Clark County, NV puts a hybrid spin on local government

The county’s human-centered approach promotes modernized services and workplace policies, while also retaining person-to-person connection.

Clark County, NV puts a hybrid spin on local government media 1


Clark$  $ County$ , $ NV is massive. Home to Las Vegas and approximately 2.3 million residents, it’s larger than many states. The county government spans 38 departments, and has 10,000 employees working across 140 buildings. To serve this organization, the county’s IT department manages over 150 software applications.

But while the 200-person technology group here operates at a scale and complexity that many smaller government IT shops don’t face, the mindset and approach embraced by Clark County can be applied no matter how big or small a local government is.

To keep up with changing technology, behavioral, and public health trends, Clark County is exploring hybrid models that provide digital services without sacrificing human-centered engagement. And now, says $ Nadia Hansen$ , the county’s Chief Information Officer, there’s never been a better time to advance these solutions.

As Govlaunch works to build the global wiki for local government innovation, we’re highlighting a series of Innovators — cities, towns, and counties who are implementing transformative ideas and fostering a culture of innovation. We chatted with Nadia Hansen to explore how Clark County is making local government work for everyone.

Introducing a hybrid workplace model

When offices shut down in March 2020, most local governments had to scramble to quickly pivot their employees to remote workplaces. Clark County was no exception.

But Nadia Hansen and her team in the county’s IT department had a leg up. They had already been experimenting with a telecommuting model that would allow associates to work remotely. Hansen says:

“From a future of workforce perspective, we were thinking of employing telecommuting strategies prior to the recent public health emergency. We made everybody in the IT department mobile in the past year, in anticipation of allowing remote capabilities.”

Of course, as is the case around the world, the public health emergency sped up this effort for Clark County, and broke down barriers that previously slowed adoption of new technology and processes. Hansen says:

“I think that would have never happened if we didn’t have this human tragedy and crisis take place.

With a blueprint for telecommuting already laid out, Clark County provided the technology backbone to shift critical county employees to a remote work environment within a week or two.

Huge success, right? Sort of. Hansen says that not all of her employees are thriving in the work from home setup:

“I’ve received a mixed reaction.”

The response isn’t due to technology failures — it’s based on human nature. Some people do their best work when they can focus at home without interruption. Others are far more energized and productive when they’re around others.

While distancing measures required complete remote work during the emergency, Hansen is keeping these human-centered considerations top of-mind when planning the future of her workforce:

“I truly feel that a hybrid blended approach is needed, because you can’t replace the human connection. The zoom fatigue that we keep hearing about is real. You can’t replace that interaction and have people completely off site all the time.”

Going forward, Hansen’s IT team will be adopting this hybrid approach. And it won’t just be a crisis response, the way some other governments are treating telecommuting:

“We want this hybrid model to be less of a knee-jerk reaction, and more of a long term sustainable approach. I see our future as a blend of onsite and remote work.”

How to manage a hybrid team

Whether a team is fully or partially remote, it presents new management challenges that aren’t as prevalent when everyone’s in one place. Tracking progress, providing support, and building relationships aren’t as easy when you can’t pop into someone’s office or bump into them in the kitchen.

But these hurdles aren’t dealbreakers. Hansen says they can be managed through good communication and the right overall mindset.

To keep communication flowing, Hansen introduced daily standups with her management staff. They, in turn, hold daily standups with their direct reports. The meetings are quick — 15 to 20 minutes — but allow everyone to check in on what’s being accomplished, and what issues may get in the way.

This agile-inspired form of daily check-ins, which is popular outside government, especially in the tech space, is being adopted by other local government leaders, too. Hansen says:

“Now that we’re all online, we realize the need for collaboration (which can’t be in person), so it’s helped us re-look at our strategy of how we communicate.”

If communication is one side of the remote management coin, approach to leadership is the other. While some leaders have struggled with keeping tabs on the hours and work their staff is logging, Hansen explains that her approach is more outcome oriented:

“We need to be more outcome-driven. We are focused on accomplishing the strategic objectives that we set out to do, through daily, weekly and monthly goals.”

If your teams have clear goals, and they’re accomplishing those goals, asks Hansen, do they need to be in front of you all the time?

“You need staff who’s going to be accountable. And there’s also a sense of being able to monitor from an outcome perspective to see, are we actually meeting our goals or not.”

Both of these strategies — communication and fostering accountability — remain rooted in Hansen’s human-centered approach to managing her team. This is an essential part of running a team, she says:

“I don’t think you can replace the human connection.”

Bringing the hybrid approach to citizen services

This human-centered point of view shouldn’t just apply to the way government functions internally. And in Clark County it doesn’t.

Just as the IT department is moving toward a hybrid model of digital and in-person work, so are the county’s citizen services.

The county is in the process of a large digital overhaul, and is relaunching the county website, $$ , as a new digital portal for residents. Says Hansen:

“We did a community engagement exercise where we actually asked our community, what are you coming to our website for? What kind of services are you looking for from us on a daily basis?”

The new site will allow people to do everything from apply for a business license or building permit to pay property taxes or $ license renewals$  online, rather than visiting a government office.

The county is also launching a service to help residents track their service requests or file complaints. Says Hansen:

“They get visibility to track requests or engage with the county via different channels.”

These updates are important, says Hansen, because residents expect more out of digital services, but local governments have often been slow to deliver:

“The expectation is the Amazon experience. Why should government be any different from Amazon, which I use on a daily basis? The expectations are so high.”

Of course, with 2.3 million residents, there’s no one-size fits all solution. You’re going to have some people who want everything available digitally, and you’re going to have others who still prefer to walk into a brick and mortar building. One again, the county is turning to a hybrid solution. Hansen explains:

“We are accommodating for both. Anything we do online, we replicate that and do it in person as well. So you have a choice of whether you go online and access services. But a lot of people are still very comfortable with receiving that information on paper or in person where they can talk to a real human. So we’re trying to keep it accessible to various channels.”

This approach allows the Clark County government to serve citizens however they prefer to or are able to be served. Says Hansen:

“At the end of the day, we are accountable to our resident community. Technology is certainly an enabler, but it really comes down to streamlined processes, and providing intuitive and accessible services to our community.”

Advice for other governments

In some ways, Clark County is aided by its size. Hansen notes that her department is a big COTS shop — they use a lot of external software, such as $ SeeClickFix$ , $ Accela$ , and $ Cartegraph$ , and then customize it as needed in house.

But many of the principles and practices employed by Clark County are relevant to small and medium sized agencies, too. Practices like daily meetings, or managing based on goals rather than hours worked can be implemented with little to no investment.

Bigger picture, says Hansen, local governments looking to innovate need to think critically about how they’re serving their community. And they cannot be afraid to fail:

“Don’t be afraid to reimagine how you deliver government services, whether you’re a small jurisdiction or a large jurisdiction like us. We have a unique opportunity to learn, be able to adapt quickly, to differentiate yourself as a leader.”

The time is now, in the face of a global emergency, she adds, to seize the opportunity for change:

“Anyone can do a great job when times are good. It really comes down to when things are challenging and difficult, how do we provide leadership, not just internally to our staff, but also across the community to make life easier for everyone.”

Leadership beyond local government

When not busy innovating in Clark County, Nadia Hansen is working to help give young female leaders a voice. Nadia and her peers from $ UCLA’s Anderson program$  have launched an online leadership and career advancement platform, $$  for early to mid-career professionals. The IvyBlum founders are passionate about creating leaders, especially women, at every single level of an organization with the soft skills and mentoring support needed to level up in the world. $ Subscribe to IvyBlum$  to access virtual events with inspiring trailblazers, startup founders and executives.

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