Relaunched Productivity Board approves first cash awards to state employees for improving Washington government efficiency

OLYMPIA — The Productivity Board, a state employee incentive program of the Office of the Secretary of State, voted unanimously Thursday to award two state employees up to $200 each for their ideas to save the state money.

The Productivity Board encourages all state employees to help save taxpayers' money by offering up to $10,000 for a successful employee proposal to increase government efficiency. First created by the Legislature in 1982, the Productivity Board saved the state millions of dollars before it was shut down in 2011 due to budget constraints.

Nathan Wilson, a psychology associate with the Department of Corrections, will receive a recognition and award of up to $200 for developing diagnostic support tools in JavaScript and Phrase Express to expedite the mental health assessment process. The Department of Corrections estimates the tools will be implemented in June 2024.

David Halpern, a retired park ranger with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, will receive a recognition and award of up to $200 for his discovery that the retirement process could involve fewer requirements and paperwork by providing a single packet of instructions to follow. The Parks and Recreation Department implemented this change earlier this month.

More than 65 suggestions have been submitted since Secretary of State Steve Hobbs restarted the Productivity Board in January.

“I am thrilled so many of Washington’s public employees have been encouraged to submit their innovative, cost-saving ideas,” Secretary Steve Hobbs said. “I am proud of the hard work they do every day making important decisions for communities across the state.”

Submissions can be made through the Employee Suggestion Program for an individual’s idea or through the Teamwork Incentive Program for larger process improvements for two or more employees’ ideas.

“I encourage all state employees to submit proposals,” Secretary Hobbs said. “Your ideas could increase state productivity, improve service and working conditions, generate revenue, conserve energy, or save money.”

Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees areas within state government including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also operates the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, and administers the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees and the Productivity Board state employee suggestion program to provide incentives for efficiency improvements. The Secretary of State also oversees the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.