Evoke Training


“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

― Vince Lombardi

In our line of work the hardest part of the job has to be when a manager needs to counsel an employee about an error they made which possibly inconvenienced a customer. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s life and it happens.  We call them ECR’s which is short for Employee Counseling Records.  A simple transposition of  a VIN (vehicle id number), date, dollar amount, or an address can dramatically change the outcome of a transaction.

In an effort to reduce ECR’s,  my Current Collections Director, Tony Conboy, recommended that we look into Evoke Development, a Florida based company.  They offer unique training courses that “saves you money, increases productivity, and improves operational efficiency. Employees who complete accuracy training typically reduce their errors by 50% and increase their processing speed by 7%.”  We also took advantage of the “train the trainer” program which enabled our staff to conduct the training after they were trained. Our Quality Assurance staff was the obvious choice to be the trainers.

To date we have had 51 employees participate in the seven hour course.  We generally do an afternoon class with a morning class the following day.  So far we have had a 59% reduction in errors (104 pre-course assessment errors, 43 post-course assessment errors).  We have also had a 1% decrease in speed (6 minutes 30 seconds average on pre-course assessment, 6 minutes 35 seconds average on post course Assessment).  Eight staff members made zero mistakes on the pre-course assessment compared to twenty-four on the post course assessment.

I had the opportunity to participate with seven employees in the February 12-13 classes.  They were all wondering how I would do since I have an aptitude for quickly calculating numbers in my head.  Turns out it has nothing to do with the course. On the pre-course I made five errors in 6 minutes 50 seconds.  On the post-course I made one error in 7 minutes 28 seconds.  This basically confirmed what I already knew; my staff can run circles around me.  Of the 51, we had a handful achieve perfect scores in under 5 minutes; to me, that is mind boggling.

Time will tell if we see less ECR’s due to accurate data transfer.  On ten random exit surveys the staff had high marks rating the trainer with a 99 out of 100 possible points and the actual training course 95 out of a possible 100 points. For me, I ranked them 100/100. I thoroughly enjoyed the training.

For more information on Evoke Development you can find them at http://evokedevelopment.com/.


Action Items Meetings are a fact of life and necessary.  Most people hate them because they are are unproductive and a waste of time. Some will bring their tablet or smart phone to help pass the time or other work just to be productive.   So my question to you is – How productive are the meetings you attend?  How would you measure if a meeting was productive or not?

At the Tax Collectors office we have 13 staff meetings a week.  Eight of them last no more than 30 minutes due to time restrictions.  The meetings are organized systematically so that important information can be passed up and down to maximize communication.  We all use the basic same agenda and meeting duties are rotated on a monthly basis.  We also allow “rep ins” that are not a part of the team to join in.  The Senior Team all sit in on a front line staff meeting somewhere in Manatee County at least once a month.

A key tool we use at our staff meetings are action items.  According to Wikipedia an action item is a documented event, task, activity, or action that needs to take place. Action items are discrete units that can be handled by a single person.

This past budget year (October 1, 2012 – September 30, 2013) in our 50 or so weekly Senior Team (myself, my executive assistant, and 5 Directors) meetings we had 215 documented actions items issued.  I am proud to say that everyone of them were successfully completed.  It is probably safe to say that can be said since we incorporated the practice back in 2007.  When I began researching the data I already knew the outcome was going to be 100% and knew this is not the norm.  When I sit in on meetings outside of the office it is very easy to tell early on if it is going to be productive.

I took the research one step farther.  I know I am blessed with a great senior team but did they complete the action items in a timely manner?  Out of the 215 action items 187 were completed on or before the deadline for a 87% on time completion rate.  I was very pleased with the result and I finished at 83% so I need to step it up a little bit.  Many of the over due action items were less than a week and the software we use makes it easy to close them out which could make them late even if completed on time.

We have some rules with action items –

  • we have a designated person at each meeting recording action items.  After the meeting they enter them into the software we use.
  • the owner of a new action item must be present and provides the estimated completion date
  • if the completion date needs to be changed it has to be made known at our staff meeting.  The software we use also requires to list the reason for proper documentation.
  • as an audit function – action items are reviewed near the end of the meeting to ensure everything is correct.

If you want to have a productive meeting incorporate action items into the process and watch those unproductive meetings over time become productive.

Below is a snippet  of our action item list:

Action Items

Most people dread going to the “DMV” because of long lines and the horrible staff working there.  The picture used for this article speaks volumes. In Florida at the local level, elected County Tax Collectors are the “DMV” which is just one of the many duties we provide each day.

We are no different than any other “‘DMV” starting our day with a long line at the door.  On some occasions at our Desoto office the line goes all the way to 301 Blvd.   The difference is how we handle it and the line goes away in a matter of minutes.  Based on stats from our annual Voice of the Customer Survey the #1 choice is “Speed of Service” which does match up with a long line out the door.

Fast Tube by Casper

Here is how we do it:

  • Prior to 9AM Officer Andrew Jacobus gets the customers in 3 different lines:
    • 9AM Appointments (Always go first!)
    • driver license customers
    • all other transactions
  • At 9AM we open the doors and a receptionist reads the following script:
    “Good morning. (pause)
    Customers with an appointment, please come to the front of the line. (pause)(repeat)

    Anyone that is here to process a Driver License or ID transaction, this includes clearing suspensions, needs to have the Driver’s License/ID application completed. If you have not completed this form please step to your right and get the form and clipboard from the associate. You must complete this form before receiving a number.
    Everyone else form two lines at the receptionist desk after entering the building.”
  • A staff person with several clipboards and pens with our office DL application stands ready at the customers right ready to pass those out.
  • In less than 5 minutes the line is gone!

This is a favorite part of my day.

I had the wonderful opportunity to share a “Succession Planning” presentation at the Florida Tax Collectors Association Fall Education Forum in Orlando meeting this week.

Several have asked for the powerpoint so I have made it available here:


David Verhoff, David Brierton, and Nikita Goff had a perfect score on their quarterly quality review.

David Verhoff, David Brierton, and Nikita Goff had a perfect score on their quarterly quality review.

We recently recognized three employees for achieving a 0% error rate from “scheduled quality control” and “other errors” for April, May, and June 2012.

So what does this mean for the average person?

scheduled quality control – every employee has 6 random pieces of work (4 title and 2 driver license transaction for our counter employees and 6 driver licenses transactions for our specialized driver license department employees) for each month (18 total for the quarter).

other errors – issues identified from specialized random audits during the specified quarter.

From these audits, any opportunity for improvement that bubbles up to the surface then becomes a training opportunity at a later date.  Office wide training takes place every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 AM to 9AM prior to opening.

The following three had a perfect score on all 18 transactions:

  • Nikita Goff works as a driver license expert in our Specialized Driver License Department at our Desoto office.  She has been with us since 2009.
  • David Brierton is an Associate II at our Desoto office working at the counter and in our Specialized Driver License Department.  He also became full time in April 2011.
  • David Verhoff is also an Associate Level II and works in our Quality Assurance Department.