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Polco News & Knowledge

The Secret Ingredient to Employee Retention

the secret ingredient to employee retention

National data shed light on what matters most to employee satisfaction.  Plus, what the top rated local government organization does to create a culture that makes staff members want to stay.


In the latest webinar by Polco, The Secret Ingredient to Employee Retention, experts discuss how to improve workplace culture with real-world examples and data. 

Jonathan Wiersma, Polco Vice President of Marketing, presents government employee survey trends that show where most organizations succeed and struggle. Those trends come from The National Employee Survey (The NES), which measures local government workers' opinions about their workplaces. The national database contains over 300,000 employee voices across the US. 

Lyman Locket, HR Director for the City of Goodyear, Arizona, then shares examples of how his organization became the highest-rated workplace (according to The NES benchmarks) with a well-defined culture and consistent effort. 

employee retention overall data

National averages of employee satisfaction rates in the local government workplace

Where Local Government Workplaces Excel and Where They Should Focus Improvements

National data from The NES show areas of local government workplaces that employees are the most and least satisfied with. 

Areas local government employees give high ratings include:

  • Respectfulness and inclusivity in the workplace 
  • Treating employees with respect
  • Valuing and respecting people of diverse backgrounds and cultural beliefs  
  • Providing a safe environment free from alcohol, drug abuse, harassment, and violence

Areas local government employees give low ratings include:

  • Managing low-performing employees
  • Collaboration between departments 
  • Speed of response to important issues
  • Compensated compared to similar opportunities 
  • Compensation for performance 

“A focus on performance is coming up in the ranks as far as what people are concerned about in local government,” Wiersma said. “[During the pandemic] we were doing heroics. We started caring more and more about what the person next to us was doing and whether we were being recognized for our efforts or not.”


Key Drivers of Employee Retention

Not all workplace priorities drive retention. For example, providing better materials and equipment may be a concern, but it’s not as significant as work-life balance. 

Polco data scientists analyzed key drivers of retention based on areas of The NES that are of high priority and high importance. 

Key drivers of retention where governments are doing well:

  • Employees see a career path in their organization
  • Confidence in their supervisor 
  • Protection from health and safety hazards

Key drivers of retention that can be improved: 

  • Helping new employees feel connected and integrated
  • Confidence in senior leadership and staff


So, What is the Secret Ingredient to Employee Retention in Local Government? 

jon wiersmaEmployee engagement can help tackle many workplace retention issues simultaneously. 

“Employee engagement promotes accountability across your organization, improves the quality of decisions made in your organization, increases transparency, and it also provides your employees the opportunity to be engaged in the process,” Wiersma said.

Five Takeaways From the Panel Discussion on How To Retain Employees

Employee Engagement Results in Better Work 

HR LocketLyman_GoodyearFrom my perspective, engagement really drives the best work,” Lyman Locket, HR director for Goodyear, Arizona, said

Locket says employees could be satisfied with their job but not necessarily engaged. But engaged employees are almost always more satisfied than those who are not. So the City launched an initiative called the Intentional Design of Goodyear’s Culture to create an environment where employees invest in their jobs. The initiative defined, claimed, nurtured, and solidified the City's culture, which resulted in better performance. 

“Those are the things that engagement brings—it is that best level work and that attachment to the organization, where satisfaction doesn't necessarily always bring those things,” Locket said. 

You Can’t Rely on Pay and Passion To Drive Employee Satisfaction 

Public servants do not go into local government because of the salary. Most want to make a difference in their community. But that passion can fade over time, just like the high after a pay increase. 

Governments have to get employees involved in decision-making if they want to promote sustainable work satisfaction, Locket says. Using The NES overtime, Locket said Goodyear was able to attribute longer-lasting satisfaction to giving employees a voice. 

Communication Is Key

Since 2014, Goodyear has focused on improving communication in a timely manner to quell  fears and anxieties happening within the workplace. Communication is a consistent pain point common to all local government employers. 

"Eliminating uncertainty shows that you care for your employees," he says. 

An emphasis on communication has also helped foster an environment that encourages feedback. 

“We're trying to create this culture of feedback where people are expected to give feedback, and people are also expected to receive feedback,” Locket said. 

Goodyear City Hall

Goodyear City Hall

Allow Growth Opportunities

Locket said many employees want to learn and grow in their careers. So Goodyear implemented an Individual Development Plan to help employees to reach their goals through different opportunities. They also offer a mentorship program so employees can learn from others. 

“You want people to share [their goals] with as many people as they possibly can so that people understand what they'd like to do, whether it be moving to a higher level position or maybe it's to build skills within the position that they're currently in,” Locket said. 

Adding to Locket’s point, Wiersma says staying open to lateral transitions makes well-rounded future leaders who are more dynamic than those who stay within an individualized department. 

Engagement Takes Consistent Effort

“Start and don't stop,” Locket said regarding how local governments should engage employees. 

Goodyear began their Intentional Design journey in 2008. Through that consistency, employees now expect engagement opportunities. 

“Culture work is ongoing. It's something that needs nurturing and it doesn't go away—so creating that expectation that this is a long journey [is important]…, “Locket said. “If [engagement] goes dormant, your culture begins to morph into things that you may not want it to be.”

Make Your Organization a Great Place to Work

These national trends are helpful in understanding a big picture view of local government workplaces as a whole.  But your organization’s individual results will likely be very different. See how you compare to the benchmark and learn specific areas of improvement to focus on. Build a healthy work culture and attract and retain quality staff members with Polco’s employee engagement tools.

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