Keeping employees engaged positively in the operation of local government can be a complex challenge, but there are strategies that can be effective at developing and retaining an engaged workforce. Wages, benefits, and working conditions are at the forefront of the news locally, nationally, and globally. As a municipal manager, you are responsible for administering leadership techniques to effectively implement operational policies that retain quality employees. In today’s tight labor market, keeping talent can be a challenge. Here are some proven methods that should help in that process.
I can’t stress enough that communicating regularly and openly with employees is crucial to maintaining morale. Keep employees informed about changes in policies, projects, and events that may affect them. Be transparent and open about decisions made, and ensure employees understand the rationale behind them. Meeting regularly with them one-on-one and as a group makes them feel vital to the operation.
Recognition also is a powerful tool at boosting morale and engagement, so be sure to acknowledge and appreciate good work. Ensure employees know when they've done an excellent job and recognize their hard work and accomplishments. This can be done through verbal recognition, written notes, or public recognition in meetings or other forums. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how a little public recognition can boost morale and motivate others.
Provide opportunities for growth and development: Employees want to feel like they are growing and developing in their roles. Offer training and development programs to help employees learn new skills and advance their careers. PSATS and PennDOT offer a wide range of programs created just for Pennsylvania municipalities and the challenges they may confront. Don't forget local schooling opportunities such as electrical courses, engine repair, welding, and so on. Encourage employees to take on new challenges and responsibilities. I often say my career in local government was a journey from the "ditch to the desk." I started as a laborer over 35 years ago and quickly moved to management with positive reinforcement and hard work. My supervisors and others who encouraged me along the way played a considerable role in my long career in local government.
Next, you should create a positive work environment, which can do wonders for employee morale. Foster a culture of respect, alliance, and teamwork. Underscore the importance of work-life balance. Recognize that family should come first over work. Celebrate successes and milestones as a team, and you'll be able to work past the inevitable crisis that local government brings.
Lastly, it's imperative to solicit employee feedback: Give employees a voice in decision-making and show that their opinions and ideas are valued and heard. Personally, I view an expert manager as one who listens closely to all options but is capable of making a final decision for the board to consider. Institute regular surveys or focus groups to get feedback on workplace philosophy, policies, and procedures. Use this feedback to make changes that will improve employee satisfaction and morale. Then, again, they feel you are listening and keeping them engaged.
Improving employee morale in local government requires a commitment to communication, recognition, growth, positivity, and feedback. By implementing these strategies, local government can create a more engaged and motivated workforce. One that stays on for the long haul and will promote the municipality positively to the ultimate employer, the general public. It is time to "fire this thing up" and build a positive and engaged workforce.
About the Author
David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 33 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at email@example.com. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.