The Washington Post

For Montgomery County employees, it pays to come up with cost savings ideas

Employer: Montgomery County.

Location: Rockville.

Employees: 9,000.

For employees of the Montgomery County government, it pays to come up with a fresh idea to save taxpayers money.

The county started a program in 2010 in which employees can join in teams to come up with ways to generate savings for their employer.

“The folks that know how to do a job best are the folks are who doing it on the front lines,” said Joseph Adler, the county’s director of human resources.

The teams of five to 15 people are responsible for more than just brainstorming the ideas: They must come up with a detailed proposal for how to execute it.

If the county moves forward with their plan, it checks on its effectiveness one year later to verify that cost savings were indeed achieved. If so, half of the savings up to $5,000 per person go to each team member who worked on coming up with the plan. The rest of the total sum goes to their department. The following year, that money becomes savings for taxpayers.

Since the Rewarding Excellence program was implemented, it has achieved about $430,000 in savings.

In addition to saving money, Adler said the initiative has benefited many employees because it has equipped them with new career skills.

Many participants, especially those in front-line service positions, have not previously had experience crunching budget numbers or putting together a proposal. This program aims to give them experience with those activities, as well as with problem solving and consensus building.

“This is not just like a suggestion box. Employees get trained in how to work together and how to identify problems,” Adler said.

The county has also found that the program has a positive effect on morale, because they say employees feel more connected to a workplace that they have played a role in shaping.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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