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Issue 1, 2016

The Power and Purpose of Creativity and Play in the Workplace

Have you ever noticed any of your coworkers doodling during a meeting? Do you know someone who always has to have something in their hands to fidget with? Or are you that person yourself? Did you know that those activities can contribute to better focus and productivity?

To preview the upcoming 28th Annual Conference, which has the theme Collaborate – Create – Captivate, we’d like to reflect on the power and purpose of creativity and play in the workplace.

Although it may seem like a person doodling isn’t paying attention, it’s more likely that the act of drawing is helping that person not only focus, but also better retain information. In a study by the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers found that those who doodled had 29% better recall than those who did not doodle. This study, performed by Professor Jackie Andrade at the University of Plymouth, concluded that doodling provides cognitive stimulation to focus and engage in the exchange of information. Another study at the University of Pennsylvania found that meetings that included visual thinking (doodling) were 24% shorter than those that didn’t (Feeney).

The prevalence of doodling in the workplace is supported by the growing demand for graphic recorders—artists paid to take visual notes of meetings—and doodle trainers. Sunni Brown speaks to the power of doodling in her TEDTalk and describes “strategic doodling” as “drawing to track auditory content, translate text into visual language or sketch a mental model you need to see to understand” (Brown). Companies are bringing in graphic recorders or organizations like ImageThink to take visual notes of meetings and to train and inspire staff to collaborate through creative outlets. Whether strategically drawing to retain information or mindlessly sketching repetitive patterns, doodling boosts creativity, clarifies complex ideas, and engages employees, with the added benefit of creating a break from digital culture and electronic devices (Silverman).

Fidgeting at work can also be a productive and healthy pastime. A longitudinal study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found fidgeting at your desk can offset some of the negative effects of sitting too long; in fact, those who did not fidget saw up to a 43% higher mortality rate (Walton). Mike Karlesky, a PhD student at New York University, is studying the fidgeting habits of employees, exploring how fidgeting affects productivity, and you can view their Tumblr account (FidgetWidget) of submitted fidgeting devices from employees across the nation (Karlesky & Isbister). The authors of Fidget to Focus suggest that for those who struggle to maintain focus, such as people with ADHD, fidgeting increases cognitive stimulation, enabling the fidgeters to better concentrate (Rotz & Wright).

Workplaces that encourage creativity have happier, more productive employees who are more adaptable, curious, and imaginative (Dholakiya; Power). The next time you’re in a meeting, or at our upcoming 28th Annual Conference, try doodling or bringing a fidget toy; it just might help you focus and open up your mind to new ideas and perspectives.

Spring Meeting Recap

The AJLA Steering Committee convened in Kansas City, MO, for the 2016 Spring Meeting, March 30–April 1. The Executive Committee held a strategic session prior to the meeting on March 29 and worked on refreshing the AJLA mission and vision statements and on a SWOT analysis for the consortium. Crystal Caison, AJLA Chair, facilitated the meeting, and Mike Beene, Director of Employment Services (KS Dept of Commerce), welcomed attendees to Kansas City. AJLA–TS staff members provided updates on administration, customer relations, the upcoming 13.3 release, online user guides, partner agency collaboration, the demographics/eligibility rewrite, and the upcoming ProviderLink (ETP) rewrite. Tom Smith (DE) and Rosemary Hopkins (AR) received Lifetime Achievement Awards for their years of service to AJLA. Their awards were accepted by Stacey Laing and Sandy Monaco, respectively. Stacey Laing (DE) facilitated the America’s JobLink sub-committee meeting; Marilyn Nicolls (AZ) facilitated the ReportLink sub-committee meeting; and Regena Wheeler (AZ) facilitated the first CertLink sub-committee meeting. Additional sessions covered expected 2016 DOL funding (Mark Katz, NASWA), Jobs for Veterans State Grants updates (Joel Delofsky, USDOL/VETS), and a refresher on the role of the National Labor Exchange (Josie Link, NASWA). Meeting presentations are available on the About page at, under AJLA Events. Thank you to all of the presenters, Steering Committee members, and attendees for making our Spring Meeting a success.

28th Annual AJLA Conference

AJLA–TS and the AJLA Steering Committee look forward to hosting the 2016 AJLA Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA. Email invitations have been sent and can be forwarded. This conference’s theme is Collaborate – Create – Captivate. We look forward to exploring the power of creativity and collaboration to captivate job seekers, employers, staff, and agency partners. Prepare to challenge your ways of seeing problems and communicating with others, and stock up on strategies for active engagement and creative collaboration. View the draft agenda and check out the following event details:

When: July 19–22, 2016

Where: San Francisco, CA

Hotel Reservations: To reserve your room at the San Francisco Marriott Union Square, call 866-912-0973 or make your reservation online. Identify yourself as part of America’s Job Link Alliance to receive our preferred rate of $269/night, plus applicable state and local taxes (currently 12% occupancy + 2.25% SFTID assessment fee + $1.45 CA tourism fee per room, per night). The deadline to book your room at the preferred rate is Monday, June 27, 2016. If you’re not sure you can attend or need to wait for travel approval, we suggest making your reservations now and canceling the room later if necessary. (Note that you must cancel more than 24 hours prior to scheduled arrival to avoid cancellation penalties).

Registration: Please complete the online registration form at the same time you make your room reservation. Registration is important to help us plan for meeting space and food. Registration is $450 and should be made payable to America's Job Link Alliance; FEIN 48-1124839, 1430 SW Topeka Blvd., Topeka, KS 66612, Attn: Brooke Patterson. Cancellations after July 10, 2016, will not be refunded.

Please check the Events page on for additional information and updates, including a downloadable “Convince Your Boss” letter.

Meet the New Employees

The AJLA–TS team has gained five new members since the publication of the last newsletter. Please welcome, in order of hiring date:

Carol Manis, Business Systems Analyst, comes to AJLA–TS from the Kansas Department of Revenue, where she was a Management System Analyst. She brings seven years of experience as a system analyst and over 20 years of experience in customer service. She enjoys reading and spending her weekends with her two grandchildren.

Jenifer Telshaw, Business Systems Analyst, previously worked as a Business Support Manager at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. She has a Master of Science in Management from Baker University and has worked for the state of Kansas for 20 years. When she’s not working, she enjoys gardening, beekeeping, and taking care of her horses, dogs, and cats.

April Nicholson, Business Systems Analyst, comes to AJLA–TS from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment where she was an IT Project Manager. She is in her 18th year of service to the state of Kansas and holds several professional certifications in project management. When she’s not working, she likes to be outside and enjoys gardening, cooking, painting, and watching her nine-year-old daughter play soccer.

Nolan Schmidt, Business Systems Analyst, was previously the Team Director for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. In addition to a B.S. in Political Science from the University of South Dakota, Nolan brings knowledge of federal compliance and regulation standards, as well as management and budgeting experience. His hobbies include golfing, reading about management and leadership, and volunteering.

Matthew Maksimowicz, Business Systems Analyst, comes to AJLA–TS from the University of Kansas where he was a Laboratory Coordinator for the Civil, Environmental, Architectural Engineering department. He was with the department for 12 years. Matthew has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and will soon have his Master of Engineering in Project Management from KU. He enjoys beer brewing, 3-D printing, and riding mopeds.

What’s New at AJLA–TS

America’s JobLink

AJL 13.3 is in progress. This major release will include a rewrite of ProviderLink (ETP), more secure, updated login and username/password retrieval processes, and more pages converted to Ruby for the new look and feel. The point releases for 13.2 continue to be released every two to three weeks. The conversion to an online user guide for ServiceLink is well underway, and we plan to post it online prior to the Annual Conference. We will be working hard to update additional documentation as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to check out our bi-weekly blog posts at as well.


Support for DART will cease with the implementation of WIOA. Please contact for information about transitioning to ReportLink.


Changes to ReportLink for WIOA are underway and will be released prior to the June 30, 2016 deadline.


Version 4.0.2 of CertLink is in Production. The version currently in development (4.0.3) will include a streamlined Power of Attorney process and a new look and feel in common with other AJLA–TS products. AJLA–TS currently hosts CertLink for the Kansas Department of Commerce and Arizona Department of Economic Security. For more information or to request a demonstration, contact

Hosting Services Update

We have completed upgrades to Cisco’s next generation ASA5525 firewalls, which provide roughly 30% more traffic in and out of our firewalls. We have also implemented a new Intrusion Protection System Firepower Management Center, which uses the latest technology to fight against malicious activities, such as hacking. For the first quarter of 2016, system uptime was 99%.

America's Job Link Alliance–Technical Support
1430 SW Topeka Blvd. 2nd Floor
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: (800) 255-2458 | Fax: (785) 296-2119 | E-mail:

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