Rep. French Hill wins award for promoting healthy work environment in congressional office

Rep. French Hill wins award for promoting healthy work environment in congressional office
By Frank Lockwood
Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A Washington nonprofit group has awarded U.S. Reps. French Hill, R-Ark., and Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., its Democracy Award for practices that promote a healthy "Life in Congress -- Workplace Environment."

Hill "prioritizes professional development, communication, and management processes in their day-to-day operations," the Congressional Management Foundation said in its awards announcement.

Hill's office has "a lot of tools for the staff to succeed," said Brad Fitch, the nonpartisan foundation's president and chief executive officer.

New hires are given a well-developed employee handbook, he said. Expectations are clearly communicated, and benchmarks for success are provided, he said.

Monthly, quarterly and annual goals are developed, and progress is monitored.

"They offer one-on-one coaching sessions to their staffers to professionally develop, which is something that is, frankly, not common on Capitol Hill," Fitch said.

Scanlon was the Democratic winner. She has a telecommuting policy that "emphasizes trust in staff with online tools in place that interface with each other to allow collaborative project tracking, impromptu video meetings, and an 'open discussion' atmosphere," the foundation noted.

Both offices provide staffers with two weeks of sick leave. In addition, Hill's staffers receive three weeks of annual leave while Scanlon provides 20 days of paid time off, the foundation said.

Healthy workplaces are more productive workplaces, Fitch said.

"It's not just beneficial to the staff. If you have lower turnover and a higher-performing staff, constituents are going to benefit in the end," he said.

Hill, a Little Rock resident who represents Arkansas' Second Congressional District, said he instituted changes early on.

"When I got to Congress, I was surprised what a lack of management accountability existed in many of the offices. They didn't have written performance appraisals, they didn't have a formal annual salary review, they didn't have a reward process for people who go above and beyond their job responsibilities. They didn't have a written annual set of goals for each person and for the office in total or measure certain productivity angles like meeting constituent telephone needs, mail needs [and] casework needs, so we put all of those systems in place," Hill said.

"We put all of those systems in place, and we try to also have an environment where our team members can get prompt feedback during the course of the year and have a good work balance in terms of time off and time away from the stress of being a congressional staffer," he said.

Hill portrayed the award as a group achievement.

"I just was thrilled for the recognition of my chief of staff, Brooke Bennett, and Dylan Frost, my legislative director, and our entire team," he said. "It just, in my view, recognizes the systems and the environment that they've worked so hard to create since I came to Congress in 2015."

In a written statement, Scanlon said the award she received is "more than anything else -- a testament to the hard work and professionalism of my staff."

The Democracy Awards, first handed out in 2018, are given to one Democrat and one Republican in each of a variety of categories.

Roughly 80 Capitol Hill offices submitted applications for the awards this year, Fitch said.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., received the inaugural award for constituent service, an honor that was also bestowed on U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.

Print Headline: Hill gets honor for practices at office

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