Millions spent, staff dissatisfied?

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It’s hard, as the community, to get the whole truth, all the implications, about anything at the City of Canning these days.  So much spin…

Take the Agenda Setting Briefings (ASBs) concept, for example.  Former Commissioner Linton Reynolds hailed it as some sort of progressive way forward:

  • the community was encouraged to ask their Qs there, instead of the Ordinary Council Meetings a week later – apparently there would be “more time” to provide answers at briefings
  • new councillors are being told ASBs are a “fantastic”* [edited] opportunity to get more info from executives, at the first and only opportunity they appear to have, as a group, to ask Qs of the executives, before staff expect them to vote through their motions at the next meeting [edited]

There’s just one prob with all of that:  none of its recorded.  No-one will ever know what exactly happened.

The devil is always in the detail anyway – take a look at how satisfied Canning’s staff aren’t today as a case in point.

At the Intending (Council) Candidates Seminar, the audience was shown a graphic which indicated that, overall, the staff were more satisfied today than in 2013 – right after council was suspended:

Staff satisfaction

Bang up job, then, eh?  Yet on closer look, it’s not actually looking that satisfying:

The above were the aggregated results from the City’s Employee Opinion Survey – a gauge that determines employees concerns (see page 8).

The good news is that since 2013, when employees seemed happy enough, there were slight improvements in areas like job satisfaction, team playing, health and safety practices, work/life balance.  The biggest improvement came in the form of being happier with “demonstration of leadership by managers/supervisors”.

The not-so-good news is that satisfaction has dropped much more significantly in the following areas:

Staff satisfaction 2

The City’s response to this alarm-sounding ?  They’ll put Action Plans in place to address it!  Yet a ton of money has been spent on staff since the council was suspended – how much more will this cost and what is causing employees to feel this way?

Tony Simpson reported that at the time of Reynolds’ dismissal staff wage costs at the City had increased $17 million since council’s suspension#

A cursory look at the Minutes of Council Meetings and other documents suggests an enormous amount of training was provided to staff in the last three years, also, as well as increased wellness benefits and although ALL of the 14,000 people employed within the Local Govt sector in WA were facing job upheaval and change, via local govt reform, this employee sector had some of the most generous redundancy provisions in the state:  in the event of Canning being ceased, our staff would have been guaranteed a further two years employment, or one year’s payout of salary.

NEVERTHELESS…. the CEO and former Commissioner Reynolds made the extraordinary and completely arbitrary decision to use ratepayers funds’ to give already well-trained staff a $1000 TAFE voucher each, saying they had to take care of the staff (over and above redundancy provisions, and the fact that all merged council staff faced the prospect of not continuing on in their jobs).  Those vouchers were paid out even though local govt reform collapsed – costing ratepayers closer to a million than not.

Staff are given complimentary memberships at our leisureplexes while the community has to pay, etc.  It’s difficult to understand how morale across critical areas as are listed above could have plummeted.

Our guess?  All indices show that the people of Canning have been happy with the services provided by the staff at Canning, but CEO Russell and Linton Reynolds seemed to believe the City needed to be changed, rather than just governance issues addressed, and with so much change being forced through, many new staff hired, the decision to launch new strategic directions, change the business units around, shuffle people in and out of offices (and shopping malls), well, it could just be the staff are overwhelmed and just plain fed up with best practice, benchmarking, change and innovation?

I guess we’ll never know.  Hopefully it won’t cost ratepayers several millions more to get whatever is wrong sorted out – the BIG TEST will be how much the next enterprise bargaining agreement will cost us – but the bedevilled detail about the true rate of staff satisfaction wasn’t in the aggregated clap-happy numbers shown to potential new councillors, it was found inside Minutes that are several hundred pages long.

Is our creed “Above All – Service” or is it “Above All – Appearances”?

We need happy staff and money hasn’t helped, so maybe we need to look at leadership change as the next step.

*City of Canning Intending_Candidate_Guide_Final_July_2015 

#As reported in Canning Examiner, 24 Sept 2014, page 3

Image at top produced by Mike Rohde https://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/  Sourced at Flickr.  Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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