Part Two: How the Indiana Department of Revenue became a top place to work | Ep. 110
Welcome to another episode of the Roi. PODCAST presented assented by the Indiana University. Kelley School of business. I'm your host Matt Maher Tele as you know our shows mission is to help organizations make better business decisions last week. We started a conversation with the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Revenue. Adam Krupp who started to unveil how how him and his team helped to rework the culture inside the Department of revenue to make them into the Indie Starr's top one hundred replaces to work so as we look into you know when you have this momentum happening and you're you're seeing you know some change talk about some of the biggest obstacles goals and the things the brick walls that you came crashing into along this journey how you started to you know overcome them or dismantle those walls one one of the biggest obstacles for me was when I started And this is unfortunate. But it's sometimes the nature of either the political process or state government generally generally. Or if you don't have a good culture you you see a lot of turnover. I was the Fourth Commissioner for the Indiana Department of revenue in about a three year period. K So doesn't matter if you are for profit nonprofit government any organization that experiences that level of turnover at the leadership position is going to struggle all and it's GonNa be a big hill to climb for that next person that comes in What it could be sports right with athletic programs or franchises? If if you fire the head coach bringing another one two years later you've fire the head coach and bringing another one the employees of the organization start to question. You know what's our identity. So I I thought we had an identity crisis at the Indiana Department of Revenue. That was other than other than being. You know. Thirty seven thirty eight years old Being being an obstacle We had an identity crisis. There was no consistent leadership for the organization. There was a lot of turnover. So we've got a lot of employees elise and I see this and other agencies including ones where I've worked where when you have a lot of employees that have been here for the course of their career and I have over a one. I have over a hundred employees out of six hundred and eighty five. Actually that have been here thirty years or more over one hundred well through no fault of their own when they see me come in the door for they think because recent history warrants it they think well this guy will probably be here for nine months to a year maybe a year and a half if if he's lucky but then he's going to jump to the next thing or he'll be let go just like the you know other people were that is a huge obstacle if you just think about the mindset of an employee WHO's coming everyday to want to do the right thing in to want to find inspiration and motivation K.. Well let's not forget at that when you bring a new leaders those leaders whether they're there for six months or three years or longer they bring with them their own leadership team in many cases they bring with them their own ideas about the strategic vision and the plan for the organization. So yeah when I when I put up a poster Mr on the walls that features our new mission statement and some of our core values. Trust me I've I thought there are a lot of people that are going to go. Oh great here we go again Adams just going to change. What probably changed the year before he got here? So that is a that is an enormous obstacle and what I always tell people people is. It's like I said it doesn't happen overnight but what I tell people is You just have to stick with it. They're going to be people number one that I don't like you right away right because they either just they don't like the way you look. They don't like the way you talk. They don't agree with your political beliefs. I mean they're going to be the people that are Don't like you because of the position you're in or the salary you make you name it you've got to stick with it and you have to trust you know your own beliefs and you have to trust what you want to do in your vision for the organization So long as you know you have one and thought through it and you believe in it. A. B. Authentic. Be Yourself and know that eventually K.. If you walk the walk and you adhere to eyeball leadership and you are genuine genuine. That people are gonNA come along for that ride and they will want to go on a journey with you And I think that's where we are now. Such a significant portion of our employee base is excited to be on this journey but that number one obstacle right out of the gates If you would've asked me on that day if I thought what we would be where we are today I would have said. Gosh I don't know this is A. This is an enormous hill to climb. So let's go to the spot where you so you were fighting these battles battle over battle. You mean you're you're you have the an entire culture that you're trying to combat you know and like you said especially especially with high turnover rates. I mean that only makes the wall staller in taller the more leadership leave quicker rate the taller. The walls are going to get the after breakdown so in those moments of of disbelief for yourself in those moments of man is really GonNa work like when you were starting to question. Even everything you were doing. How did you push is yourself to to get through those low points in? How did you motivate yourself to just stick with it well? I'm a student student leadership so I continue to read books every day. I I read more books now in this role at this point in my career than I ever did before because I'm constantly gently wanting to learn and when I'm struggling or if we are introducing something that's not either working as I envisioned you know I like to. I like to pull from other sources sources and say okay. What worked for other organizations? So I've got a notebook of ideas. I've got books a stack of books on my desk here and at my Home Office and just because I finished reading a book doesn't mean I'm done with it and that that's a that's something to always remember. I'm always impressed when people have a beautiful library at home and all these books books on the shelves. But but my books are all highlighted and flagged and they're scattered throughout the office and I'll just pick one up I'll turn to a chapter as a reminder okay If I either need some inspiration or motivation I'll pick up a book but then I'll also think back to you know something in great that we did here at the Department of revenue and I'll remember when you know we did a celebration for certain employees and thank you know what those those employees who are now inspired in happy and love what they do. That's because of what we're doing in the platforms that we're providing for them so you know as selfless offices you WANNA be. Sometimes you do have to remember that that you were part of that journey for them and I get inspiration from that okay I love what I do. I enjoy away my job more than I ever thought imaginable and more than any of my other jobs that paid me a lot. More money in life Because at the end of the day I'm very passionate about government service Servant leadership is critical and important to me and so I get a lot of energy and positive momentum and motivation from seeing what we've been able to do for other people Not just employees but also those that we interact with right. Citizens of Indiana Indiana. Have come up to me or have told people. In our organization you have completely changed my perception of state government You you've changed my beliefs about state employees. Hey in to me when I hear that I'm like fired up and ready to go. Let's do this. Let's let's get more people on board and I would say in the last six months because you never wanna get stale in your talking points and how you try to inspire and motivate your employees. He's and so the second half of two thousand nineteen for me is I tried to get folks to say. Let's change the conversation and let's Focus John. You know the narrative of state employees especially at the Department of Revenue. And let's change it. We have an opportunity to do that. Every single interaction. Every phone call is an opportunity. So I'll meet with our our customer service center. These are folks on the phone every day. that you know somebody he is on hold for. Let's say twenty five minutes and they don't have but more than thirty minutes of their time throughout the day and we've just wasted twenty five by making them wait so by the time they get on the phone with us they're upset Or they're they've received a letter and it's kind of an adversarial situation already so I just Reminder Call Center folks you know remember our purpose we're here to deliver great government service where public servants and our mission is to serve the state. So let's be positive. Let's be helpful and now and again like in the last six months. I've said let's try to change that conversation and view that interaction as an opportunity attorney because every single one is different slits. Look at that moment you know when you start to notice the pivot where he was actually visible in your staff and almost becoming autonomists unanmous In the way people reacting in like where everyone started to catch hold for you. How long did that take or you know what was that like? When when the new new culture envision in all your hard work started to really get roots and started to start blossoming about a year and a half and I can point to that specific? Yeah I know that sounds specific but I can point to that because we tried to be recognized as a top workplace after being here a year thinking you know you know what. Let's benchmark ourselves against top organizations in the private sector Specifically because top workplaces surveys are not designed designed for government institutions. And we were well aware of that and so we participated in that survey and we did not make it I can't say that we were shocked. Doc because we just thought will never make it. You know the Indy Star. Top workplaces is not built for state organizations number. One one of those other battles going back to what are the biggest obstacles will another obstacle as Compensation K. We can't just give everybody a raise if we had a good year. I can't just give you know implies who are doing a great job a raise That's just not the way that the state government engine works. It's sort of a formulaic process. There So you know we didn't make it and but importantly here's where the pivot comes in with the staff. We took the results of that survey. Because that's it's anonymous feedback from any employees in your organization that wants to participate and I'll just say we had eighty six percent participation in year one most organizations his ations that participate in the best places to work or top workplace survey because it's not required you'll you'll see participation rates in the high fifties low sixties Swede eighty eighty six percent of our staff participate and Some of them were very passionate and supportive. Some of them were very passionate in in the other direction so the pivot occurs when we take those results and we were very transparent with our entire organization and we showed them what the results Bolt said. Because I think it's so important for them to be aware to not just think I'm gonNA take a survey. I'M GONNA spend thirty minutes telling them how I feel give ideas for you know change and then go into some binder or report that sits on the shelf collects dust. And they'll never do anything with it anyways that's at such a detrimental effect has unintended consequences so we were very transparent about the results. Put Him on a big screen. We circulated we had focus groups and even the negative comments which are all anonymous but we would show our staff and say here's what you said about leadership K.. We're here to recognize that. One of the biggest weaknesses for our entire organization is sort of Middle Management and supervisors and how they care for and respect those who work for them and report to them so at the executive leadership level. We're developing leadership programs. We're bringing in New Project management techniques bringing in lean six sigma training and we're trying to develop future leaders who are currently supervisors and team leads and in addition to being transparent and showing those results and not being afraid of them because I think some organizations are going to be afraid of what they see on paper Apor and be like. Oh we could never show our staff this. No I want everybody to see what their peers and colleagues are saying so we took their feedback and then we started started rolling out these action plans and we started telling teams. This is what you said. We've come up with three to five action items and here's what we're going to do about it so that by the end of the year we can show you that we've really invested and that we've dedicated ourselves all the way up to the commissioner an agency heads of the organization to change this for you and we did those things about a year and a half in and so I think that's where people bought in. That's where people said. These guys are actually here to do this. And they're not just going to be here for a year and jump to the next thing so tenure longevity is one thing but taking action based on their feedback has changed everything. That's why I say it's about a year and a half right. We took the survey survey. We got the results. It's middle of that second year and we're doing all these things that are new to the organization that are for the betterment of the organization which ultimately is the for the betterment of Indiana and it's all driven by what they wanted and their ideas. These aren't ideas that came from me necessarily -sarily or executive management. This is what career employees. Who are here for the right reasons? Came to us and said the department could really blossom if we did this. I know you'll never take this into consideration anyway but we should do this while we took it into consideration. We actually did it. And so that's that's where where things turned so talk about that moment when all this hard work comes in what did it do not just for you personally. But for the organization when the results of the two thousand nineteen list came out and you guys were on that list not just unlisted number twelve out of you know only fifteen. Large organizations is to make the Indy Starr's top top places to work well. We were shocked. Stunned beyond belief actually To go on on this journey of trying to be recognized as a great place to work again. That's part of our vision statement that we set out for the future. It's really hard to capture and especially communicate to employees. What does that mean? How are you recognized as a great place to work? Well thankfully there is something called indie. Starr's top workplaces as we said you know it's a vision which means it won't happen overnight. It may never happen but it's something that we can Aspire to achieve someday. Maybe it's five five years. Maybe it's ten years but let's drive ourselves to get there so I don't know maybe we did ourselves a disservice by making it so early But nevertheless over the last it was it was so exciting When it was announced I knew a little bit before it came out in June because they like to release it in the print edition addition on a Sunday in the paper? I knew before that it was. Let me just tell you is the hardest secret I've ever had to keep Because I mean you get chills. I got chills when we were told. I get chills thinking about it today because it's so inspiring and it's such a great story about the complete transformation and turn around around a large organization that means so much to the state I tell you when I announced it to the organization in that auditorium with three hundred and fifty fifty people physically present but also another probably hundred fifty or so watching live And the faces in the body language and the smiles Dell's set it all The level of excitement and you could see I mean. We threw a party all right. There were balloons that fell from the rafters of the Auditorium Toria So we played music. We wanted this to feel like a monumental achievement because it is. It's the first time I'm a state agency has ever been top workplace in Indiana so we wanted this to feel like an event a moment in history for the organization and I wanted had all of the employees who are part of it at this at this point in history who have been here for thirty years I wanted them to know how special it was and what it means to the organization into them and they're so proud Being on the list as you said there's fifteen large organizations and they're really popular. They're big they're known for customer service. They're known for driving profits for their shareholders. You name it. And then you see the Department of Revenue Listed Number Number Twelve I couldn't believe we made it but the beautiful thing about that is that in and of itself has inspired so many people only organization to where I have people coming up to me saying. When are we taking that survey again? Because number twelve not good enough we want to be top ten and I just think so. This is where you go okay. Let's put things in perspective everything's relative but let's put this into perspective of that one one incident that conversation. I've got employees at the Department of revenue that see being ranked number twelve on the top workplaces places for the Indy Star for large organizations as now not being good enough they wanna be top ten. I mean two years ago it it was unheard of and people on the outside. Probably that still. Don't even know that this has happened. Probably say that's funny. That'll never happen. Because you are who you are We go around the state and we travel we talk about what's going on with the department. We give updates on the organization and things that impact them as WHO's your tax payers and then every time I've done that since June. I always take some time to talk about our culture because I want people to know who's working being for them as public servants and so I talk about our culture and how we've rebuilt it and I see the progression of the looks on peoples faces and then I put the a trophy on the screen and the top workplaces logo. And I I tell them that we made it. And that we're one of the stars top workplaces for two thousand nineteen and and the last several times. I've done that. It's a round of applause From the people in the room a round of applause so when we talk about changing the conversation and public public perception. So when you ask about what was that moment where things pivoted with your staff. This is a moment where things have pivoted with public perception. And I hate that. It took a top workplace award to do that. But if that's what it took we'll take it I I mean I've got rooms of people clapping clapping about the Department of Revenue Okay. Let's let's think about that right and that's something that happens every day when you think that this place is oh department of revenue. Oh what did you do to put their you know city I want to those. I mean even people that listen to this you always get people who doubt people who think think man it worked for them. I can't work for organization because you just don't get our organization you don't get you know that's great for you but we're different because we deal have to deal with this and this yes. We have this stigma. What do you say to those who kind of have a doubt about her? Say It's a can't be done in my organization you know what what would you tell Leaders who are right at their mountain that they got the invitation to climb but yet they're just doubting that it can be done. I would say if we we could do this. Anybody can and we had some of the biggest obstacles in place. Starting from a position of you know climbing out of a whole whether it's public perception employee morale not being able to meet compensation levels in state government that you find in the private sector the old technology having to introduce new technology but at the end of the day it all starts with your your mission your vision articulating Niculae the purpose the core values for the organization and taking care of your employees. Okay it can't just be self interest or always focusing on people on the outside or your customers I mean. We talk about tax payers as customers K.. So we're a government institution nonprofit often. What have you but we talk about? Customers and customer service so there's a parallel there with Four profit organizations That are focusing and constantly on their bottom line so it applies across all organization types and I know that as we said earlier in the conversation mission mission vision purpose and core values like a check the box for some it really all starts. Their culture is everything. I've used that expression in a lot of presentations that I've given We focus on our culture justice much as the service that we deliver. I firmly believe and I would say this to any leader of any organization Asian nonprofit for profit. You cannot deliver customer service at the levels that you want without having a culture heard that is healthy and stable and consistent at the foundation of everything because that culture drives how your employees are going to treat other people that culture chur is going to drive how your employees feel about themselves about their own personal happiness and enjoyment and that that always projects on to the people they're interacting with or how much energy and passion they put into the products they are building to ultimately sell to consumers Or the service. They're delivering over the phone so it translates across all but I would also tell people it's one of the hardest things angel ever do right and that's that's kind of the the part of the story that people have to remind me that I often forget a. k.. Is like you tell that story. If the transformation of a government agency from worst to first if you will and it happened in two and a half years which in and of itself is a huge part of the story but I need to remind find myself to always share that. This is the hardest thing I've ever done. I've worked in to corporate national law firms that only handle clients worth worth billions of dollars. And you go into core in you're up against the best of the best and you work in one hundred hours a week And you you you strung out and you're tired tired and and you feel like there's no end in sight. I've been there I've also been a teacher in a classroom before I've been a high school teacher this This is the hardest job I've ever had but it's also the most fun I've ever had so depending on how you're wired. Is a leader challenge hills to climb. I'm can be really energizing so I'm having more fun than ever but I will say it's the hardest job I've ever had because of what we've had to do but once you get there Your job will be more rewarding than you could have ever imagined and it's all worth it in the end and you will the blood sweat tears. The being the last last one to leave as the leader of the organization on almost every night which by the way your employees don't see right so they don't know that about you and it would be a good look if you were just reminding them of that and telling them so most of my staff they have no idea that I'm the last to leave or that? I'm leaving most nights at seven o'clock walk. Most of our staff and government employees. Leave around four thirty if they got in early so so I just tell other leaders that this can be done but you have to be prepared to work harder than you've ever worked before. Simon cynic has a great line in his book. Leaders eat last that I adhere to remind our staff and our leaders of the future That leadership is not a licensed to do less. It creates a responsibility and obligation Asian to do more okay. So if you become the leader of the organization whether it's through promotion or then you enter the job fresh From the outside the worst thing you can ever do think that now that I'm running this organization I've made in my career. So I'm GonNa you know maybe kick my feet up and not work as hard art The same can be said in law firms. I observed it partners in law firms worked harder than associates. But when you're an associate you never imagined that and you don't think that's the case you think I'm the associate attorney. I'm doing all the work for the partner to get all the credit and the glory in the money but then as you get older and experienced experience Time in the organization. You see that the partners are actually working really hard and in many cases harder than you so as a leader especially Lee of you know if you're at the top of the organization just know that it's that personal commitment. It's the time it's the energy the passion could be the hardest thing you'll ever do but the payoff is immeasurable invaluable again. This is Adam. Krupp Commissioner of the Indiana -partment of revenue. Who along with his team took this department from zero to now being on Indie Starr's top places to work? Adam just WanNa thank you so much for your time gene for your wisdom shared here on the Roi podcast thank you so much for having me. It's it's been a blast and I love telling the story of our transformation also the journey Ernie of how we were able to get from where we were to where we are today and and I just hope it continues because that's never guaranteed. This has been another episode of the Roi podcast asked presented by the Indiana University. Kelley School of business. I'm your host Matt Marla. Our mission is to help organizations make better business decisions. We'll see see you next week.