and difficult transitions, something we haven’t had much experience with historically, and I think staff has done a yeoman’s job (with staffing decisions).”
According to Zacharias’ memo, the county’s five-year financial model projects $17 million in spending cuts for 2013 and 2014.
“In order to maintain essential services, it is critical that the county continue to review thoroughly all new hires and all discretionary spending in 2012,” he wrote.


  1. Judith Rogers says:

    I note Zacharias is the only one who can make an exception to the hiring freeze. I remember clearly how back around 2000 or 2001 there was a wage freeze on all county employess. Then the employees found out Mike Press was giving “bonuses” to certain “key employees” to retain them – that certainly did not set well with the employees who were willing to hang in there for the people but weren’t gertting the special “bonus” to keep them in their jobs. Fast forward to 2008, the Commissioners are talking about wage freezes again and once again, Mike Press steps forward and says we could instigate the wage freeze, however, provide “bonuses” to “key employees”. Mike Press and his kind are always there to take care of the special interests or special people, whether they be in or out our government. That is what is called cronyism government in my opinion, and why the big boys continue to line their pockets and the average citizen pays the price. Lots of bureaucrats like Mike Press in our goverments along with worthless politicians – that is my opinion.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    I come back again as to why my city of Gardner would not give me the salaries of the administrative staff for EACH of the past 5 years????

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    I believe you get a great organization such as a city when all employees and citizens, be they homeowners or business entities, are treated EQUITABLY AND FAIRLY. Here is an article brought to you by Diane Stafford about that important factor in all of our lives and that is “customer” service and that being whether we are on the end or giving or receiving and really recognizing and being cognizant of who the “customer” is. Cronyism has no place in customer service and that is most important with respect to government entities such our city of Gardner. I have seen many customer service seminars in my life from many different positions of a company and I still say that it is management who need these customer service seminars the most because so many of them demand customer service but do not practice it themselves. This organization was smart enough to put this culture in place from the top on down. Notice I said “smart” and I could add that this organization is also practicing integrity, ethics and character. Notice how this organization is continually monitoring to make sure the “service” is top notch and that should apply to ALL within an organization. As the firemen say: I may not like you but I will answer your call. Take cronysim out of your government and replace it with decency.


    12,000 trainees later, hospital’s customer service ratings skyrocket
    Paula Miller has been educating employees from doctors to car parkers at KU Hospital for more than a decade.

    As Clinical Quality Assurance Manager at Kansas University Hospital, Paula Miller leads training classes for new hires. On Wednesday she lead one of those classes. Twelve years ago, when the University of Kansas Hospital looked at its quarterly patient satisfaction surveys, it often found ratings in the single digits.

    Today, when it looks at weekly reports, it takes notice if a department’s ratings slip below 90 percent. And if a unit’s ratings fall below 80 percent, a customer service SWAT team is summoned.

    They hardly ever get the call.

    Take a bow, Paula Miller.

    Since October 1999, Miller has trained KU Hospital employees — everyone from doctors to car parkers — in the art of customer service. She just passed the 12,000-trainee mark.

    Starting with about 4,000 existing employees at the outset, the hospital has mandated a daylong service session as part of every new hire’s three-day orientation.

    “We are a better organization because of the passion Paula has for exceptional patient care,” said Tammy Peterman, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at the hospital.

    On Wednesday, it was Miller time for the hospital’s eight newest employees, mostly nurses, nurse assistants and technicians, who gathered in a conference room just off the cafeteria.

    Miller, a medical technician by training, worked in the hospital lab when she was tapped by hospital president Bob Page to be a customer service trainer. She still works in the lab four days a week, but on almost every Wednesday puts on her trainer hat.

    “Health care is a very emotional business. People don’t want to be here. People will blow up,” Miller told this week’s hospital newbies. “How do you react?”

    As the minutes tick by, Miller made it clear that expectations aren’t just about reactions. They’re about taking charge of oneself to create a positive experience for patients, their families and fellow workers. They’re about creating good relationships on whatever level the interaction occurs.

    “For every job, our priority is taking care of patients, even if you never actually touch a patient,” Miller instructed the group.

    Miller’s sessions work partly because of her ability to disarm even the most cynical, the most bored attendee. She does it by asking personal questions, by finding out what participants do in their free time, by asking what message — more convenient parking for employees? — they’d like to send to top management.

    Do the techniques and training work?

    Hospital officials swear by it. They offer proof in better mortality rates, better patient outcomes, higher bed occupancy and the migration of top doctors to the hospital from other practices.

    Miller elicited other “proof” when she asked the new workers why they applied for jobs at the hospital. Someone’s parent was a patient and they saw good teamwork first-hand. Someone had worked in hospital where she didn’t see evidence that people cared. Someone had heard good recommendations about how the staff treated nurses. Someone had relatives who loved working there.

    “It’s the reputation of physicians who generally bring people to the hospital, but it’s the support staff that will keep them here and bring them back,” Miller said.

    “If we do the right thing, patients will come back, and we’ll have the staffing we need because our beds are full every day of the week.”

    In that, the trainer was honest:

    At rock bottom, customer service isn’t just a touch-feely thing. The training was fueled by the need to stay in business in a competitive industry. Over time, hospital officials say, it has had bottom-line results.

    Miller also was honest about her exhortations to make eye contact, to smile, to use “Mr.,” “Mrs.” or “Ms.” and call patients by their last names at first meeting, to knock before entering rooms, to listen, and to be polite at every encounter.

    Providing quality medical care is the basic requirement, she warned. Employees are expected to be proficient at their technical skills.

    But hospital staff is evaluated on five “pillars” of competency. Customer service is just one of them — an important one. If a worker is downgraded on customer service, he or she has to spend a remedial day in one of Miller’s sessions plus a little time “after school” to talk about the message.

    “Some self-select out” of employment at the hospital, Miller notes. Others are let go.

    “What I like to say is that we need to leave our junk in the trunk,” Miller laughed. Then the smile crinkles faded as she set her jaw.

    “There’s plenty to do here. But patients should never get the feeling that we’re too busy to take care of them…People are not numbers. They’re people, whether they’re patients or co-workers. And when we treat each other the way we want to be treated, that’s excellent service.”

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