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Best Employee Engagement Strategies Used by Local Government

We regularly speak to managers and employees across the globe, about the best employee engagement strategies they find. In this article, we hear from HR professionals in eight local government bodies across the USA about what works for them.

In every city of the globe, there are managers looking for ways to get more from their employees; more motivation, more engagement and more team work. The challenges are very similar no matter who we speak to; geography and industry play only minor parts in this puzzle.

I spent some time to get some great answers from eight people in local governments across the United States about what they find is most valuable.

Thank you to all of you who took part; here are their thoughts.

Have an open door policy

“We do not have a formal system in place for employee feedback. Considering we are such a small organization, we have a huge open door policy in which the employees and their supervisors communicate daily on any issues they may have instead of waiting for performance reviews.” says Tracy Russell, Human Resources at the City of Mont Belvieu.

If you can’t commit to a full time open door policy, perhaps one method could be taken from a customer of ours, who recently told us recently that they have instigated a Mondays and Fridays open door policy. That way, employees are encouraged to approach anyone within the business at least two days per week, and don’t feel like they are interrupting.

Hold an employee and family annual picnic

Gail Lampier, who is the Director of Human Resources at the City of Fort Stockton holds an annual family day.

“We have a volleyball tournament at the park every year for our company picnic. We have a “traveling” trophy to the winning team. All the employees get their teams together to compete. It’s a winning solution that employees talk about for months!” Gail says. “With our picnic is catered BBQ and all the trimmings along with music and the splash park for the children.” she added.

As a side note, Gail really enjoyed our previous article, 27 Fantastic Cheap or Free Employee Retention Strategies – thank you, Gail!

Arrange ‘Ask the Manager’ meetings

Stephen L. Pearl, Human Resources Director at the City of Nacogdoches, is a big believer in face to face large meetings.

“At the City of Nacogdoches one the main ways, which comes to my mind, in which we try to engage our employees and collect feedback from them is through our “Chat with the City Manager.” We set up times throughout the year to visit the various City Departments and meet with all of the employees. During the “Chat with the City Manager” the City Manager, the Main Street and Communications Director and myself (the HR Director) give an update on what is going on in the City and the employees have an opportunity to ask us any questions they may have regarding things going on in the City.

We also can provide information, or have discussions, on any area of interest they have. This helps us in building relationships with the various City employees. We also make an effort to get to know all of our employees by visiting with them at their work stations and attending their different department functions they may have throughout the year.” Stephen added.

It is fantastic to see management at this City taking time to speak to employees at their work stations too; it certainly adds a more relaxed, informal feeling to the process.

Employee engagement strategies include coffee shop meetings

Best employee engagement strategies include coffee shop meetings

Use annual and bi-weekly surveys

One of the best employee engagement strategies that Susan Nelson, Human Resources, San Jose City Council has found are the use of employee surveys, both pulse surveys regularly, and larger annual surveys.

“We utilize bi-weekly Pulse Surveys, and find them very useful, particularly when tracking the ongoing effects of other activities, like employee social outings or ‘All organization’ meetings. We also do a larger annual employee engagement survey, for overall annual planning.”

Read more about pulse surveys, in our article, Everything You Need to Know About Employee Pulse Surveys.

Ask open-ended but specific questions

“The best feedback method for me currently is to take the one-on-one opportunities as they are presented – before or after meetings, during employee events, or even passing in the hallway.  Being prepared to ask strong and quick questions is essential for capitalizing on the moments when employees are feeling talkative.  Questions like, what did you think of the agenda for this session?  What are your thoughts on the timing of this project?  Is there someone specific from which you would like to hear?  Open-ended but specific questions help to narrow the focus and gain good feedback.” answered Matia Messemer, Human Resources at the City of Hurst.

“Other more formal methods used are roundtable events with directors or department heads based on a specific topic.  Past topics have been screening candidates, the art of procrastination, and each departmental area overview.  I also use group meetings with individual work groups to gain feedback on benefits, perceptions regarding pay, and retention efforts.” Matia added.

The success of employee feedback is active listening

Five of the best employee engagement strategies that work for Susan L. Smith, Executive Director at TML Intergovernmental Employee Benefits Pool are a combination of technology and regular meetings.

Susan says “IEBP obtains employee feedback in a multitude of communication venues: Team Meetings, Ask the Director at Employee Meetings, External Satisfaction Surveys, External Consultant Employee and Management Interface and Open Door Policy.

The success of employee feedback, is active listening and public identification of performance improvement action taken in support of employee feedback.”

Susan raises a very important element in this; active listening. Managers can often ask for feedback, however if they aren’t actually engaged in listening to responses, the time and resources are wasted.

Surveys are immediate and easy to create

For Britni, one of the best employee engagement strategies is using employee surveys.

“We have collected feedback from our employees by creating and sending out a survey. They are a great way for us to gather the data we need, see the immediate responses, and it’s easy to create and use.” states Britni Brattlof, Human Resources Analyst at the City of Lewisville.

Britni highlights one of the big positives of surveys such as ours, the speed in which leadership can receive and collate the responses. Thanks, Britni!

Focus on face to face meetings

Jim Parrish, Deputy City Manager, City of Plano is a big believer in face to face meetings.

“Over the last several years we have focused on collaboration through interdepartmental team meetings to have staff meet face to face.  The initiatives has helped reduce silos and improved communication.  In addition the City Manager holds all call meetings with city staff and town hall meetings with city council and citizens.” says Jim.

Thank you for the great ideas, Jim!

In Summary

As you’ve read, these are just a number of the best employee engagement strategies found throughout different industries, managers and people use to better connect with their staff, and build a great culture. The main takeaways from their insightful answers, are;

  • Have an open door policy
  • Hold an employee and family annual picnic
  • Arrange ‘Ask the Manager’ meetings
  • Use annual and bi-weekly surveys
  • Ask open-ended but specific questions
  • The success of employee feedback is active listening
  • Surveys are immediate and easy to create
  • Focus on face to face meetings

We would like to thank the human resources professionals who gave their time and advice freely for this article; thank you!

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