NHES Appeals Get Lean Thanks To Workers’ Efforts

Doing more with less has become the mantra at workplaces all around the country, and those offices staffed by members of the State Employees’ Association are no exception. The Lean Process was put into place at many of those workplaces, and it’s no surprise that SEA workers rose to the challenge.

At the Lean Process Summit in September, Gov. John Lynch stressed that the Lean Process required a cultural shift.

“Lean is not a goal,” Lynch said. “It is a process, a culture, a way of doing things.”

While several state agencies were recognized at the summit, Lynch offered a special certificate of recognition to New Hampshire Employment Security for its efforts to cut down appeal time for those filing for jobless benefits. Specifically, the NHES efforts cut the “average appeal age” from 163.6 days to 18.4 days.

Greg Ives, a SEA member and the Appeals Tribunal chairman, offered some insight into the process:

The Appeal Tribunal Unit for NH Employment Security processes requests for appeal on unemployment claim determinations on eligibility; holds hearings; and issues decisions.

In 2009, the department was impacted by the economic situation and a new computer system that allowed claimants and employers to file their own appeal requests in the computer system.  New Hampshire ranked last in case aging as a three-month backlog developed.

Justice delayed is justice denied, as William Gladstone said.

In January and February 2011, individuals from the Appeal Tribunal Unit went to training for Lean Process improvement.  With the help of a facilitator from Health and Human Services and “fresh eyes” from the Department of Safety, the team developed a new procedure for processing appeals, removing a major bottleneck.

The Appeal Unit Administrator approved the new streamlined procedure and implemented it in March 2011. The staff responsible for processing appeals in the new process were upgraded. Although appeal requests could still be filed by email, the online filing of appeal in the new system was disabled.

By the end of 2011, the backlog was gone and New Hampshire’s case aging was ranked 16th in the country.

Staff morale was up. More importantly, appeal hearings were more prompt and more fair.

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