Jean Ann Lawson

Nick Kittle
Former Chief Innovation Officer
Adams County, Colorado

Favorite Music

The “ever essential” Bare Naked Ladies and covers of Hunter Plake (from The Voice).


Millennials are becoming a big part of the Adams County government workforce—65% of applicants.  At the same time, a startling 50% of new employees leave within two years. The County had to figure out incentives to retain their new employees.


Traditional county training for new employees was largely an overview of HR protocol and professional business conduct. It was held in sleepy rooms with glassy-eyed participants. Nick and his team decided there were three better ways to engage colleagues: 1) community service, 2) team building, and 3) programs for personal growth. They gave these approaches catchier monikers, and last year rolled out “Impact Adams”—training and development, not just when employees arrived, but also as they grew in their jobs:

–“We Care” allows employees to dedicate eight hours each year to serving the community, eg, helping to clean up parks, lakes, trails, and open spaces; build houses for Habitat for Humanity; and other non-profit services. Employees get out of their offices and into the field, where they interact with real issues and constituents.

–“Develop Us” coaches employees to collaborate with each other on ideas and execution, putting together grizzled vets who’ve worked for the city over five years with newbies who’ve worked under two. Mentors meet with protégés once or twice each month for half a year at lunch or outside the office to talk about both city topics and personal careers.

–“Evolve U” [on hold currently while results are evaluated] teaches life skills like public speaking; specific tools like Excel analytics, Basecamp project management, and Prezi for presentations; and more offbeat or personal growth topics like how to climb a “fourteener” (a 14,000 foot mountain), build a solar cooker, or practice mindfulness and meditation. Last year there were 19 classes, and today 65

Workshops may be led by yoga instructors or government peers, eg, the speaking course was taught by a public information officer who used to be a newscaster. Nick says that when colleagues and friends teach, rooms dramatically perk up.

Bottom line: While the last 15 years saw a 67% decline in voluntary training, the first year of Adams Impact saw a 65% spike in workers electing to train.

Lesson Learned

Be clear on messaging. Not everyone will be excited about a “new course.” Make sure they understand content and the broader objective.

Nick’s Personal Background

Grew up in small towns: Carmel, Indiana; Bellflower, Illinois; and El Cerrito, California. Majored in industrial management at Purdue, MBA from University of Colorado-Denver; did accounting at British Petroleum and El Paso Natural Gas; and in 2003 started his own company, EasySubmittals, an online platform to expedite construction bids that could convert 200 different file formats into one pdf. After selling the company to a rival, he went to Colorado Springs to establish that city’s innovation office, then to Adams County (nearly 500,000 population adjacent to the Denver Airport) in 2013 to do sustainability. In March he was named the County’s first Chief Innovation Officer.

Nick’s Job

With half a dozen staff and modern data tools, aimed to evaluate and optimize training and development, business solutions, sustainability, and performance. (Recently Nick left government and has become a personal innovation and performance coach.)

Startling Facts

Nick has been a competitive “disc-golfer” (we believe that’s golf with Frisbees) and award-winning BBQ champion. For ribs, he recommends dry rubbing, then smoking for six hours with RibCrib sauce.

Contact Info

Or talk to Heather McDermott, Chief Development Officer and current project lead at