Getting better all the time

By Amy Treece

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Payroll Services and Accounting Services win Quality New Mexico Performance Excellence Awards

Members of the Accounting Services and Payroll Services teams gather in the lobby of the IPOC building for a family portrait. The two teams were recognized at the annual Quality New Mexico Learning Summit and Performance Excellence Awards ceremony with Piñon-level awards for strides they have made on their quality journeys.  (Photo by Randy Montoya)

For the two Sandia teams honored during this year’s Quality New Mexico awards event, it’s all about improvement — tangible, sustainable, and continuous improvement. The self-assessment process is rigorous, they say, and demands working beyond conventional comfort zones, but the payoff is worth the effort for themselves and, more importantly, their customers.

The teams, Accounting Services and Payroll Services, each received the Quality New Mexico 2015 Performance Excellence Award at the annual Quality New Mexico Learning Summit and Performance Excellence Awards ceremony. Both groups received Pinõn-level recognition based on the Malcolm Baldrige framework for performance excellence. This recognition level indicates that these organizations use systemic processes, emphasize coordination, and focus on long-term benefits.

Easy to become complacent

Payroll Services team members say it is easy to become complacent when performance is “good.” But they wanted to be more than “good.” And Bill Worden, manager of Accounting Services, says the competition allowed his organization to reflect on how it manages its operations and focus on its objective of providing accurate and timely financial and tax information at the federal, state, and local level. Both groups agree they wanted that external feedback to provide a fresh perspective on how they could move the excellence needle even further.

To receive a Baldrige Award, organizations must excel as role models in operational management, ensure continuous improvement in delivering products and/or services, provide efficient and effective operations, and show responsiveness to customers.

That responsiveness has given Payroll Services higher marks in customer satisfaction. Dan Berry, the Payroll Services manager during 2015 says that last year, the organization adjusted the way the helpline worked. “We extended our helpline hours and implemented a new phone system. Before, only one person could be on the helpline, so if you called and someone was on the phone, it would go to voicemail. This new system allows three people to be on the helpline simultaneously.”

In Accounting Services, team members began documenting processes to ensure that all sources are connected and can be updated together when new guidance is received from oversight groups.

“We are responsible for financial and tax reporting so it is crucial to be adaptable and meet the needs of DOE/NNSA,” says Bill. Their robust system has been implemented in key operational areas and shared with other labs. This first win for Accounting Services takes the group one step closer to its goal of leading the DOE Complex as the model Accounting Services organization.

Second time honored

This year’s award marks the second time Payroll Services has been recognized by Quality New Mexico. It also received an award in 2013, and in both award-winning years, accuracy got the team noticed — accuracy in processing a large volume of paychecks each bi-weekly payroll period (11,646 paychecks at the end of March) and accuracy in employee W-2 forms. This past year, the accuracy rate in employee W-2 forms was well above best practices, at 99.95 percent.

“We have to have strong relationships with all of our business partners to ensure we’re delivering accurate paychecks,” says Tristan Walters, Payroll Services manager. “The paycheck is only the final output of an integrated process that can require inputs from Staffing, Benefits, Compensation, and our HR Business Partners. We also must confirm our system can accurately track all the different leave plans and other benefits offered by the Labs. To ensure all this is running smoothly, we team on a constant basis.”

Quality New Mexico mentioned in its formal remarks that Sandia’s Accounting Services group understood workforce management and performance processes. Sandia’s Payroll Services group was lauded for understanding the value of people and realizing that its success depends on an engaged workforce that benefits from meaningful work and clear organizational direction.

These Sandia teams aren’t resting now that they have the wins under their belts. Payroll Services, says Tristan, is trying to better understand customer segments so it can develop targeted solutions, and Accounting Services, says Bill, is documenting policies and procedures for audit purposes and for guiding other Sandia entities.