Gregorio Morales (LNY24) is Deputy Chief of Operations for Workforce Development at the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. In that role, he is responsible for the operation of the Parks Opportunity Program, which connects unemployed New Yorkers with career coaching, specialized training and jobs. We spoke with Gregorio about Coro Partners’ two-day “Leadership Launchpad” training with NYC Parks’ staff, and how he has helped to transform systems and processes at Parks.
What is the focus of your work at NYC Parks?
My work centers on the processes and systems we use to run our programs, including referral streams, hiring processes, space utilization, and how folks are matched to resources internally and to jobs at the Parks Department. I’ve used process improvement tools and technology to lower our back-office overhead and shorten delays in process time. That allows us to better focus on customer experience and supporting our frontline staff. The end result is better experiences for both our staff and clients.
Why are you drawn to this work?
For me, it’s been the perfect intersection of public space and economic opportunity and systems improvement. I’m also just a natural efficiency nut, I can’t walk into a restaurant without mental mapping lead and lag times.
Also, in these fractious times, public green space is critical to social cohesion and well-being. These spaces are a way to heal some of the toxicity we’re seeing in society. Simultaneously there are increasing demands on public coffers for health care, public transit and housing. So we need to figure out how to continue providing high quality public green space as efficiently as possible.
What are some examples of how you have used technology to increase efficiency and improve experiences for staff and clients?
Last year we automated the process that matches over four thousand program participants per year to Parks worksites across the five boroughs. It’s done via an optimization algorithm that fetches Google Maps data to incorporate travel time via public transit ensuring that each client can get to their job in a reasonable time, helping to boost their chances of success. Right now we’re in the process of moving various legacy systems onto a multi-tenant commercial cloud platform to improve functionality and staff experience.
We’re also in the process of streamlining a series of paper-based forms into an electronic tablet-based app that will save two hours of client time and another hour of staff time per client.
What lessons from Coro have helped you the most in your leadership role at NYC Parks?
I find a lot of value in creating and maintaining relationships across our agency. Coro’s adaptive leadership framework has really helped me to think of people in terms of their relationships with each other and understand their motivations, work histories, fears and frustrations. I have been able to value their feelings through really big changes that we’ve introduced, which has helped the success of those initiatives.
Why did NYC Parks decide to bring in Coro Partners to train your staff?
I’m a big booster of Coro’s adaptive leadership framework and I want more people at our organization to be exposed to it so they can challenge each other and themselves with a common language.
We serve New Yorkers who are in stressful periods of their lives. That is stressful work for our staff. In this environment, as leaders, it’s important that we help them connect to their initial motivation for wanting to do this work at Parks and Coro Partners’ training was a great opportunity to do that.
How did your staff members respond to the Coro Partners training?
Our staff showed real appreciation for bringing in such a high-quality program for professional development and training. It’s been valuable to have Coro Partners give them permission to “get on the balcony” and reconnect with their intentions and understand themselves and their styles. As a result of the training, they began to approach interactions with their clients and each other in more thoughtful ways.
What might people be surprised to know about the Parks Department?
How little funding we receive. We account for less than 1% of the City’s overall budget, that’s one of the reasons efficiency is so important to me here.