Tag Archives: retention

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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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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7 Recruitment Trends in 2015

(Post by Rick Dacri, April 1, 2015)

hiringEmployers are hiring again and the competition for talent is getting fierce. As I view the marketplace, I am seeing 7 recruitment trends emerging:
1. Differentiation is critical: employers are developing and promoting their recruitment brands as a means of attracting candidates. Without one and you’ll remain a best kept secret.
2. Pay is king: the competition for the top talent is intense and the biggest obstacle to landing the best is pay. Employers are evaluating their pay systems and upping their wages in critical positions.
3. Traditional advertising is out: Employers are attracting candidates through rich referral programs, company career sites, and social media. You need to know where your candidates hang out and focus your efforts there. Target recruiting is the best.
4. Passive candidates are coveted: Employers want candidates who are working and who are likely not even aware you have openings. Recruiters must be able to find them. This is the key to my recruitment success finding executives.
5. Older workers offer experience and stability: Baby boomers are not leaving the workplace as quickly as expected and employers are beginning to recognize their value. More employers are developing programs and benefits to attract and retain these generational workers.
6. Gig workers fill voids: Independent contractors, project workers and part time workers are filling in where needed. I discussed this just-in-time workplace in my book Uncomplicating Management in 2009. Many thought I was wrong. I wasn’t.
7. Retention is your best recruitment tool: if they don’t leave, you don’t have to replace them. Sometimes all you need is a strong retention program to solve your recruitment problem. Focus on creating a great place to work and people will stay…and if you need more workers, the word will get out and people will be attracted to you (that’s a big part of brand differentiation).
Employers who have a comprehensive recruitment program and a positive work environment, will be at a competitive advantage.

Others posts you might like:

 

 

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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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Culture Trumps Everything

(Posted by Rick Dacri, June 2, 2014)108

Walk into a Whole Foods, order shoes through Zappos, or spend a night at the Ritz and you’ll quickly see the value of a positive workplace culture. Whether its Zappos emphasis on delivering “WOW” through service (ask my wife), or Whole Foods’ friendly, smiling clerks (I love shopping there), and I can’t even describe the joy in staying at the Ritz–the emphasis on taking care of the customer is ingrained into the fabric of each company and embodied in its workforce.

Culture is not a squishy concepts best left to human resources. No, its the essence of a company, its personality. Culture is made up of a company’s core values, beliefs, goals, and traditions. It’s who they are and how leaders form and shape it determines whether the company will flourish or wither on the vine.

L.L. Bean hires employees who are Continue reading

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Medical Marijuana, Picking Bad Managers & Turnover Signs

Three workforce issues I wanted you to be aware of:
images1. Medical Marijuana Laws: There is some confusion and uncertainty with the legalization of medical marijuana in Maine and Massachusetts, while federal law stills treats it as an illegal drug. Though I am not going to cover the regulations here (call me with questions), you should know that neither state requires employers to permit drug use in the workplace or tolerate employees who report to work under the influence. Again, call me regarding compliance, policies, drug testing rules and handling the conflicting requirements under state and federal laws.

2. Companies Picking Bad Managers: According to a Gallop study just released, companies fail to choose the right talent for manager positions 82% of the time. And, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. Gallop notes that bad managers can generally be blamed for most low morale of workers. As you know, low morale and engagement are the determining factors in productivity, quality and retention levels. Call me if you need help assessing candidates for supervisory positions as well as training and coaching your existing supervisors and managers.

3. Warning Signs that An Employee Is Likely to Quit: According to a Utah State University Study, there are clear warning signs that an employee is likely to quit within months. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Showing less interest in advancing in the organization
  • Seeming less interest in pleasing their boss than before
  • Acting more reluctant to commit to long-term projects
  • Exhibiting less interest in training and development
  • Offering fewer constructive contributions in meetings
  • Suggesting fewer new ideas
  • Doing the minimum amount of work needed

If you begin seeing this with one of your employees, you may have an employee who is preparing to quit. Give me a call and we can discuss how best to handle this.

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8 Musts For Retaining Star Employees

images(Post by Rick Dacri, May 6, 2014)

Retaining your best employees is critical. Here are 8 uncomplicated steps to holding them and keeping them engaged:

  1. Hire right every time: It all starts here. Hire stars. Otherwise expect problems.
  2. Develop a strong management team: Train your managers and supervisors. Unless you have strong front line supervisors, you are not going to be successful.
  3. Create a work environment that people love: Engaged employees don’t quit. It’s all about the culture.
  4. Integrate new employees into your workplace: Develop an effective on boarding program. Your new employees should be excited about their decision to join you.
  5. Understand and meet your employees’ needs: Star employees remain engaged when they are paid fairly, treated with respect, have the tools to do their job, are recognized for their good performance, know that you care about them, have growth opportunities and their opinions and ideas are valued.
  6. Be clear about your expectations: Employees want and need to know what you want them to do. When the company and itsmanager are clear about what is expected, employees rise up to meet them.
  7. Communicate: It’s basic, but many problems begin here. Provide frequent, timely, problem solving communications. And listen to your people.
  8. Take care of your employees: This isn’t a kumbaya thing. Understand your employee needs, meet them, and they’ll stick around. Employees want a manager who cares.

Retaining stars is not complicated, but it takes work.

I’ve helped many organizations retain their best employees. Many have seen their turnover reduced in half within a short time. Give me a call and we can discuss how we can make this happen at your company.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read:

  1. Recruitment: The 5 Pillars of a Strong Brand
  2. Management Training
  3. Management 101: Stop Coddling Losers and Ignoring Stars

 

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