The Innovation: Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) Staffing Plan

Why Change was Needed?

  • Positions remained opened and unfilled for extended periods of time.
  • Seasonal hiring was delayed to the point where services and facilities began to be negatively impacted.
  • Frustration was experienced by recruiters, managers, and the candidates for positions.

The Action Plan

At the beginning of the year, they established some department-wide strategies for cutting down time-to-fill (TTF) including: shortening postings, increasing manager communication expectations, checking in more often, and pre-posting positions for seasonal hiring. These strategies were presented to each division and discussed before seasonal hiring began in order to build consensus and establish expectations.

The Results

With a plan in place, our teams were able to actively recruit and hire people a full 30 days sooner and 7 days faster than the previous year for on-call employees. This translated to more fully staffed parks, pools, centers, and program areas. Managers are more communicative and trusting of the process and Recruiters feel more empowered.

  • $584,031 in understaffing (vacancy) costs saved
  • Cut cost of hiring from $3,620 to $2,730 per employee hired
  • 2,480 total dept. days saved for on-call recruitments
  • 1,659 total dept. days saved in full time recruitments
  • 4,139 days saved DPR in hiring TTF

The Innovators

Tell us a little about yourself; what should the world know about you?

Tori Soler

I started with the city a little over a year ago as an intern for the Office of Human Resources. Coming from a Recreation background, I joined our Talent Acquisition Team as a Recruiter for Denver Parks and Recreation at the end of my internship.

Erica Frontz

I’ve been with the city a little over 3 years, I’ve been serving Parks and Rec team for that entire time and thoroughly enjoy working with my client group!


What made you decide to change how you approached the Denver Parks and Recreation Staffing Plan?

In previous years, DPR Recruiting Team’s staffing plan was lacking clarity and structure.  From a historical perspective, our team had gone through some transitions towards standardized and centralized goals and processes that gave us a lens with which to examine DPR’s recruiting challenges and opportunities and build that into our strategy.  DPR recruiting needs are a complex and massive cacophony of moving parts, and the recruiting team was finally in a stable and cohesive state to turn that into a symphony!  We needed structure that worked in synergy with the massive complexity and unique needs of our agency with clear expectations.  With the foundation of strong relationships with our client groups, we implemented division-specific strategies that addressed both staffing needs and the need to inject rich communication and collaboration into our process. We did this through analyzing total hires for the previous year (plotted out through each month and department), reviewing feedback from managers, planning preemptively to address seasonal staffing needs, and fostering a culture of open communication, risk-taking, and collaboration.

What tools did you use to plan and implement this innovation?

Our team implemented an annual Staffing Plan presentation to share with our team as well as our department. In addition, we identified our relationship with our Hiring Managers as the key to improving our time to fill. Helping our Managers understand individual roles, developing collaborative goals and strategies, and creating individualized department guides and road maps was key to increasing communication and trust. We regularly rolled out these communications at supervisor meetings, conducted in-field meetings and consultations with Managers, and used our Strategy Meeting document (developed for the TA Teams’ 45 TTF innovation in 2017) to foster open dialogue on our collective goals. Lastly, we made regular check-ins with managers to refine approaches and address needs throughout the season to keep our strategy dynamic.

What was the biggest challenge with implementing this innovation?

A major challenge for this innovation is the complexity of the needs of Parks & Recreation as a client; service level needs and wants vary greatly from team to team meaning that there was no “one size fits all” for recruiting service across the department. In addition, we took on an ambitious project right before our peak hiring season and while we were simultaneously rolling out a brand new Application Tracking System with Workday Recruiting. We were concurrently learning a new system, training our managers on how to use it, and trying to increase our service level during our busy season. 

How do you feel about your Staffing Plan innovation now that 2018 is in the books?

In our plan, we had set a goal of 45 day TTF for full times and a goal of 28 days TTF for on-calls, but were able to reach a 33 day and 25 day TTF, respectively in Q3 which was a very exciting result. For 2019, we adapted some of our activities such as streamlining our reporting on division staffing strategies. Looking forward we want to be mindful that our goals are not always going to sustain; some months, recruitments, and positions are going to be more of a challenge and with Workday Recruiting we are not sure yet how the new system will impact our time-to-fill goals. However, we expect that continuing to focus on our Hiring Manager/Recruiter relationship will help us manage those difficult recruitments more successfully.


What is the biggest lesson you learned for future innovations?

Strong collaborative relationships built on a foundation of trust lead to truly collaborative improvements that are more likely to stick.  Seeking first to understand the unique needs and challenges of our hiring managers was key in building that trust – where we can challenge them in ways that they know we are advocating for their needs. We would not have been successful unless our Managers truly believed and understood the value of moving quickly  for recruiting (less time waiting, more money saved, better candidate experience, higher retention and offer acceptance rates, and a more streamlined process).

What advice do you have for other innovators or people seeking to innovate in the future?

Obtaining small wins along the way and taking time to reflect and appreciate those wins can build both confidence and belief which can be especially helpful in longer term projects.  Also, seek to build a culture around your project that values risk taking and exudes positivity – this can help lubricate the process of change management. By focusing our efforts first on communication and trust, we were far more effective than if we had spent our energy focusing on the metrics.

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