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Morial Convention Center Debuts Employee-Owned “Innovation Lab”

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has embarked on an innovative and ambitious plan to upgrade an already award-winning employee culture by placing ownership of the plan referred to as “the Culture Project,” in the hands of employees.

The Innovation Lab is the culmination of a collaborative effort between trepwise, a local growth consulting firm, and New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center employees to develop a culture that is fueled by accountability and collaboration, and then driven by employee engagement, feedback, and recognition. To ensure the success of the Culture Project, Convention Center employees are tasked with setting goals, providing timelines, and ownership of all aspects of this plan.

Through inclusive employee engagement and collaborative ideation, trepwise engaged employees in a design process with the goal of creating a culture that rewards creativity, accountability, and risk-taking. Trepwise coached Culture Project Design Teams in designing solutions to reach these goals using a human-centered approach called “Design Thinking.”

Out of this process came the Innovation Lab, which consists of three teams: Belief Biologists, Communication Chemists, and Recognition Researchers. The project leads were selected from front-line employees and mid-level management positions and provides an opportunity for them to grow their skills and demonstrate ability to lead and transition into higher positions.

A fourth group, Test Technicians, is a group of impartial employees who will pilot new software and processes created by the other laboratory members.

The Innovation Lab team leads were announced at an all-staff meeting at the Convention Center on Thursday, July 15. The employees will drive the timeline of implementation with a “sense of urgency,” but sufficient time will be allowed for demonstrating results.

“By letting our employees steer the ship on this project, they find better ways to collaborate and communicate, which will create better feedback tools we can use to reward innovation, creativity, and risk-taking,” said Convention Center President Michael J. Sawaya. “In the long term, this will improve customer satisfaction in a hypercompetitive environment, supporting our vision to be a leading-edge organization known for innovative delivery of exceptional event experiences in a world-class destination,” Sawaya concluded.

“We are grateful for our partners at trepwise for guiding us to a forward-thinking, cutting edge approach to employee culture,” said Tim Tumminello, Director of People Services at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. “This will not only attract the best and brightest from the pool of potential job seekers, but it will also help us retain the best employees we currently have on our roster. As the job market gets more competitive, we are excited to put our best foot forward on this critically important aspect of what we do here at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.”

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