Surveying multiple audiences in their community gave the City a comprehensive view of performance
- By Jen Aceto -
Conducting four scientific surveys in a short time may sound daunting. It is a lot of work– and some government officials might fear survey burnout. But the City of Laguna Beach was able to administer four assessments because each had a different audience. The results gave decision-makers a strong baseline of resident, business owner, and government employee sentiment.
“We have a very data-driven City Manager, and she wanted to inventory the whole organization and the community to see where we are,” said Jeremy Frimond, Senior Management Analyst.
Laguna Beach conducted The NCS in 2007 and 2011, so officials were familiar with the benefits of Polco’s scientific survey methodology.
“What was attractive to us was mostly Polco’s background and long history of conducting this type of research,” Frimond said. “The ability to benchmark against other communities and benchmark against ourselves based on the survey ten years prior was really what prompted us to proceed with Polco.”
Gauging Employee Satisfaction
Officials conducted The NES and The NES-LE to hear from employees about their experience working for the City.
Frimond said that the City was excited to hear about Polco’s solutions for law enforcement given the current state of the field. Many agencies are struggling with retention and recruitment issues.
“We recognize how hard it is for police officers now, and we really want to implement new programs to make this organization a lot more progressive,” Frimond said. “But before we could do that, we really needed to understand, bluntly put, how bad things are. Are they as bad as some people make them out to be or not?”
The City Manager’s office also connected with other departments before administering the surveys to boost participation.
“We talked to our Municipal Employees Association as well as fire and police employee associations,” Frimond explained. “Their support goes a long way in their membership participating in the survey.”
The department was pleasantly surprised with how the results came back.
“It’s really nice to be able to quantify where [we] are, areas that we can improve, and other areas where we just reaffirmed that we are actually in a pretty good spot,” Frimond said.
Hearing From The Community
After gaining internal insights through the employee surveys, the City turned to businesses and residents for input on the quality of life in Laguna Beach.
Like with The NES and NES-LE, the City worked with other groups to inform the community that The NCS and NBS were open. For instance, City leaders worked with the Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to participate in the survey.
“The role of the City Manager’s office is to reach out and work with all the department heads and executive team to distribute the surveys, convey the importance of what the input will help us accomplish, and develop next steps to improve and address concerns,” Frimond said. “We have a strong interdepartmental working relationship in our organization and that helped with distributing the surveys.”
The City’s Communication Outreach Officer used a variety of outreach methods to let businesses and residents know about the surveys.
“We have a community newsletter that the City sends out. We leverage all the print media in Laguna Beach as well,” Frimond said. “We actually pushed out The NCS through our Nixle [emergency] alert system to encourage residents to participate in the open participation phase. Since we have a very engaged community, we made sure that all residents knew they could participate in the open participation portion of the survey.”
Results revealed that Laguna Beach residents continue to enjoy a very high quality of life, with especially high ratings for economic health.
Respondents highlighted community design and mobility as areas of opportunity.
Business owners reported a high quality of community overall but expressed difficulty with keeping their businesses running in the future. While Laguna Beach is considered a desirable place to work with good public and higher education opportunities, other factors–like limited affordable housing options, workplace parking, and affordable childcare options–make it difficult to support a full workforce.
The report also revealed opportunities for local government to better support the business community. While local business owners positively scored many local City services such as fire, police, crime prevention, and City-sponsored events, services such as traffic flow and public parking received lower ratings.
Business owners also communicated that the City could do a better job of retaining existing businesses, attracting new businesses, and supporting or creating new jobs.
The City Manager’s office listened to the feedback and plans to respond accordingly.
“We wanted to get a snapshot so that we could start working towards implementing either community interventions, business interventions, or organizational interventions to improve all of those,” Frimond said. “And then we’ll measure against that in the future to see if we’ve moved the needle on any of those in a positive direction.”