CEO focused on culture

By Ged Cann

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Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs.
Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs.

Just over half of Hamilton City Council employees feel engaged in the organisation, according to a recent survey, with a fifth actively disengaged.

The findings, which were included as part of the Staff Engagement Survey 2016, came after a two-year hiatus from measurement, which council CEO Richard Briggs said was a deliberate move.

"I wanted to make sure that when I got ready to drive a new culture into the organisation I got a really good baseline," he said.

Engagement was defined by three factors: an employee's belief that council was a good place to work, their determination to remain at the organisation, and their willingness to strive for good outcomes.

Among the highest scoring categories were health and safety, empowerment and autonomy, and work-life balance. Among the lowest were satisfaction with rewards and recognition, career opportunities and working with appropriate tools and processes that enabled workers to work effectively.

But the survey has been criticised by a former council staffer who blew the whistle on a culture of bullying at city hall, saying that because the survey was performed by a different company to previous surveys, it called into question the comparability between current and previous scores.

Now director of CultureSafe NZ and a council candidate in the upcoming local body elections Allan Halse said he believed engagement was still low and bullying rife at the council, and he believed staff engagement should become a key performance indicator for the CEO.

Mr Briggs said he was keen to have measures around changing culture and engagement included in his role's KPIs.

"I wouldn't be uncomfortable about having a score in there, but it's only one measure and what is a more important measure is the outcomes, and I am building a number of KPIs around those outcomes."

Mr Briggs said he was unwilling to focus purely on the scores, and was more interested in focusing on what the culture was.

He said the two surveys were "apples and oranges" and couldn't be compared, but said it was industry practice to change providers on a semi-regular basis.

"Actually the providers themselves suggest that after three or four years you change providers. What happens is the staff become aware of what the surveys are and it starts influencing results, making them less natural.

"Last time we got a result of 21.6 per cent and this time we got a result of 51 per cent, and that is no way saying we are better now than we were then.

"It's just a completely different way of calculating it," Mr Briggs said. "I would suggest if you were to normalise it they would be the same kind of number."

Mr Briggs said he believed the atmosphere within the organisation had improved but he was nowhere near satisfied that it was as good as it could be.

The result of 51 per cent engagement compared with an average result across New Zealand and Australia of 56 per cent using the same survey.

Mr Briggs said a lot of time was being spent creating plans so workers could see career opportunities when they came up, and creating enabling infrastructure had been recognised as a key objective.

Since taking the top job at council Mr Briggs has been rolling out a Connected programme, which seeks to ensure employees know how their job helps deliver on the overall goals of the whole organisations.

Advantages of having engaged staff typically included fewer absences, more effective working and a better outcome for customers, in this case ratepayers.

Mr Briggs said council did not hold data on staff absences, but said staff turnover had improved in recent times.

Currently there is no direct reporting of ratepayer feedback across the organisation, but Mr Briggs said a feedback terminal at the council building on Anglesea St would in the future provide a measurement of satisfaction.

- Hamilton News

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