A familiar face at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation headquarters near Shawnee, Oklahoma, accepted a new leadership role focusing on increasing engagement among the Nation’s more than 2,100 employees.
Kelley Francen, director of employee advocacy, will be empowering CPN staff members to succeed, regardless of length of employment or position. She wants to reach everyone from front-line customer service to department managers.
“I want to make sure that employees understand that they have a voice. And if I can be used as that vehicle for that voice or bridge some of that communication, I think that’s where the advocacy part comes in,” she said.
Francen began working for CPN more than 16 years ago in Human Resources as a recruiter. She quickly moved into a position as a training manager. She has also worked as assistant director of economic development and as leasing tax coordinator. Those positions gave Francen a broad perspective on the Nation and its employees.
She said part of the challenge in engaging employees is reaching hundreds of individuals across numerous departments, facilities and disciplines and understanding each unique perspective. Francen plans to focus on strategic areas to help her accomplish her goals.
“I’ll focus on new hire orientation, which is the first time new employees see the face of the Tribe. We can use that opportunity to show them what the (work) culture is and what they can expect here,” Francen said.
During orientation, she highlights Tribal business and enterprises, and shares the Tribe’s history going back to the early 1800s.
“I really want new employees to understand the significance of sovereignty and what it means. I want them to understand that they work for a very unique entity. I want them to feel that impact, that passion of why sovereignty is so important to the Tribe,” she said.
Francen encourages hiring managers to meet their new employees for lunch after orientation and spend some time getting to know them before the work shift begins.
“I’d like them to use this time to build rapport before it becomes all business and get to know (new employees) a little bit better,” she said.
Francen also plans to spend time with current employees, through both personal and professional development.
For frontline staff who interact most often with the public, she plans to emphasize customer service skills. Frontline employees are “the face of the Nation,” Francen said, and it is important to empower each employee to provide quality customer service.
She also hopes to address challenges that may hinder an employee’s growth.
“If an employee’s experiencing something that’s preventing them from being successful, whether it be a conflict with a co-worker, personality differences or something at home, I’ll try to help them overcome those obstacles,” she said. “We can talk about different strategies, like ‘How can we learn to get along with people that we don’t see eye to eye with?’”
Francen will also focus on managers, who hold most responsibility for employee engagement on a day-to-day basis.
“Seventy percent of employee engagement falls on managers. That’s a pretty big responsibility. I want to make sure that managers have the tools they need and that they feel motivated and inspired. It’s hard to (inspire others) if you’re not feeling that yourself,” she said.
For some new managers, a promotion may come with many questions. Francen hopes to provide answers.
“Sometimes employees are promoted into a management position because of their job knowledge, but find they lack the experience or ability to successfully manage staff. Through the management component, I hope to bridge some of those gaps,” she said.
Francen draws inspiration from Noek Nmeshomesek (Seven Grandfathers), an internal CPN employee leadership program. In Noek, employees spend several weeks visiting various departments within CPN and learning about their contributions to the Nation. From retail to government and healthcare, employees gain deeper understanding and appreciation for the important ways their fellow employees serve CPN.
Drawing on her previous experience in human resources, she will also focus on employee appreciation and recognition.
Francen plans to partner with CPN enterprises to provide employee incentives and opportunities. She hopes these different activities can bring staff together and help them form relationships with fellow employees they might not otherwise have the chance to meet.
While speaking with new hires, Francen points out the many benefits employees receive through employment, whether those are through employer-provided health insurance, retirement plans or fostering relationships in the community.
“It’s important that we all know our goal and why we are here. That also ties into one of the other cornerstones of employee engagement, which is a sense of purpose. I share that message with our employees and I think it helps them understand why we’re here,” she said.
Working for CPN enterprises is like working for a long-time family business, Francen said.
“Through our contributions and by sharing our personal talents and expertise, we have the honor of becoming part of the family’s heritage,” she said.
According to Francen, successful employee engagement usually involves building good, trusting relationships between employees and managers as well as a team mentality.
“I think it’s important we start bringing the different enterprises together,” she said. “When managers are given an opportunity to come together and share their different experiences and perspectives, they are able to form positive relationships and build trust.”
“Ultimately, we want to bring employees together. We want employees to have a sense of purpose, to feel valued and appreciated, and to be recognized for the work they do,” she said.
For more information about employee engagement, contact Francen at 405-275-3121.
For more information about CPN employment opportunities, visit potawatomi.org/jobs.