Director Spotlight: Lt. Gov. Brian Calley

By Monica Drake
The Office of Performance and Transformation

When Brian Calley was first elected lieutenant governor in 2010, employee engagement was low in the state of Michigan.

In order to address this need, Calley created the Office of Good Government (OGG) in 2011. Through the creation of OGG – now part of the Office of Performance and Transformation (OPT) – a new culture of engagement, recognition, and reinvention was born.

“Good Government is about outcomes, results, and getting things done and doing it as efficiently as we can,” he said.

In order to change the culture at the State of Michigan, Calley first needed to know what employees’ perceptions of their jobs, inclusion, and engagement were. So, in 2012, OGG administered the first Employee Survey to all 47,000 state employees.

“I wasn’t afraid to ask for feedback from employees – even though, at the time, I knew the type of feedback we were going to get wouldn’t be very good,” Calley said. “But I knew the results of the Employee Survey would provide us with a road map for change.”

According to the results of the 2012 Employee Survey, 66 percent of employees agreed with the statement, “My supervisor recognizes me when I do a good job.” For Calley, this wasn’t good enough.

“We have a long history of telling people when they do things wrong but not telling people when they do things right,” he said. “Appreciation of positive behavior is something every single human being needs, no matter how old you are.”

One of the outcomes of the first survey was the creation of a unique recognition program inspired by the military tradition of giving challenge coins to soldiers.

“When we first began the program, I didn’t know if employees would be too jaded to appreciate receiving a recognition coin. But that wasn’t the case at all,” said Calley. “Gov. Rick Snyder and I would surprise employees with these coins. Some people told me, ‘I’ve worked here for 20 years and nobody has ever recognized my work before.’”

Calley said that the State of Michigan’s employee engagement efforts are unique. According to research conducted by the Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, Michigan is one of only a few states to conduct an employee survey on a consistent basis.

“We compare ourselves to the best customer service organizations in the nation. Those are the standards we are trying to meet,” said Calley. “There’s not good data to compare ourselves to other states because most don’t do what we do. But they should.”

In his eight years as lieutenant governor, Calley said he has witnessed, firsthand, the transformation of the culture at the State of Michigan. He gave the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) as an example. Eight years ago, Calley said much of the focus at MDOC was on the negative. But today, Calley said the focus has shifted.

“It’s a tough place to work, but the satisfaction rate within the department has risen. With the opening of the Vocational Village, officers are now focused on the positive work of helping rehabilitate the inmates,” said Calley.

“We’ve seen consistent improvement in engagement because there’s new, innovative and exciting things happening at MDOC and across state agencies. When employees can see the value or outcome of their work, they are inspired, and they think of their work as a career as opposed to a job.”

As elected officials, Calley said he and Gov. Snyder only had a finite amount of time to reinvent government. Calley said he hopes the momentum continues into the next administration.

“I really want citizens to look at us and say, ‘Michigan government is exceeding my expectations.’ In some areas we still have a ton of work to do – but I am so proud of the progress we’ve made,” he said.