How do you transform a bureaucracy that was generations in the making? In today’s episode, I speak with Greg Derwart, Managing Director, Administration & Customer Experience at Maryland Department of Commerce. We explore transforming customer and employee experience within a state government agency, and how this work is managed across multiple departments and agencies.
The Department of Commerce is Maryland’s state government economic development agency; it makes sure businesses are staying in the state and growing. Its function is to also increase Maryland’s attractiveness as a place to do business. Greg shares that when Larry Hogan became governor of Maryland in 2015, he had a strong focus on improving the business climate in Maryland. With the “open for business” slogan, the goal was to make the state more business-friendly.
Develop Your Core Values to Drive Growth and Prove Commitment
There was an urgency around changing the culture within the agency to become a culture of yes. During the early part of Greg’s career with the Department of Commerce, Governor Hogan put a Regulatory Reform Commission in place to get the movement started.
The formation of the commission was a stepping stone for the administration to build a better understanding of the expectations of the business community. To create a relatability factor, members of the commission included individuals from the private sector who have used state services before. The commission conducted a listening tour around the state, inclusive of open public hearings for constituents and small businesses, giving them the opportunity to talk about existing regulations that were causing them business pains. Greg sat in on every hearing and listened to what was said, which gave him an idea of where his responsibilities in impacting the culture would come into play.
After listening to the constituents, they found common patterns in the pain points, which included similar inconsistencies and inefficiencies of the Dept of Commerce’s operations. Hearing the voice of the people further ignited the governor’s mission, thus expanding the culture of customer experience transformation across all state agencies.
Focused on improving the customer experience, the state of Maryland put together a “Bill of Rights” for customers to demonstrate their commitment to providing the best possible customer service to their citizens.
The State of Maryland pledges to provide constituents, businesses, customers, and stakeholders with services in the following manner:
- Friendly and Courteous: We will be helpful and supportive and have a positive attitude and passion for what we do.
- Timely and Responsive: We will be proactive, take initiative, and anticipate your needs.
- Accurate and Consistent: We will always aim for 100% accuracy, and be consistent in how we interpret and implement state policies and procedures.
- Accessible and Convenient: We will continue to simplify and improve access to information and resources.
- Truthful and Transparent: We will advance a culture of honesty, clarity, and trust.
Create an Engaged and Empowered Team
As a part of the rollout and improvement plans, leaders of the various state government departments had to fill out a high-level summary of the products and services they provide and who they provide it to. They needed a better understanding of who their customers were and how to define them, which is essential to your business. The leaders were also given major components that needed to be included in the plan: performance metrics, a plan on how to train their employees in a specific form of customer service training, and a recognition program for team members. Greg believes in the power of employees, stating that unless you have a happy, engaged, and empowered team, you’ll never move the needle when it comes to this work.
To improve the employee experience, Greg and his team realized they have to take off the handcuffs of employees. Allow them more freedom to give the customers a voice. There are so many good people on the frontlines who are waiting for good leadership to help the company execute its mission.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
- Don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. Sometimes it can be easy to get lost in the minutia of data, but thankfully, the governor’s sense of urgency forced us to just start and get organized fast.
- Don’t stress out over the folks that don’t get it yet. A lot of people will, but there will be a handful that doesn’t. Don’t obsess over them; they’ll either catch up or go away.
About Greg Derwart
Greg Derwart is a senior operations executive with over 25 years of professional experience in the private sector, government and nonprofit arenas. He serves as Managing Director for the Maryland Department of Commerce. In addition to heading up the Department’s Administration and Technology team, he is also taking a leadership role in corporate culture and customer experience, including Governor Hogan’s statewide customer service initiative.
Greg is a graduate of the 2006 Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) Leadership program, was a 2011 recipient of the Maryland Daily Record’s VIP List Successful by 40 Award, was named by the Chesapeake Human Resources Foundation (CHRF) as a 2011 Fellow, and was awarded the SmartCEO Executive Management Award in 2013. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree from the University of Baltimore.