Preparing our front line for success
Sitting behind the counter at an Iowa Department of Transportation driver’s license service center or county treasurer’s office for the first time can be very intimidating. If you are working for an Iowa DOT service center or most county treasurer offices, you’re tasked with the important job of making sure drivers are properly and safely licensed to share the road with your friends and family. You’ll also be asked to assure that all identification cards are properly issued for those customers who come to us for ID services. And if you are working for a county location you have the added responsibility of titling and registering the 4.5 million vehicles in Iowa.
For our customers, having a driver’s license or ID card is essential to them as they go about their daily lives and goes way beyond the privilege to be able to drive. From taking a trip on an airplane to buying a drink at a local tavern, having that piece of plastic allows access to necessary and important areas of our customers lives And vehicle ownership provides mobility, freedom and economic opportunity for our customers.
The impact we have on our customer’s lives with the services we provide is a huge responsibility and sometimes our customers are in a situation in their lives where they may not be particularly happy to be coming in to see us. The pressure is on to assure we are providing a positive, easy-to-navigate experience for our customers. Added to that is a variety of complex computer systems to learn, both on the driver and vehicle sides. So how do our frontline customer staff offering driver’s license and vehicle services prepare for such an important and challenging job?
Over the past few years, our Motor Vehicle Division staff have taken a hard look at how we train our own new and current employees and those hired by our county treasurer partners who are providing these services. Over eight months in 2019, MVD training coordinators Angela Pinegar, Laura Ridout, and Becky Reisenberg collected information, researched training tools, and developed a draft training program that was introduced to MVD management in December 2019.
Pinegar, who has been with the Iowa DOT since 2018, has nearly 20 years of experience in corporate training and a passion for her MVD team. Ridout, a former teacher, and Reisenberg, the information technology expert on the team, worked diligently to find a solution to the training needs of our front-line motor vehicle workers. The team visited driver’s license service centers to learn the workflows and then put that information into user-friendly, training modules.
Pinegar said, “This was definitely a change in the way we had approached driver’s license service center training in the past. Previously, there was some orientation, but nothing that walked a new employee step-by-step through what they would be doing each day. We had our first orientation class for the new training system and then COVID hit. Since this training was originally developed to be presented in person, we had to pivot from live classes to virtual sessions. Luckily the coursework was all developed to be online utilizing SharePoint and a program called Articulate 360, so we were able to keep moving forward.”
She continued, “The driver’s license service center training starts with an overview of why we do what we do. Getting the motivation to tackle these challenges is much easier when you understand the ‘why’ behind it. There are then step-by-step instructions with scenarios that the employee will encounter. We use videos and a manual to accompany the training, along with check points at various times.”
Katie Ferdig, our driver’s license center supervisor in Sioux City said, “This training really helps get everyone on the same page and reduce confusion. My new employees really liked it because they can take the training at their own pace and go back and take a second look at portions that they need more clarity on. It’s also a great tool for existing staff. Because the training is presented in modules, I can have a staff member review just one part if that person needs a little extra help without going through the whole training.”
A training system as comprehensive as the one the MVD team developed takes time to complete. Pinegar said, “Over three months, new employees will work through all the modules. There’s a plan for each person and they don’t complete live tasks until they have completed the training for that task.”
Kathy Schultz, the field manager in the Customer Services Bureau, said, “The training provides a much higher level of consistency for our employees. The existing staff in our service centers have a wealth of knowledge, but they aren’t always consistent in the way things are done from center to center. This training will address that and get us all working from the same information.”
Once the driver’s service center training modules were completed, the training team developed a similar training set for vehicle-related service that was rolled out in 2020. While both training programs were developed by Iowa DOT staff, they are available to our county treasurer partners, as well. The initial vehicle-related service training for counties was piloted in Mahaska County. Connie Van Polen, the Mahaska County Treasurer, said, “ We were very happy to be part of this training. It’s a good first step to helping both the county and Iowa DOT staff be more consistent in serving our customers. I have two new staff that went through the training, and even my supervisor who has been working with us for 20 years said she learned new things.”
In the future the plan is to invite county treasurer driver’s license staff to job shadow at an Iowa DOT service center or another county treasurer’s office to see how others accomplish both driver’s license and vehicle service business. Pinegar said, “There are differences between our service centers and the counties, but there are also many services that are very similar. Giving the county treasurer’s staff members a perspective of how our centers operate can help them better serve the people who come into their offices. They get a better perspective of why things are done the way they are and then can relay that to their customers, improving communication and customer service.”
Once the initial onboarding training is completed for Iowa DOT service center employees, the training team has prepared ongoing training modules for continuous improvement. Pinegar said, “We’re looking at six-month refresher training courses in topics related to customer service, identification of fraud, diversity and inclusion, and leadership.”
She continued, “Training is our favorite thing in the world to do. It’s so gratifying when we can give our team members the tools and resources they need to make their jobs a little easier, , help them understand why things are done the way they are so their jobs are more enjoyable and rewarding and ultimately improve the experience for our customers.”