What Do We Think?

We recently conducted a survey of employees to see what people are thinking and feeling about various internal services.  The results are available on the City’s Intranet, and they show that about 182 people have answered some or all of the questions.  The majority of those responding, excluding those who responded “Don’t Know,” view the quality of services such as Information Technology, Human Resources, Building Maintenance, etc., as “Good” or “Excellent”; but there are some areas where employees have concerns.

Our custodial service is clearly an area where there is room for improvement, although some of the dissatisfaction may come from a management decision earlier this year to reduce services to save money.  About once a week (although sometimes several weeks pass), I now have to empty my office trash can into a larger container located about 25 steps from my office.  We received one complaint that, “If the administration has the time to empty their trash cans prior to going home that’s one thing; however, the personnel actually out doing the job have very little if any unassigned time to do this.”  I am generally sympathetic to this argument, but it takes me less than one minute to complete this task, including putting in a new plastic bag.  I am now spending less than 45 minutes a year on trash detail; and if anyone is spending more time than this, they may want to look at changing what goes into their office trash.  We will save $175,000 over the five-year life of the contract (potentially someone’s job) by doing this at the cost of some inconvenience to the rest of us.

Human Resources (HR) also drew some negative comments in the survey; and, again, some of the problem can likely be attributed to staff reduction.  Many employees may not realize that our HR Department is 20 percent smaller than it was two years ago.  Both HR’s and the Finance Department’s ratings declined from our previous survey, and both departments have seen significant staff reductions.  The management team made a conscious decision to cut support services at least in proportion to cuts in line departments.  Just as staff reductions in the Parks & Recreation Department or the Fire Department affect the quality and extent of service, cuts in support services have a significant impact on our organization.  The good news is that services in both departments were viewed positively by a significant majority of those responding.

We are planning to do a general survey later in the year to get a sense of opinions about conditions throughout the organization.  I believe the next survey will produce results similar to what we received in this one, but I’m sure it will also provide useful new information.  The directors and I review this information and look for ways to address concerns and problems, recognizing the validity of many of the observations.  We also understand that some criticisms are not reflective of actual conditions and may be the result of misinformation, misunderstanding, or a score to settle. 

I hope more employees will participate in the next survey to either validate or correct my view of the organization and its performance.  At least one comment expressed the belief that I don’t know what’s going on in a given department, and there is some truth to that concern.  I rely on information from citizens, council members, organizations, managers, unions, employees, and what I can see from my own observations.  I hear and see a lot, but it’s difficult to know what nearly 400 employees are thinking at all times, let alone the thoughts and feelings of our 50,000+ residents.  I get a better picture when people take the time to either tell me their concerns or participate in the periodic surveys we conduct to get a better view.