Top Workplaces 2022: Moulton Niguel WD reimagines lifting up its workforce

Four years in the past, after I final chatted with Joone Kim-Lopez, the Moulton Niguel Water District’s normal supervisor, salaries weren’t an enormous office difficulty and no person knew what coronavirus was.

Times have modified, however the water district nonetheless ranks as one in all Orange County’s high workplaces.

Moulton Niguel supplies water and wastewater remedy providers to roughly 170,000 clients in South County, together with the cities of Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Dana Point, and San Juan Capistrano. The water district has been honored six consecutive years within the Top Workplaces program.

Lopez, a former Pasadena policewoman, has been the district’s chief for a decade now. She admits the pandemic that pressured her workplace employees to work remotely for roughly a 12 months along with financial swings and sky-high inflation modified how she manages the office with 163 staff.

“It’s definitely harder, so we have to be better,” she says. “I have to be better as a leader. And I have to rethink, reimagine and revisit all my own personal beliefs.”

Lopez shared with us how she’s assembly the 2022 office challenges. The Q&A has been edited for brevity …

Q. How robust is it to maintain a contented office when individuals are properly conscious there’s somebody down the road paying extra?

A. We undergo life experiences. We have a sure method of trying on the world and fascinated about expectations. I needed to utterly reshuffle all that as a result of the world is altering. Not simply the pandemic, however social unrest and Black Lives Matter to this very polarization of politics. There is a collective nervousness and angst. We’re all altered and affected by what has occurred.

And due to that, I actually grew to become extra about understanding and being very in tune with emotions, as a result of individuals want a carry. People must really feel hopeful. People must really feel related.

Money isn’t every part however the price of every part goes up. And there’s competitors for expertise. How will we keep aggressive as a utility? It’s new territory.

Q. Some individuals are quitting for an even bigger paycheck. Other individuals – the so-called “quiet quitters”– say, “Hey, if the boss ain’t gonna pay me, I’m gonna check in at 9:01 and out at 4:59. I’m just gonna do the minimum.”

A. We have been again to workplace work since final September, full-time. I’m fascinated about methods to possibly check out totally different schedules for the brand new staff that we’re recruiting. I notice, once more, the world is altering. I’m nonetheless not a fan of full distant work. I feel you’ll lose connectivity.

However, I feel there’s a stability that may be struck by listening to the staff; listening to our clients who’ve expectations of service; and making an attempt to stability these two issues out.

When we had been all separated throughout the pandemic, it was onerous. And then after we all got here again collectively, it was nice. But one of many issues that I seen is you lose sure expertise, interpersonal expertise, communication expertise. Things atrophy. And so coming again and re-engaging meant re-learning some skilled expertise.

I’m all the time trying to evolve. I all the time query myself and say ‘is this right?’

Q. It appears to go proper over the pinnacle of many employers that they’re a part of the issue.

A. Absolutely. I can not agree extra as a result of there’s a terrific quote from the film “Remember the Titans” – “Attitude reflects leadership.” So, you probably have a workforce that’s checked out that could be a direct reflection of the management. And that’s why I by no means get complacent. Every day I hustle. As the chief. I’ve to indicate everybody each single day, each single second that I care. I’ve to assist. I’ve to carry them accountable. I’ve to advocate. And in the event that they don’t see that, what makes them wish to deliver extra to work?

Q. You haven’t any distant employees.

A. We need to pilot possibly at some point per week simply to see the way it works. I’m simply speaking and listening to the staff. But there’s not been an awesome demand. And, after all, my subject personnel can’t do hybrid work they must be on the market.

This is the ability of the tradition. When you have got a wholesome work atmosphere individuals wish to be collectively they actually take pleasure in that interplay. What I inform my staff. I need your suggestions. But most of all, I need your pushback since you’ve received to be challenged

Q. There are inside individuals. There outdoors individuals. Is maximizing their respective potentials an enormous problem going ahead?

A. It’s okay to be an introvert or extrovert. It’s okay to be who you might be. Try to fulfill the staff not simply the place they’re, however the place they wish to be. Not everybody desires to be a CEO, like me. They produce other passions, different drives. So that’s what I attempt to cater to. What fulfills them.

You get the efficiency the district wants however what can I do for you? This is basically about understanding them.

No. 5 mid-size firm

Moulton Niguel Water District

Founded: 1960

Headquarters: Laguna Niguel

Industry: Utilities

OC staff: 163

Website: mnwd.com

Quote: “I have to be better as a leader. I have to rethink, reimagine and revisit all my own personal beliefs.” — Joone Kim-Lopez, normal supervisor, Moulton Niguel Water District

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