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Cultivating Successful Leaders (CSL)

State: FL Type: Promising Practice Year: 2019

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Florida Department of Health Hillsborough County
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Cultivating Successful Leaders (CSL)

DOH-Hillsborough provides public health services to Hillsborough County, the fourth most populous county (pop. 1,323,059)¹ in Florida, located on the state's central west coast.  Hillsborough County includes the large metropolitan city of Tampa as well as several rural communities. Residents are diverse in race and ethnicity, including 51.2% white non-Hispanic, 26.6% Hispanic, 15.6% black non-Hispanic and 3.8% Asian.¹  The county's median household income is $51,681, and 16.4% of residents live under 100% poverty level.¹

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) has 368 staff members (23% male and 77% female; 42% White, 24% Black, and 31% Hispanic) serving in ten locations across Hillsborough County. DOH-Hillsborough maintains an annual budget of $38,302,081 from federal, state, local grant funds, and fees.   

Senior leadership recognized that, with an aging workforce, leadership development was critical to meet our agency's mission and vision and to ensure the sustainability of a competent workforce into the future. In 2007, the program Cultivating Successful Leaders (CSL) was launched.

The CSL program supports our succession planning goal to develop leaders within the organization to meet the public health challenges of our agency, community, and state.  The main objective of the CSL program is to provide staff information and tools for personal growth, leadership development and career enhancement. The CSL program is open to all staff, regardless of role or position in the agency. Preference is given to front line staff and those not currently in a leadership role.

In 2006, a work team (trainers, managers, and, senior leaders) was formed to design the CSL curriculum, to develop an application process, and to identify internal subject matter experts (SMEs).  Leadership concepts, critical thinking and interpersonal skills approaches were evaluated in addition to existing leadership programs. The program curriculum, designed around key themes (Self-Awareness, Leadership Approaches, Team Work, Personal and Team Development, Presentation Skills and Ongoing Development) was aligned with agency leadership competencies (Inspiring Trust, Self-Awareness and Effective Communications).  Applicants are required to provide a written personal statement (200-250 words) answering the following questions:

  • What do you hope to gain as an individual through participation in the CSL program?
  • How will the leadership development program help you contribute to DOH-Hillsborough?
  • What example(s) of informal or formal leadership have you demonstrated in your work unit?

Applicants, their supervisor and senior leader are required to sign a pledge of commitment (professionalism standards) to the CSL program.  To graduate, participants must attend all sessions, complete required reading and assignments and create a project.  Annually, up to 15 employees are selected to participate.

Based on results from a 10-year assessment, the program objectives of personal growth, leadership development, and career enhancement were met:

  • Since inception in 2007, there have been 104 graduates, 49% (51/104) are still with DOH-Hillsborough, 59% (30/51) have been promoted and 60% (18/30) are now in supervisory positions, with 7 as program managers.
  • Of the 53 participants who left DOH-Hillsborough, 43% (23/53) did so for promotional opportunities.  Ten remain in public health careers, including two who are currently with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • In 2018, two employees from a neighboring county were invited into the program. The feedback was positive, so two additional employees from other counties will continue to be included in future years.   

Factors of success include:

  • Commitment and Collaboration
    • Senior Leadership: development and support of program, participation as SMEs.
    • Supervisors: supporting participants and allowing time to develop projects.
    • Graduates: marketing the program, mentoring applicants, becoming SMEs, developing team building activities and supporting orientation and graduation.
    • Facilitators: internal SMEs
  • Continuous Quality Improvement
    • Feedback/Assessments: recommendations of participants are valued, evaluated and acted upon. The 10-year program assessment results show the positive impact.  Participants report receiving promotions, increased confidence, increased self-awareness, and increased understanding of others.  Additionally, many are applying the principles and tools covered in the program. 
  • Communications
    • Graduates are acknowledged and recognized in various ways: Graduation Ceremony, Assistant Director Updates, General Staff Days, Intranet, Employee Certificate, and a token memento.
    • Projects are shared across Division, and posted to our Intranet.

The effectiveness of the CSL program is measured by the number of staff who stay in public health and advance their careers. Of the graduates 59% (61/104) remain in public health, and 51% (53/104) have advanced their careers. To maintain a competent workforce into the future, public health must focus efforts into succession planning through programs like CSL. 

Our innovative approaches include:

  • Used for succession planning to ensure a competent workforce to meet public health challenges.
  • An internally-developed leadership program.
  • Facilitators drawn from within as opposed to relying on external SMEs.
  • Collaboration across multiple levels (senior leaders, program managers, supervisors, and frontline staff).
  • Alumni play an integral role: marketing program, supporting current participants in project identification, and implementation, giving back to program as facilitators and helping with orientation, and graduation. 

Public health in Florida continues to be impacted by budget constraints and an aging workforce.  These issues impact our ability to recruit and retain a competent public health workforce. Neil Reichenberg of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources reported Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that 37% of employees in local government are at least 50 years of age, compared to just 28 percent in the private sector.  DOH-Hillsborough currently has 38% of employees at least 50 years of age, with 7.6% (28) staff retirement eligible (4 supervisors, 2 managers, and 2 senior leaders).  As our public health workforce ages, it is imperative that priority is placed on developing internal leadership. The CSL program is just one segment of our cultural transformation journey to grow new agency leaders. 

Of the program graduates that remain at DOH-Hillsborough 73% (37/51) have less than 15 years in public health, and 71% (36/51) are less than 50 years of age.  Of the graduates promoted into supervisory roles, 69% (9/13) have higher level degrees and 56% (5/9) are program managers, with potential to advance into senior leadership positions.    

While senior leadership served as the primary facilitators in the beginning, to ensure a sustainable program, CSL graduates had to be an integral part of the program.  This effort not only provides a continuous source of internal facilitators for the program, but also allows alumni to further develop their leadership skills.  Our workforce development philosophy is continual learning, and facilitation is used to enhance the retention of learning. In CSL's third year, alumni began taking an active role in returning to facilitate topics. Of the 104 graduates, 39% (41/104) supported CSL by facilitating topics, serving on panel discussions and creating team building activities. This trend has continued, and each year since 2009, we have seen an increasing number of CSL alumni giving back. Of those who responded to the 10-year program assessment, 76% (31/41) indicated they have delivered other professional presentations and training sessions, primarily within DOH-Hillsborough.  Additionally, 71% (29/41) who gave back to the program also advanced their careers.

The ADDIE model of instructional design (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) was used initially to develop the CSL curriculum. The CSL curriculum is continuously enhanced based on annual feedback. Over the past 11 years' various topics have been added:

  • Managing the Stress of Leadership (year 2)
  • Presentation Skills (year 2)
  • The Elevator Speech (year 3)
  • Understanding the Budget Process year 3)
  • Using PowerPoint in Presentations (year 4)
  • Understanding the Purchasing Process (year 4)
  • Critical Conversations and Building Trust (year 5)
  • Coaching and Critical Confrontations (year 5)
  • Time Management (year 6)
  • Public Health 101 (year 6)
  • Community Outreach and Coalition Building (year 6)
  • The Next Step:  Application and Interview Tips (year 6)
  • Developing Teams:  MOSI 1/2 day (year 7)
  • Working Together to Create Effective Teams (year 7)
  • Process Improvement 101 (year 9)
  • Employees are Priority #1 (year 10)

The core leadership competencies identified by the 2007 workgroup (Inspiring Trust, Self-Awareness and Effective Communications), continue to be covered in the program and guide leadership development efforts for all levels of staff.

Participants are also required to complete a project that is connected to their department or division.  Projects should address a department, community or agency issue that is not receiving appropriate attention. Collaboration is encouraged among CSL participants and alumni in developing a project. The 10-year program assessment showed that (42%) of the respondents have maintained their projects. Enhancement to project sustainability will be a focus area in the future.  Examples of projects and improvement areas include:

  • What's Next?” – Newly diagnosed HIV + patients
  • Retention in Care” – GYN patients
  • Child Obesity” – WIC Clients
  • Internet” – Rabies Surveillance

The CSL program is an internal leadership development program designed around a set of leadership competencies to help ensure an engaged and high performing workforce. The Florida Department of Health leadership competencies were further refined into the areas of inspiring trust, self-awareness, and effective communications.  The CSL program encourages any staff to apply, regardless of role or position in the agency. Preference is given to front line staff and those not currently in a leadership role. The main objective of the CSL program is to provide staff information and tools for personal growth, leadership development, and career enhancement. The 2007 inaugural class applications were evaluated for admission by the senior leadership team. The goal of the evaluation was to ensure staff from all divisions were represented, and limit the number of participants to no more than 15.  In 2008, a group of graduates were selected to evaluate applications and recommend future class admissions. In 2015, the program went on hiatus to assess the curriculum and admission process.  Based on this assessment and graduate feedback, the program resumed in 2016, and the evaluation of applications was eliminated. Average class size (2007-2017) was nine participants. In 2018, we had 13 participants which included two from another county (Pasco).  For 2019, the class will have 16 participants which will include two from another county (Seminole). 

An internal work team (trainers, managers, and senior leaders) developed the program in one year; the approximate cost was $125,000 (salary).  Annually, the CSL program is facilitated by internal leadership and graduates with an approximate cost of $8,000 (salary). Our only external cost is approximately $1,000 for a venue for team building activities.  Even the graduation ceremony cost is covered through leadership and graduate donations. 

The main objective of the CSL program is to provide staff information and tools for personal growth, leadership development and career enhancement. The effectiveness of the program in meeting this objective is evaluated using primary human resource data. Demographic data is tracked for each participant who enters the program (name, position title, degree, years of service, sex, race and age).  If graduates leave the agency, exit information is collected to determine why they are leaving, and if they plan to stay in public health.  Data is also tracked and analyzed to evaluate staff who remain in public health, advance their careers (get promoted), and who give back to the CSL program. 

The program also uses secondary data from the Kirkpatrick Model for Training Evaluation.  Assessments are conducted after each session rating satisfaction (level 1) on a 5-point scale; open ended questions address what was useful and what could be improved about the session.  Overall CSL 2018 participant satisfaction (level 1) was rated at 4.83.

Annual participant assessments (level 2) provide information on: most useful topics, overall program strengths, changes and additional topics needed, effectiveness of facilitators, recommendations for facilitators, and willingness to return as facilitators. Each year our program curriculum has been enhanced based on the participant feedback. Additionally, of the 104 graduates, 39% (41/104) have returned as facilitators.

The 10-year assessment (level 3) determined transfer of knowledge and application. Feedback from graduates indicate positive results: CSL has just helped me feel more confident in my interactions and communication with managers above my level;” Taught me the importance of situational leadership and adjusting my leadership style to adapt to those I am working with;” Professional and Personal.  Understanding the values and goals of the DOH.  Having a better understanding of the goals and direction of DOH.  All aspects of leadership from characteristics to situational--this helps enhance the skills to be more driven;” I truly believe that one of the most important ways the CSL class helped me was with encouragement.  When I say encouragement, I mean it in speaking up with ideas, taking professional chances, encouraging and motivating others, and helping me with improving my public speaking.” Of those who responded to the 10-year program assessment, 76% (31/41) indicated they have delivered other professional presentations and training sessions, primarily within DOH-Hillsborough. Additionally, 71% (29/41) who gave back to the program also advanced their careers. Of those who advanced their careers 60% (18/30) were promoted into supervisory positions and seven are now program managers. These results demonstrate we have positively impacted staff's knowledge, skills, and abilities.

The return on investment (ROI) and overall effectiveness of the program (level 4) is measured by the total number of graduates remaining in public health, number who advanced their careers, and number returning to give back to the CSL program. The results indicate: of the 104 graduates, 59% (61/104) remain in public health, 51% (53/104) have advanced their careers, and 39% (41/104) have provided support to the CSL program. 

Our succession planning goal for graduates remaining at DOH-Hillsborough is showing positive results as 73% (37/51) have less than 15 years in public health, and 71% (36/51) are less than 50 years of age.  Of the graduates in supervisory roles, 69% (9/13) have higher level degrees and 56% (5/9) are now program managers, with potential to advance into senior leadership positions.    

The CSL program has been sustained for over 11 years through:

·       Leadership Support

·       Internally Facilitated

·       Continuous Quality Improvement

·       Internally Developed

·       Kirkpatrick Model for Training Evaluation

·       Low Cost

The CSL program is supported at every level of the organization.  The commitment of senior leadership, and CSL graduates giving back to the program has been key to sustainability.  Of the 104 graduates, 39% (41/104) supported CSL by facilitating topics, participating on panel discussions and creating team building activities.  Their input is actively sought, and their feedback is valued and used to continuously improve the program.  Additionally, graduates are acknowledged, and their accomplishments are celebrated, thus increasing their confidence as future leaders.  Finally, their enthusiasm in promoting CSL to other staff ensures continued success of the program.

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