- By Tom Miller -
Over three years, a city manager developed a plan to improve what, to her, were lackluster employee ratings of organizational quality – work environment, wages and benefits, communication and the like. By the end of the period, not only were employees reporting better work conditions, but here was the big surprise – in a citizen survey, residents also gave improved ratings of their community and local government.
The link between employee perspectives and customer attitudes has been demonstrated in many studies. In the private sector, evidence shows that better organizational commitment to service (measured by employee surveys) links not only to better client relations, but is a bridge to better company financials. (See Schneider, B et al. “Organizational Service Climate Drivers of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and Financial and Market Performance.” Journal of Service Research. Volume 12 Number 1, August 2009 3-14, c 2009.)
Bottom line: the analogue to company financials for local governments is community livability. If you improve employee motivation, engagement and satisfaction, you make it more likely that you’ll be able to build a stronger, more livable community - just as tuning all the parts of a stock car engine is the necessary precursor to winning the Daytona 500.
Much of the research on government employee attitudes has come from regular federal government reports of its employees. Now, a large database unique to local government employee opinion is aggregating survey data from thousands of employees in cities and counties across America. The National Employee Survey™ (The NES™), conducted by National Research Center, provides results that help managers understand what already is well-oiled in the organizational machine, what still needs tuning and which parts of the machine matter most to success.
For each employee survey conducted in jurisdictions across the U.S., scores of answers are categorized into twelve dimensions of service: employee performance evaluation, communication and decision making, employee development, morale and modeling, wages and benefits, employee-supervisor relationship, quality of internal support services, timeliness of internal support services, department performance, employee contribution and fit, physical work environment, job satisfaction plus quality and timeliness of internal services. (Several survey questions on The NES™ come from The National Citizen Survey™, allowing these two survey tools to work together in a powerful way.)
Where jurisdictions have conducted The NES™, employees view these dimensions of work quite differently. But when we aggregate results from thousands of participating employees across a wide variety of jurisdictions in the U.S., we can see common, essential characteristics of the local government work environment. This graph shows two important results from these surveys: the ratings of each dimension of work and the two dimensions that are most closely linked to employee satisfaction.
1Indices are based on more than 7,000 employees answering all questions
First, the aspects of local government work that are least favored by employees are employee performance evaluations followed closely by communication and decision making and opportunities for development. At the top of the ratings are job satisfaction, the physical work environment and employee contribution and fit to the job. Broadly, these top-rated dimensions are working best for the staff who are charged with providing top quality service to city or county residents.
The dimensions of employment that have the strongest influence are those that matter most for better overall job satisfaction. The graph shows the most important aspects of work environment are morale and modeling combined with contribution and fit. As the key drivers of job satisfaction, these two dimensions are most closely associated with employees’ job satisfaction ratings (even though the dimension morale and modeling, on average, is rated lower).
Employees are most likely to express the greatest job satisfaction when they sense strong organizational morale, have trust in their leadership, their jobs fit their talents and they are able to make meaningful contributions. When organizational morale and personal fit are weak, job satisfaction suffers.
These insights offer a starting point as managers seek to improve the work-place: the engine that drives excellent service delivery and resident opinion about the quality of community life. You can tune up your organization by asking your employees to reflect on their jobs, commitment, colleagues, leadership and to determine the factors that are most important to them for a more satisfying job experience.
The NES™ communicates the needs and opinions of employees who drive resident satisfaction. This survey allows organizations to gauge work climate and engagement, ensure employee satisfaction and plan for the future. Get candid answers to tough questions with The NES, and gain insight into how employee efforts impact the community at large. Learn More
This is an updated article, originally published in 2016.