The other day my 15-year old daughter asked me excitedly, “Dad, can you take me to the DMV to get my driver’s permit?” On the way there, I told her that, without a doubt, this would be her most exciting visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and that it would “all go downhill from here.” I shared my impression of the DMV, which consisted of waiting in long lines, following bureaucratic rules, and experiencing a fair amount of confusion in what you need to do or bring to get the documents you need. This was certainly what I expected to experience that day.
Was I ever wrong and in for a surprise! Four central signs of engagement stood out the most at the facility.
1. The employees were well-selected. The report card on staffing at most organizations is pretty sordid. In fact, 59% of all new employees are gone before their one year work anniversary. Such recruiting failure at the Department of Motor Vehicles historically has been even more checkered. That has and is now changing with two of the new best recruiting practices being utilized by DMVs in multiple places. The first best practice is to emulate what online retailer Zappos did when they pioneered the concept of hiring for attitude, as opposed to hiring for aptitude. The second best practice is to gauge the candidates’ propensity to be engaged by looking or asking for examples of when the employee has been fully engaged in past jobs.
2. They were organized and well-managed. Almost like a hospital emergency room department, there was a clear triage or pathway at the entrance, making it easy for the customer to find the correct line and/ or “window,” thereby making the visit as short as possible.
As all best-in-class organizations know, the manager is the lynchpin to employee engagement. At this particular DMV, we were actually met at the door by a smiling, positive, manager who immediately asked how she could help us. While we were waiting, I watched her interactions with the employees she managed, and was impressed to see her use of two of the most effective means of driving engagement: 1. She recognized employees’ efforts and a job well done, saying “nice job!” and “keep up the good work!” and 2. She played her part in keeping things “fun,” sprinkling smiles and laughter throughout the facility.
3. They clearly communicated. I was amazed at how clear the signage was in the facility compared to what I had experienced in the past, again, making it easy and efficient for its customers.
4. They acted on feedback. Long the butt of many jokes on late night talk shows, for years the DMV has had a sordid and negative reputation. Based upon my experience during this visit, I can tell that the people managing this DMV were not only open to receiving feedback, but most importantly, acted on it. Great organizations do just that, regularly inviting employee and customer feedback through surveys and focus groups.
Before you pre-judge your next visit to the DMV, be careful not to “judge a book by its cover” or only by your past experiences. While you still may doubt whether most DMV employees are passionate about what they do, and prideful about where they work (what I have always called the two Ps of engagement), you might be pleasantly surprised at the changing and improved staffing and culture during your next visit to the DMV.