Case Study

Arkansas Department of Human Services Improves Employee Engagement

Guidehouse engagement positions the state’s residential and rehabilitative service employees to better serve nearly 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities and severe mental health issues.


An Arkansas law enacted in 2022 required the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop and implement a plan for measuring and improving employee engagement among employees of its Human Development Centers (HDCs), which provide residential and rehabilitative services to nearly 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities and chronic, severe mental health issues.

The stated goals were to solicit and act on employee feedback regarding their levels of engagement, workplace climate, development opportunities, job satisfaction, and areas for improvement. DHS was also tasked with developing strategies for improvements that could eventually be modeled and implemented across its other 28 divisions.



Guidehouse was engaged by the Arkansas DHS’s Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) to support these pilot efforts to improve HDC workforce engagement.

“Guidehouse has been immensely valuable in guiding our multiple divisions in listening to each other and moving forward as a unified, goal-oriented team.”

— Kerry Gambill, Superintendent, Arkadelphia Human Development Center

Guidehouse used a collaborative, human-centered design approach to engage and understand the voices of frontline employees and identify the greatest opportunities for improving recruitment, retention, and engagement. These included:

  • Facilitating a design session with leaders and DDS staff focused on the areas of recruitment, orientation, feedback and development, culture of respect and appreciation, and well-being
  • Delivering a set of prioritized improvements through five workstreams, each led by a superintendent who guided frontline staff from each HDC to study and adopt best practices for each focus area
  • Developing governance for high accountability and executive support of changes
  • Taking a change-management approach that prioritized “teaching them to fish,” assuring that improvements would be sustained beyond the close of the engagement
  • Providing subject matter expertise and project management throughout the process and reporting monthly progress to the DDS executive team



Through these collaborative efforts, HDC leaders and staff have implemented initiatives that have improved retention and achieved staffing levels not seen since before the pandemic. Highlights include:

  • A refreshed behavior-based interview toolkit
  • A redesigned orientation featuring warm welcomes, storytelling, connection to purpose, and ceremony
  • Leadership development and training using high-middle-low performance conversations
  • New behavior standards known as “WeHEART,” with a refreshed appreciation toolkit
  • Establishment of a peer-to-peer Well-being Champion Network

“I commend HDC and DDS staff, pillar teams, and Guidehouse experts on coming together to ensure new practices all across the board,” said Tammy Benbrook, DDS assistant director and HDC liaison. “This whole process will enhance the services we provide to some of the most vulnerable citizens in Arkansas. I look forward to this being one of the best places to have a rewarding career.”

According to Kerry Gambill, superintendent of the Arkadelphia Human Development Center, “Guidehouse has been immensely valuable in guiding our multiple divisions in listening to each other and moving forward as a unified, goal-oriented team.”

Guidehouse is currently building a workforce dashboard to track position vacancies, overall voluntary turnover, first-year voluntary turnover, and promotions so that the executive team can connect improvements to outcomes.

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