It’s the championship basketball game. The score is tied. There’s one second left on the clock. Your team shoots…and scores! That feeling of elation is what Brian Franklin, CPFP, administrative manager for the City of Tulsa, Okla., Equipment Management Division (EMD) experienced on June 5 — the day he learned his team had been named the No. 1 overall Leading Fleet at the Government Fleet Expo and Conference (GFX).
Beyond the sheer excitement, a tide of other emotions washed over Franklin: Pride. Accomplishment. Validation.
At a Glance
Initiatives at the City of Tulsa that helped it earn the No. 1 Leading Fleet designation include:
“Our team of technicians and office personnel are being recognized and rewarded for their diligence, creativity, and hard work. It makes me feel proud of our employees who have labored hard this past year to provide excellent service to departments and citizens,” Franklin said. “It feels like the national fleet community is affirming our shop practices and intimating that we are doing things the right way and operating at a high level.”
It’s no surprise that the win inspires Franklin to think of his team, his customers, and his community, as those are among the categories in which the fleet showed leadership to earn the award.
Franklin isn’t the only one who is excited. John Reel, administrative operations supervisor, who was present at GFX during the announcement about the win, said the entire team shares in the sentiment.
“The best part is the excitement from our employees upon the realization that their hard work is finally being recognized,” he said. “Upon our return from GFX, there has been a steady parade of EMD employees who want to come by and see the trophy.”
For Warranty and Training Administrator Tim Keiffer, there is a sense of relief, but also the drive to keep pushing forward. Like in basketball, once the game is over, another opportunity lies ahead. “We have strived to reach this goal over the years and at last we have achieved it,” he said. “Enjoy today. Tomorrow we go for the repeat.”
Mike Wallace, equipment maintenance manager, echoes Keiffer’s sentiment. “It feels fantastic, but there’s still a realization that there is so much more we want to do in our organization,” he said.
|Tulsa Equipment Management Division by the Numbers|
Tulsa's Key Successes
The team’s drive to do its best has yielded several successful initiatives that have positively affected employees, customers, and the community.
Employee Recognition Program: An outdated employee recognition program was replaced with a Technician of the Month celebration, which shop employees and supervisors select together. The Technician of the Month receives a traveling WWE-style wrestling belt and medallion, which is awarded at a luncheon held at a different shop each month. At year-end, all winners participate in a SmackDown event, where the winner is awarded a Technician of the Year belt to keep. “These efforts have infused excitement and fun into our recognition program,” Franklin said.
Pay Increases for Professional Certifications: When employees felt they weren’t being properly compensated for attaining professional certifications, management took action. Working with Human Resources, they were able to update job descriptions for 75 positions, including technicians, storekeepers, maintenance, and fuel staff. Now, these positions can earn up to six permanent pay increases for obtaining professional certifications.
Even better? EMD pays the cost for staff members to buy study materials and take tests, including those from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The team has obtained more than 200 certifications to date.
“Our pay system allows step increases for technicians who apply themselves and become ASE certified, Ford certified, and EVT [emergency vehicle technician] certified,” said Kevin Jones, mechanical shop supervisor. “This provides incentives for learning and progression.”
Employee Training and Development: Beyond certification, the fleet is dedicated to other forms of training and development, including on-the-job training, peer mentoring, and out-of-town training opportunities.
“Our employees are our greatest asset,” said Danny Taylor, mechanical shop supervisor. “Out-of-town training exposes them to new and changing equipment and information as well as repair procedures. It also provides time for them to visit with other techs about their ideas and findings.”
While training can be costly, Keiffer said it pays off. “It takes valuable dollars to send a tech out of town to get training — dollars that could definitely be spent elsewhere,” he said. “But the return on investment of having less downtime and fewer outside repair bills, and keeping the tech in the shop instead of driving back and forth to a dealership proves the investment is worthwhile.”
Training also pays off in the people department. “In addition to the technical skills that our staff gains, it also boosts their confidence in the jobs they perform,” Wallace explained. “By making the investment in people, they see you put value in the work that they do.”
Customer Collaboration: The Tulsa EMD values its employees, but it also values its customers and works hard to collaborate with them. That happens in the form of daily face-to-face conversations to discuss their needs, working together on preventive maintenance, an annual survey soliciting honest feedback, and closing the loop on any concerns that surface.
“Our customers can show us where we are lacking in our organization so we can implement improved processes to meet and maintain our fleet,” said Diane Whalen, equipment maintenance operations analyst. “They provide positive feedback to let us know we are meeting their needs.”
“We are open with our customers, share our honest opinions, and don’t sugarcoat the truth,” Franklin said. “This helps build trust.”
Improved Quality Assurance Program: When customers suggested the EMD needed to improve its quality assurance efforts, lead mechanics stepped up. Now, they inspect every unit leaving the shop to ensure all repairs are performed properly. “This helps us pinpoint which repairs are missed and which technicians need additional training,” Franklin said. “To improve quality assurance, we also conduct tailgate trainings to enforce proper repair methods.”
Learning with a Wrench: In a partnership with Union Public Schools, the City of Tulsa offers internships to high school juniors and seniors to work alongside the maintenance team. Students gain the knowledge and experience of working in a vehicle maintenance facility, while the city builds a stronger workforce.
Eighteen students participated in the 2017-2018 school year, and a total of 60 students have participated over the past three years. There is already a waiting list for next school year.
Students from the program are invited to work part-time as automotive servicers during the summer months to continue their training. The city has employed five students in summer jobs to date. Forty-three percent of the current automotive servicers are graduates of the Learning with a Wrench program.
Elementary School Community Outreach Program: Many students at a local elementary school face barriers to education, including socioeconomic status, homelessness, and foster/kinship care. To support the students, technicians and administrative staff donated backpacks, school supplies, cleaning supplies, clothing, food, and drinks. They also donate gifts during the holidays and time by serving as reading partners, lunch buddies, and proctors for state testing.
“When we show leadership and contribute to the community, we are not only benefiting others, but we are also benefiting ourselves,” Franklin said. “Giving to others helps our employees feel rewarded and fulfilled and gives them a sense of gratitude.”
Learning from Other Leading Fleets
Franklin said the fleet makes a practice of learning from the successes of other leading fleets. These include:
What Winning Means
Franklin said winning serves as validation of the city’s efforts to improve morale, shop conditions, training, and compensation levels. More importantly, it offers an opportunity to recognize all the team members whose hard work makes the fleet successful. “Winning is all about the folks who turn wrenches, issue parts, maintain fuel facilities, and perform administrative tasks. This recognition is a shout-out for our ‘behind-the-scenes’ employees who often don’t get noticed for their hard work and dedication,” Franklin said. “This award gives our leadership team an opportunity to serve as a conduit and funnel the praise and acclamation of a job well done to our deserving staff.”
Jones said credit goes to both the staff and the leadership team, too. “It is a great honor. I am so proud of the workforce of which I am a part. I am proud of the leadership that is not afraid to accomplish things that our fine city has never done before,” he said.
About This Award: The Leading Fleets award is co-produced with the American Public Works Association and is sponsored by Ford and Geotab. For additional information about this award, including judges, judging criteria, and a full list of Leading Fleets winners, click here.