Category Archives: Leadership

Something’s Happening in Local Government

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5 Workforce Challenges in 2016

By Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates, LLC

(originally published in ICMA’s Knowledge Network, 1/13/16)

“There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear” are the opening lyrics to the Buffalo Springfield 60’s anti-war song. While protest is not our focus, something indeed is happening with today’s workforce and economy and town and city managers are being challenged to both make sense of it and address it. Local government is changing, our workforce is different, and citizens and elected officials have high expectations for results.

While there are many challenges facing town managers, workforce issues rise to the top. The Center for State & Local Government Excellence survey “State and Local Government Workforce: 2014 Trends” found that the majority of public sector managers cited their “top concerns are recruiting and retaining qualified personnel, staff development, succession planning, employee morale, competitive compensation packages, public perception of government workers, reducing employee health care costs and dealing with employee workload challenges.” Like a freight train screaming down the tracks, today’s manager must tackle these issues.

Let’s look at five of them:

  1. Aging workforce: the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) reported in their 2012 State of the Profession survey that 63% of municipal employees were 51 or older with nearly 24% 61 or older. A Black & Veatch’s strategic direction survey reported an aging workforce is among the top ten issues affecting the water industry. A 2013 Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) survey report that 62% of electric utility workers have the potential to retire or leave the workplace by 2020. Whether it is police, fire, librarians, or wastewater operators, aging baby boomers are beginning to exit the workplace in what some are calling the “silver tsunami” and the public sector, as a whole is ill prepared for the exodus. And to make matters worse, fewer young people are entering the profession. Volunteers are not joining the fire departments; electric engineers are choosing high tech over public power; and environmental professionals prefer consulting to wastewater treatment.
  2. Creating a performance based culture: The municipal, union mentality culture must end. Communities can no longer afford bloated workforces, crippling work rules, huge unfunded pensions, and pay plans based on length of service rather than performance. Today’s workplace culture must reward performance and productivity and encourage employee engagement resulting in worker retention and attracting the best external talent available. Union work rules that hamper operations must be replaced with those that support flexibility, and pay must be based on merit and include performance incentives. In addition, town managers should emphasize priorities and goal setting, measuring and monitoring performance and not just effort and activity. Employees must be flexible, customer centric, and engaged.
  3. Managing a multidimensional and changing workforce: Today’s workforce is changing and different. As boomers age out, we are seeing a different look than we have come to expect. Whether at town hall, public works, the water or fire department, we now find more women, individuals of color and youth. As the workforce becomes more diverse, managers must have the skills to lead this “different” workplace. Engaging a younger generation, with workers who have a different perspective and have distinct expectations of their boss and work, unlike other generations, will require significant adjustments, patience, tolerance and the skills to manage.
  4. Recruitment, retention and rewards: There is a new “3 R’s.” Finding individuals who want to work in public safety, public power, wastewater and any other aspect of local government have never been harder. Managers will have to find ways to make government careers more attractive to a younger generation, while competing with the private sector that may have deeper pockets and have shiner toys to dangle. Work/life balance, flexibility, career development and telecommuting will be needed to attract this new generation of worker. And to retain them, communities will have to reward workers with cash (merit pay, incentives, benefits) and non-cash (opportunities, training, titles). The lure of a job in government has faded. Competitive pay has become a minimum threshold to attract and retain talent. Money talks.
  5. A strategic approach to managing: Managers and elected officials must now make decisions about the direction of their business utilizing a strategic framework. No longer can they simply move from crisis to crisis, election to election. A big picture, business approach to government will be needed, discarding “how we’ve always done it this way” approach to a reinvention of government that addresses today and tomorrow’s realities. There will be a greater reliance on technology, creativity, innovation, best practices and benchmarking, and these require a new kind of leader to manage a new kind of workforce that can thrive in this new world. In the past, public utilities were lead by engineers, electrical engineers in power, environment engineers in water and wastewater. No longer. Today the need is likely for an MBA or MPA. Towns and their utilities are multimillion-dollar businesses and require a strong businessperson to run them. It is not a place for on-the-job training.

 

The 21st century leader and their elected officials must think differently. Successful leaders must have the skill to look around corners, while making bold decisions in addressing the changing market. Their mandate will be to:

  1. Develop a strong workforce that is energized, embraces change, is resident centric and strives for excellence.
  2. Create a workplace culture that sheds the municipal stereotypes of entitlement, bureaucracy and coldness with one that is productive, effective and efficient to one that is customer focused, friendly and helpful. Town hall must always be welcoming.
  3. Think long range and not just about today’s firefight. Managers and elected officials must understand the big picture and not just how it will affect this year’s budget. Maximum impact must be part of the new lexicon and that means taking a strategic approach to governing.
  4. Become a learning environment. Continuous education for all staff, elected officials and citizens are essential. Exposure to new and different ideas stimulates new thinking, creativity and innovation, challenging and questioning the previously accepted norms.
  5. Be passionate about government. Leading a municipality is a worthy profession. Show energy. Get excited. It’s contagious and it is essential in recruiting and retaining star performers; motivating staff; and engaging residents and ratepayers. But most importantly, it is crucial in moving people forward, persuading them and getting them to follow.

 

The challenges of the 21st century will be great. Managers and elected officials will have to discard old notions and embrace new thinking. Continuous change and experimentation will be the norm. Town halls must be incubators of management best practices.

There indeed is something happening here and that’s a good thing.

Rick Dacri is a management adviser, president of Dacri & Associates, and author of the book Uncomplicating Management: Focus on Your Stars and Your Company Will Soar (rick@dacri.com; http://www.dacri.com)

Other posts that you might like:

  1. Municipalities: Top 10 Tips to Ensure the Board and Manager Maintain a Strong & Effective Relationship
  2. Succession Plan in Municipalities Assure a Steady Flow of Talent
  3. Retaining Workers Over 50
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Five 2016 Workforce Challenges Screaming Down Tracks

 

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(Post by Rick Dacri, November 29, 2015)

As a manager, you will be faced with several challenges in 2016 and workforce issues are right at the top. Recruiting and retaining qualified personnel, staff development, succession planning, employee morale, competitive compensation packages, and reducing employee health care costs will dominate your attention. Like a freight train screaming down the tracks, today’s manager must tackle these issues head-on. Let’s look at five of them:

  1. Aging workforce: We’re getting older. Baby boomers are beginning to exit the workplace in what some are calling the “silver tsunami” leaving both employment spots to fill and huge gaps in knowledge to replace. Most employers are ill prepared. Recommendation: Put in place succession plans which address replacements, skills gaps, and prepares the organization for an orderly transition of talent.
  2. Creating a performance based culture: Today’s workplace culture must reward performance and productivity and foster employee engagement resulting in worker retention and attracting the best external talent. Work rules that hamper productivity must be replaced with those that support flexibility and pay should be merit based and include performance incentives. There also must be an increased emphasis on setting priorities and goals, measuring productivity and monitoring performance. And your employees must be agile, customer centric, and willing to do whatever it takes for the organization. Recommendation: Put in place training programs to prepare both supervisors and employees. Add communication initiatives to demonstrate the need for and benefits of these required changes. Recruit only employees who can thrive in a changing environment.
  3. Managing a multidimensional and changing workforce: Today’s workforce is changing and different. As boomers age out, we are seeing a different look in the workplace then we have come to expect in the past. As the workforce becomes more diverse, managers must have the skills to lead this workplace. Engaging a younger generation, who will work along side older individuals who have different views and expectations of both their boss and work, will require significant adjustments, patience, tolerance and clear understanding. Recommendation: Multicultural, mutigenerational training should become a part of your training curriculum. Employee engagement/satisfaction surveys should be conducted annually.
  4. Recruitment, retention and rewarding: There is a new “3 R’s.” Work/life balance, flexibility, career development and telecommuting will be needed in order to attract and retain this new generation of worker. And to retain them, you will have to reward workers with cash (merit pay, incentives, benefits) and non-cash (opportunities, training, titles). Recommendation: Recruitment and retention programs should be put in place that include development of a recruitment brand and tool box; compensation market surveys should be conducted; and turnover analysis should be put in place.
  5. A strategic approach to managing: Managers must make decisions about the direction of their business utilizing a strategic framework. No longer can they simply move from crisis to crisis. A big picture, business approach will be needed, discarding “how we’ve always done it” approach and re-inventing your business to address today’s and tomorrow’s realities. There will be a greater reliance on technology, creativity, innovation, and best practices and benchmarking and these require a new kind of leader to manage a workforce that can thrive in this new world along with a workforce that can blossom amongst rapid change and have the skills to learn and adapt. Recommendation: Strategic plans should be updated to reflect the changing workforce and market place.

In 2016 and beyond we all must begin to think differently, have the skills to look around corners, while making bold decisions in addressing this changing workplace.

Other posts you may like:

  1. Aging Workforce: Few Employers Prepared
  2. Succession Plan in Municipalities Assure a Steady Flow of Talent
  3. How Unhealthy Cultures Stymie Progress

 

 

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Workplace Trends & How Employers Must Respond

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 11.23.43 AMThree critical trends are emerging in today’s workplace: 1) the traditional full-time, 40 hour worker is being replaced by part-timers, Independent Contractors and gig-workers; 2) the ability to attract and retain workers is going to require different strategies and those employed in the past; and 3) workforce loyalty has a new look.

Rick Dacri & David Ciullo discuss these trends and how employers should respond in this Mind Your Own Business TV interview with Debi Davis.

To view the interview, click Workforce Trends.

Post by Rick Dacri, August 18, 2015.

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The Critical Relationship Between the Town Manager and the Board of Selectmen

UnknownPost was written by Rick Dacri and was published in the New Hampshire Town and City, May/June, 2015

The job of the town manager or an elected official is not easy. But, when things are operating well, people are working cohesively, residents are happy, and results are being achieved, then it’s good to be in local government.

Results begin when three elements are in place: a positive working relationship between the board and the manager, a shared mission about what the town wants to accomplish, and a commitment to move forward together. The relationship ensures that a collegial rapport occurs based on trust and shared values. The mission guides the town’s allocation of limited resources: money, talent and time. And commitment pulls everything together. Absent any of those components, everything collapses like a two-legged stool.

That collapse often occurs when priorities become unclear, the manager becomes unsure where the board is headed, or individuals are moving in different directions. Therefore, a comprehensive or strategic plan is necessary to provide focus to both the board and manager. The key is to get the manager and the board members on the same page.

So how do you forge an effective relationship while meeting the town’s mission?

Set clear expectations and accountability standards: After all, if you want the manager to drive the organization where you want, develop a map. Be clear, specific and direct.
Understand your manager’s needs and expectations: Boards need to take time to get to know what makes their manager tick. Know the individual’s personal and professional goals, objectives and stressors and what can you do to help alleviate them.
Provide a timely performance review and know the market for executive compensation: Late reviews and salaries that fall below their peers are two areas that cause the greatest resentment, resulting in breakdowns in the relations and turnover. In a market with a shortage of good municipal management talent, this can be a catastrophe.
Set realistic performance goals: the strategic direction of the town will only be achieved when this is done well. The genesis of all goals should be the town’s strategic plan.
Provide ongoing feedback on performance: It’s lonely at the top. The manager needs input from the board. An ongoing dialogue is essential.
Support the manager’s development: Grow your manager. The world is constantly changing and your manager must be able to keep up. A stagnant manager with last year’s ideas is not going to move your organization forward.

There is a fundamental, almost systemic tension between the roles of the board of selectmen and the town manager. Who is in charge? Absent clear guidelines and a process to address roles, responsibilities, and strategic direction, conflict arises. Struggles for power and control emerge. As with any conflict, the solution is to get people talking and listening. Regardless, embracing the collective belief in the mission of your town is a powerful magnet to draw people together, allowing them to rise above ideology and personal agendas for the collective good of the town. A strong commitment to this belief and a passion to make it work allows most to make the relationship piece work. It happens everyday in well run communities.

Other posts you might like:

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Municipalities: Top 10 Tips To Ensure the Board & Manager Maintain a Strong & Effective Working Relationship

UnknownPost by Rick Dacri. Originally published in the City & Town Magazine of the New Hampshire Municipal Association, May/June 2015

  1. Establish a clear, mutually agreed upon mission for the town and define values from which to operate. Take the time to discuss vision, strategy and policy. If your focus is simply surviving today, you’ll likely stagnate. Effective boards understand the importance of strategic planning as a means to steer the organization.
  2. Identify clear, annual goals and needs along with a time frame to complete. Develop a vision for your community. Dream big and move forward, one step at a time.
  3. Establishment a clear division of responsibilities and accountabilities for the board and manager. Be specific about boundaries and control. Governance must be clearly delineated and understood. You can only have one town manager at a time.
  4. Establish a forum for ongoing open communications and planning. Build open discussions into your calendar. Set up formal times to meet, both formally and informally with the manager to maintain focus and to nurture the relationship.
  5. Establish methods to resolve conflict in a respectful, open and honest manner. Conflict will occur. Set up a process to address it, and, if that doesn’t work, bring in outside professional help.
  6. Establish priorities with the understanding that they must be reviewed on an ongoing basis since the town’s challenges are ever changing. We live in a rapidly evolving environment. The board and manager must be nimble. The strategic planning process helps to anticipate the expected challenges, threats and opportunities before they emerge, but external and internal changes can occur that will change the picture.
  7. Develop methods to establish trust and support, where everyone adheres to the plan and each of you “has each other’s back.” Trust is a critical element in any healthy relationship. Without it, things fail. Work to continuously build trust and get help when repair is required.
  8. Develop and implement an effective annual performance evaluation system that is an ongoing process. There should be no surprises in annual evaluation if communication has been healthy, ongoing and honest. No business relationship can occur without clear accountability standards. A performance evaluation can be an excellent tool for this. Establish a formal process. Provide each board member an opportunity to contribute. Focus on the future and avoid creating a “report card” system. And encourage informal feedback throughout the year.
  9. Develop a process to bring newly elected board members up-to-date on what has been established and agreed upon amongst the current board and manager. Board orientations bring new members up to speed quickly, allowing them to make an immediate contribution.
  10. Create a board of selectmen self-assessment. This is a tool designed to help clarify roles and responsibilities, assess board performance, seek ways to improve and plan for the future. Outside professionals are often engaged to help boards develop such a mechanism.

Other Posts You Might Like:

  1. How to do Quality Manager Evaluations
  2. Recruitment: Landing Your Next Manager
  3. Succession Planning in Municipalities Assure Steady Flow of Talent

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Online Accelerated Supervisory Development Program–May 13

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Last year I introduced the Accelerated Supervisory Development Program. I conducted two programs and 24 individuals signed up and successfully completed it. Since then I have been asked when I was going to offer the program again. Well, mark your calendars. A new program is scheduled to begin on May 13, 2015.

This training program is specifically designed for small companies with only a few managers or companies that want to quickly provide training for a single manager or two. I call it

 Rick Dacri’s Uncomplicating Management

Accelerated Supervisory Development Program.

Here’s what some of the “graduates” said about recent programs:

Great class. Rick cleared up issues on employee problems.”

Chris Davidson, Supervisor, Paras Electric

 

“Rick Dacri provided me a template with which I can elevate the performance of my crew, reward top performers, and address the needs of those not yet reaching their potential.”

Kevin Snow, Supervisor, Groveland Municipal Light Department

 

“Just the chapter/lesson on legal issues of hiring and terminations and drug testing do’s and don’ts are worth its weight to the average employer who doesn’t deal with this on a regular basis. Lots of info packed into a very painless time frame.”

Mark Dufoe, Operations Manager, Kennebunk Light & Power District

In five short weeks, you or your supervisors will:

  • Enhance their skills as a manager
  • Increase their ability to motivate and engage their people to deliver outstanding results
  • Know how to attract, hire and retain exceptional talent
  • Delegate and make better decisions
  • Inspire, coach and mentor their people, creating enthusiasm, clarity and increased effectiveness
  • Listen and communicate better, resulting in open and honest dialogue
  • Confront problem employees, resolve tough issues, including attitude, performance and behavior
  • Provide honest feedback, praise and recognition
  • Understand and operate within the law, without fear of lawsuits

The program includes 5 regularly scheduled training sessions, one-on-one coaching with me, training materials, my book, and more.

 Interested? Follow this link and read all about it and register. With a starting date of May 13, this program is the perfect way to develop the skills and effectiveness of your management team!

To learn more or to enroll, click Accelerated Supervisory Development Program or call me, Rick Dacri at 207-229-5954 or email me ar rick@dacri.com.

Enrollment is limited, so sign up now.

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Staffing a Volunteer Fire Department: Why Leadership matters

UnknownThis article, written by Rick Dacri, was originally published in the York County Coast Star, August 27, 2014

Imagine awakening in the middle of the night to find your loved one experiencing severe chest pain. You call 9-1-1 knowing you need help fast. Imagine the agony of waiting and waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Delay. No one comes. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. Longer. Now imagine days later finding out that an all-volunteer group, short on staff, mans the local rescue. And then you learn that your neighbor is an EMT, but she works for another town, preferring not to work in your hometown.

You wonder why. Why the delay in response, when minutes and even seconds make the difference between life and death? Why does your neighbor prefer to work away, rather than her hometown? Why is your rescue department staffed by on-call volunteers rather than having full-time staff ready, round the clock?

This scenario sounds far fetched. Doesn’t it? This clearly cannot be the case in your town. Aren’t there fire and rescue personnel in each of those fire stations, waiting for a call? If you live in a small town in Maine, those facilities are generally empty.

The all volunteer fire and rescue is a way of life in many communities. Neighbors helping neighbors. Generation after generation of primarily men (this is slowly changing) volunteering—working regular full time jobs in the community, but responding to fire and rescue calls whenever it happens. But times have changed. More and more people are not volunteering. More people now work outside their communities. Time-consuming state regulations requiring long hours of training and certifications, personal and family commitments, and a detachment from a sense of community have all contributed to a steady decline in volunteerism. And as new recruits decline and existing, long service members age, many departments find themselves desperately seeking ways to staff their operations. All of this when the demand for rescue ambulance calls is increasing.

These on-call volunteers receive minimal pay for the hours they work, are required to attend countless hours of training, and are expected to respond to calls that could occur any day, at any time. When you’re snug in bed at 2 AM on a snowy, cold February morning, you may be called to a fire or rescue call. Why would you respond? What would motivate you? Three things, primarily: a belief in what you’re doing, a love of their community and a strong sense of loyalty to your chief and “brothers and sisters.”

The volunteer fire and rescue department is the backbone of many small communities. Break it up and you destroy the fabric of the community. A love of what they are doing, embracing the value of helping their neighbor, and the camaraderie and pride that comes from service, is the magnet that draws volunteers, generation after generation. It is a fragile balance to maintain, one that community leaders struggle to preserve, and unfortunately more and more are not succeeding.

Departmental cohesiveness is critical to this balance. Departments with a strong chief—one who understands the needs of the volunteers—one who can instill a sense of pride and community; who exudes the qualities and traits that can get men and women to run into burning buildings, is essential. Without this, members become disengaged. They drop out, by either not responding to calls, not attending mandatory training, or performing at a substandard level. And without a strong chief, recruiting and retaining new staff, even from individuals living in the community, becomes nearly impossible.

The true volunteer fire and rescue departments are at a crisis level. Recruiting and retaining new on-call volunteers is becoming harder and harder. More communities are being forced to move to a full-time, round the clock, professional staff, with few or no volunteers, at a cost to the communities that few can afford. At the same time, other towns continue to enjoy the benefits from having an engaged volunteer staff, where residents want to be part of these departments. The difference? In most cases it is the leadership. While no chief can stem societal changes, they are the glue that holds the department together and they are the engines that make it work. When these volunteers are committed to their mission and believe in their chief, engagement follows and that means those 2 AM calls are answered. With the right person at the top, most communities can rest a bit more peacefully.

Another article that may interest you:

Preserving Your Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department

 

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