Seven Innovative Ideas for Engaging Public Employees
J. Michael Wilkes, City Manager of Olathe, Kansas recently facilitated a fascinating session on organizational culture at the Alliance for Innovation’s Transforming Local Government Conference. The event brought together the best and brightest local government leaders to share ideas for making cities and counties better. Wilkes asked workshop attendees how they engage their employees to create positive organizational culture. The ideas flowed like a river. Here are a few of the practices that were shared:
- Establish an Employee Committee to field issues of any kind. The committee is free to explore whatever issues are most critical for employee satisfaction.
- Create a “Let’s Save a Million” team tasked with identifying cost savings of a million dollars. Representatives from the City Manager’s Office and from an Employee Advisory team join forces to seek ways to save the City money.
- Appoint an “Oxygen Committee” whose job it is to “breathe fresh air into the organization.” Oxygen Committee members are those employees who have been with the organization for less than 12 months.
- Conduct weekly one-on-one meetings with employees. In a regular 30 minute, face-to-face meeting, employees get 15 minutes to talk about what is on their mind, and the supervisor finishes with their perspective in the remaining 15 minutes.
- Celebrate failures. To encourage risk taking, recognize the year’s biggest risk taker with the “biggest failure” award.
- Set up a Q2 team whose purpose is to explore issues that are represented in Stephen Covey’s Quadrant II: Not Urgent but Important. The cross-functional, multi disciplinary team is expected to review innovative ideas from teammates and help to vet ideas that require a cross-disciplinary approach.
- Conduct staff meetings at locations throughout the community. By meeting at the offices of local businesses or other organizations, city staff has the opportunity to see life outside of City Hall and network with community members as well.
It was amazing to hear the many creative ideas for engaging public employees, ideas that varied as much as the jurisdictions that were represented. While every city and county is different, we can certainly be inspired by sharing. What are your innovative ideas for engaging employees?