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Past Winners of AMA's Annual Innovation Award for Administrative Professionals

Kathleen Fossetta, Geisinger Community Medical Center
INNOVATION: Communication Is the Key to SUCCESS!

Kathleen was inspired to fix the medical center's communication problem when a physician whom she supports needed to speak to someone STAT, and it took nearly an hour for that person to respond. According to Kathleen, this breakdown in communication could have been a life-or-death issue. It was this incident that spurred her to find a better way. She set out to change the outdated system and proceeded to get the leadership team's buy-in.

One thing she discovered in her research was that there was a lack of consistency regarding the staff's communication devices. Some had company paid cell phones, some had old numeric pagers, some had alpha-numeric pagers, and some used their personal cell phones. What's more, she found out that the hospital was paying for pagers and cell phones that weren't even being used! Once she laid out the facts for the leadership team, they realized that her process would save the hospital a whopping $300,000.

The next step: All company paid devices were turned in and replaced with alpha-numeric pagers that were cheaper and programmable for specific communications. This resulted in quick mass communications that are received by everyone simultaneously.

Scott Fischer Enterprises, Ft. Myers, FL
INNOVATION: Pipeline-—The Communication Innovation
Cia Sherman proved that an innovation doesn’t have to be a new idea; it can be an idea that was expanded, updated, or upgraded, that found a new, wider audience, or that impacted the company in a more pronounced way. As executive assistant to the owner and president of the largest Harley Davidson retailer in the country, Cia made it her mission to embody one aspect of the company’s philosophy of organizational health, and that was to “Over Communicate Organizational Clarity.” When the idea of a newsletter was introduced back in 2011, SFE outsourced it; however, the final product didn’t reflect the true spirit of the company. So, Cia took it upon herself to create a new template, making the newsletter more personal and inclusive. She relaunched Pipeline in 2012 and, what started out as a 4-page document has grown into a 12-page full-color booklet. It is mailed to the home of every employee, which allows family members to connect with the corporation as well. With Cia at the helm producing the newsletter herself, Scott Fischer Enterprises has saved over $100,000 annually and, at the time of the conference, published her 21st consecutive newsletter.p>

University Health System, San Antonio, TX
INNOVATION: Mystery Shopping-—Sleuthing Out Novel Solutions to Improve Customer Satisfaction
Raquel Hernandez helped strategize how customer complaints were being handled at her company. In 2011, customer complaints regarding the treatment they received on the phone were escalating. The CEO gave a directive to the University Health System’s Administrative Professional Council (APC) to correct this. Under the aegis of Raquel Hernandez, who was the co-chair of the APC, the council crafted a strategy that involved creating an official telephone greeting script and selecting 20 APC members to train the staff and serve as subject-matter experts. The response has been very positive, as it has increased efficiency and productivity; improved employee morale; maintained the accuracy and integrity of operations; and augmented organizational effectiveness and communication.

Capital One Financial Corp., Richmond, VA

Barbara Cameron, an administrative assistant at Capital One Financial Corp., created Admin U, an in-house corporate training university for Capital One administrative professionals. Over the years, Capital One acquired a wide network of new administrative professionals, as it acquired other banks through several mergers and acquisitions. Barbara saw an opportunity to create Admin U to help these administrative professionals within the organization become familiar with their company’s policies and procedures or just to enhance their skills through training. She formed a team of 10 colleagues with diverse backgrounds to create a training program through which the 500+ admins throughout the U.S., Canada, and the UK can take part, either through live classroom training or online webinars. Topics include Managing Multiple Managers, Performance Management, and Effective Email Technology. To date, over 200 people have participated, and Barbara, her team, and Admin U have been a huge success.

A U.S. Government Agency, Washington DC

INNOVATION: In Case of Emergency Portfolio
Melanie France, an administrative assistant for the U.S. government, supports 113 employees including the Section Chief and the Assistant Section Chief. Melanie's winning “In Case of Emergency Portfolio” (ICEP) innovation is a self-contained, comprehensive, hard-copy emergency preparedness folder that a manager can quickly grab in the event of an emergency. The ICEP includes an accountability checklist, emergency contact information, local map with nearest hospitals, and information needed for the Metro transportation system. In addition, the ICEP also included tips about how to prepare for an emergency at home. Melanie researched the project, got buy-in from management, and later saw her innovation adopted at the division level and finally throughout the organization.

Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Idaho Falls, ID
INNOVATION: The Blind Spot Safety Program
Julie Irving, an administrative assistant at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), created an educational campaign known as the “Blind Spot Safety.” The campaign raised awareness about the dangers of vehicle back-over accidents that kill and injure thousands of children each year. As part of the initiative, Irving and a team of colleagues created posters, pamphlets, a demonstration video, and an interactive blind spot safety presentation, which they presented to hundreds of coworkers at safety meetings. The laboratory has an active safety culture that encourages employees to observe and address safety concerns at work and in the community. Her “Blind Spot Safety” campaign eventually reached beyond the walls of her organization to educate a much larger audience. She has presented it at a regional conference and to over 10,000 adults and children at local events during the past two years.

Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.
INNOVATION: The Administrative Development Initiative

Brooke Wiseman, an executive associate to the president and CEO of Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. (DSI), had a vision to utilize the administrative professionals in the company in a more productive way to help meet new business demands. She explored ways to clarify expectations regarding the admin role and provided administrative assistants with the tools to become more productive and valued team members. An opportunity arose during the implementation process to write a white paper on the topic “The Power of Partnerships: How to Form a High-Impact Partnership with Your Assistant.” It was written as a how-to guide that later provided the Executive Committee with the information necessary to win its support for her new initiative. Part of this initiative included roundtable meetings. Brooke also worked with the team to design and launch an intranet site to store all reference materials from the meeting, along with a message board, contact information, and links to related training, seminars, and so forth.

Maluhia Hospital
INNOVATION: Tails of Aloha Animal Therapy Program

Animal lover Gayle Igarashi, an administrative secretary at Maluhia Hospital, was distressed by the lack of activities for nursing home residents. Through her reading and course work on the animal-human bond, she learned that animals can have a therapeutic effect on aged or ill people. Thus, an innovation was born: Igarashi founded the “Tails of Aloha Animal Therapy Program.” However, she had to overcome a great deal of resistance—from management, nursing staff, and the state Medicare/Medicaid office—in order to implement her innovation. Rather than taking no for an answer, she got to work researching the national regulations relating to therapy pets. She also became certified as an animal assisted therapist. The best part of the program, said Gayle, is that it does not cost anyone a cent. The pet teams are all volunteers. The equipment is purchased and owned by each volunteer, with a collar and leash costing approximately $20. Gayle Igarashi's innovation is truly one that keeps on giving. In her words, "This program has changed each volunteers life as well as the lives of the residents. Each pet team visit brings so much love to everyone involved. Staff and management have noticed the changes in the residents. The smiles given to the pet teams are smiles that family members have not seen in years."

PPG Industries, Inc.
INNOVATION: Making a Difference—Administratively

As the primary contact and support person for 180+ customers (IT associates outside of PPG's corporate offices), Jerrilynne A. Jankowski was faced with an overwhelming and continuous flow of administrative requests, including travel and meeting details, accounting questions, maintenance issues, and scheduling various business needs outside of her department. To service her customers effectively and perform her considerable duties in the most efficient way possible, Jerrilynne developed a self-service reference guide/building services tool for them to utilize in order to meet their needs. In doing so, she not only overcame internal staff resistance and other practical obstacles, she realized extensive time/efficiency cost savings for her company. These improvements also enabled Jerrilynne to perform further cost analyses, ultimately saving PPG a significant amount of money. She is now working with an internal group to roll out her time-saving innovations to the whole General Office community at PPG.

Taco Bell

INNOVATION: A-Team Team of Two

As the culture at Taco Bell evolves, Taco Bell recognizes the need to lead the way in development and recognition of administrative professionals. One significant way in which this was done was the formation of the A-Team, created by its Executive Administrative Assistant team. The team's purpose was to unite the large administrative population for improved communication and to share best practices; challenge themselves to constantly improve and develop; and gain a broader understanding of the Taco Bell business. Using these guidelines, the A-Team then created a program called “Team of Two.” “Team of Two” brings together administrative professionals and managers to share and improve their understanding of today's admin world. Through small, interactive groups, both administrative professionals and managers improve their communication. As a result, their own and each other's roles are better understood and productivity is greatly enhanced. In fact, this program is so successful that both of Taco Bell's sister brands have expressed an interest in bringing it to their corporate offices as well.

CNR Health Care Network

INNOVATION: The Holiday Project

The CNR consortium of facilities is scattered across Brooklyn, New York, making it extremely difficult for employees to network and feel connected as a team. To no one's surprise, within CNR there existed a frayed sense of internal customer service. In response, an administrative council was created to encourage a spirit of camaraderie among staff. The council, which consisted of several administrative professionals, soon organized a small but successful “Holiday Gift Giving Project.” In the year after the project's inception, fundraising efforts raised enough money to provide clothing, food, and toys to six needy Brooklyn families over the holidays. The following year, the council more than doubled its altruistic reach through aggressive fundraising across the organization. CNR's CEO has recognized this project and has encouraged participation among department leaders.


INNOVATION: Vancouver Network of Professional Assistants (VNPA)

Largely as a result of their company's merger with Compaq, the administrative professionals at Hewlett-Packard's Vancouver site found their workplace turned upside down. The pace in their office sped up to the point that it was difficult to keep up-to-date with all the business and communication processes. As a result, information flow between teams and individuals was disrupted, further complicating matters. To rectify this situation, a small group of assistants took on the task of founding the “Vancouver Network of Professional Assistants (VNPA).” The goals of this team were to build a community that would embrace and influence change, promote training and development for assistants, collect and distribute best practices, and communicate in a timely manner with one another to build knowledge. The team is made up of five communities or hubs, each concentrating on a different area of professional development. Representatives of each hub are joined together in a Core Team, which provides communication, organizational alignment and effectiveness, recognition, and a framework for sustainability. Through their collaboration, the VNPA has achieved all of its goals and continues to improve on its successes.

Ryan Companies US, Inc
INNOVATION: Administrative Professional Development Initiative

In response to a companywide human resources survey, a group of administrative professionals at Ryan, including Cynthia M. Gross, Erin O’Hara Meyer, and Pam Shives, created and implemented an action plan that dealt with issues that were prevalent among their Minneapolis-based administrative support staff. Their initiative involved elevating the level of administrative professional development within the company through training, coaching, mentoring, and a performance feedback system, while centralizing the company's administrative structure. Today, all administrative professionals at Ryan report to an administrative manager, who also serves as a guide for their professional development, from career goals to training. Surveys have proven that morale among administrative professionals at Ryan is up since the plan’s implementation, and possibilities for growth and work load distribution are at their best. The initiative has received recognition from Ryans senior management and has been hailed by several publications geared to administrative professionals.

Philips Lighting Company

INNOVATION: Consumer Response Workflow

As a result of an expansion in distribution, which generated a threefold increase in consumer inquiries, Denene Smerdon and Lisa Andre set out to streamline the process Philips Lighting used to respond to retail consumer inquiries. Prior to their efficiency analysis of the system, Denene and Lisa followed the conventional documented procedure, which required excessive paperwork and filing space. However, in the short time span of two months, Denene and Lisa developed a process flowchart that is now included in their formal employee policy. With no actual budget allotted to this project, and only time and effort dedicated to its completion, Denene and Lisa's new workflow process has achieved a 93.5% decrease in the need to mail response letters, thereby saving the company mailing costs. In addition, it has decreased the time and resources needed to complete the excessive filing and paperwork, leaving these employees to focus on other areas of responsibility and promoting growth throughout the organization.

Schlumberger Technology Corporation

INNOVATION: Web-Based Transfer of Information

In the past, Schlumberger’s Radiation Safety Administrator was charged with sending out paper copies of documents via regular mail to over 100 locations around the country. Not only was this task extremely time consuming and costly, but often the correct information was not falling into the hands of the right people. Internal audits would find that individuals were not receiving this important and necessary information. As a result, a web-based system of disseminating these documents was established. This system facilitates the instantaneous distribution of information through a weekly email, which notifies the appropriate people of the documents that they are supposed to receive. The people receiving the emails are directed to access the Schlumberger’s website to retrieve this information. Now, hours of time spent copying, labeling, and mailing have been eliminated and, furthermore, this innovation has resulted in an increased awareness of Schlumberger’s website.

City of Virginia Beach, Virginia
INNOVATION: Administrative Support Group

The Public Utilities/Water Resources Department of the City of Virginia Beach was experiencing a lack of positive communication and coordination among divisions of the Department of Public Utilities. According to administrative secretary Teresa Aylesworth, information just wasn't flowing properly between different divisions. To the rescue came the Administrative Support Group (ASG), a team of eight representing five divisions and the Directors Office in Public Utilities. ASG's mission was to identify, recommend, and initiate process improvements in support of the city's organizational values, with the goal of improved communication among Public Utilities members. The team's efforts proved fruitful and ended up creating a system where information is now passed routinely from one division to another. All levels of the organization became involved, and there is little, if any, direction from management.
Prior to the formation of ASG, support staff had no involvement in policy development. Today, policy is routinely handled by ASG, and task team efforts have broken down territorial lines that once divided departments and divisions. Teresa also says there is more trust and respect among divisions, and it has become second nature to share information among divisions. All levels of personnel at the department have benefited from the formation of ASG; now all departments have a clearer idea about procedural policy, and systems are fair and impartial, giving representation for all divisions on ASG.

AppNet, E-Business Technology and Integration
INNOVATION: Business Executive Support Team

AppNet's Business Executive Support Team (BEST), was formed over a year ago to address a companywide problem of employees not working together. The situation was so severe, support staff didn't know what other members were working on and couldn't provide each other backup during office absences. BEST solved these problems and others.
BEST's main innovation was implementation of a procedure checklist that identifies and handles specific priority tasks. For example, new employees no longer report to human resources to coordinate their first day on the job. Now, a business area administrator takes charge of the employee's first day, including making sure the office is properly equipped with furniture and computers, taking the employee on a company tour, and scheduling orientation meetings. It has helped greatly that the support staff is now the point of contact for new employees, serving not only as a welcoming committee but also as a source of valuable information. BEST was a major transformation for AppNet. Previously no one at the organization had worked on a team, everyone went his or her own way, and there was very little communication. Probably the most stunning benefit of BEST was the team effort to move the company's 70 or so employees from their existing one-floor facility to a new two-floor office space. The BEST team handled everything from installing nameplates to supervising movers until 2:00 a.m.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon
INNOVATION: Administrative Reference Manual

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon took its corporate secretary manual, developed in 1991, and after gathering much new information, rewrote the manual in June 1997. Called the Corporate Administrative Reference Manual (CARM), it was put online in June 1999 and, for the first time, it was readily available to every employee with Lotus Notes.
The cybermanual covers every conceivable procedure for every department and division and contains information about products, departments, and subsidiaries. CARM provides the organization with a ready reference to consult for answers that previously required several phone calls or time-consuming research through volumes of often outdated paperwork. The move to Lotus Notes eliminated the need to update print manuals and allowed online real-time updates.