National Association of State Personnel Executives honors Colorado personnel director

Denver ­— Thursday, July 18, 2013 — The National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE) will honor Kathy Nesbitt, State Personnel Director and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration, as the recipient of the 2013 Eugene H. Rooney, Jr. Leadership Award at its awards luncheon Tuesday, July 22, in Henderson, Nevada.

NASPE will also recognize the Colorado State Employee Assistance Program (C-SEAP), which is a program of the Department of Personnel & Administration, with the 2013 Eugene H. Rooney, Jr. Outstanding Program Award of Merit for its Workplace Outcomes program. The program demonstrated the value of employee assistance by measuring outcomes like increases in worker productivity after seeking counseling services.

Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Nesbitt in 2011. Her career as a labor and employment attorney and extensive experience in human resources made her uniquely qualified to create and administer the rules that govern the state’s 33,000-plus classified employees, as well as their compensation and benefits.

“Kathy has an amazing determination to do great work for the State of Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “She is able to bring together best practices and innovations from thought leaders like NASPE with a real interest in the people in our workforce. As a result, she has helped to make positive, lasting changes impacting employee workplace and wellness.”

Within weeks of being appointed State Personnel Director, Nesbitt proposed an ambitious plan, The Talent Agenda, to ensure the State was best positioned to recruit, retain and reward top talent. The plan was in response to the fact that a full third of the State’s workforce is currently retirement eligible and the State had a 92 year-old personnel system that had not been updated to meet the needs of modern day recruitment and selection. Nesbitt drafted significant legislation focused on increasing flexibility in hiring processes, making changes to employee compensation and aligning the State workforce environment with modern business practices. She worked with the Governor’s Office, State Legislature, employee organizations and State human resources professionals to introduce a statewide ballot initiative for a necessary Constitutional amendment (Amendment S). She traveled and met with more than 6,000 State employees (20% of the workforce) in person to explain the proposed changes. The employee support she garnered significantly contributed to the amendment’s passage with 56% of the statewide vote. This was the first significant change to the State’s personnel system in more than 40 years, and three previous attempts to pass similar legislation failed. The amendment passed Nov. 4, 2012, and was fully implemented Jan. 1, 2013.

In addition to The Talent Agenda initiative, Nesbitt worked to pass legislation to create a merit pay system. She led and implemented a complete pay structure redesign for the State’s classified employees, adjusting the pay ranges to market midpoint for benchmarked jobs. In conjunction with this significant adjustment, she recommended an across-the-board raise for State employees – the first increase for State workers in four years – as well as additional merit pay based on performance and placement in the salary range.

The State conducted its first employee engagement survey under Nesbitt’s guidance. It is now being used in each of the State’s 22 executive branch departments to guide strategic planning, personnel and customer service improvements.

Nesbitt created a statewide new employee orientation program, instituted major enhancements in the State Training and Development Center, and launched a wellness program for State employees. Nesbitt continues to lead the State’s efforts to recognize its employees as part of national Public Employee Appreciation Week each May, where one of the highlights is a special event in which nominees from each department are honored by the Governor.

Nesbitt will travel to Henderson, Nevada, to accept both awards on July 23. The winning submissions, along with the other submittals, can be viewed in their entirety on NASPE’s website at

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For more information, contact:

Sabrina D’Agosta, Director of Policy & Communications

Office: 303-866-6555  |  Cell: 303-437-6671