Council to Build New Workplace Culture for Staff

17 June 2013

Wellington City Council has started the process of building a new workplace culture following a survey that found a majority of staff believe the culture falls short of what they want and expect.

The survey, in which 81% of Council staff participated, found there was a big gap between the actual culture and the organisation’s desired culture.

Chief Executive Kevin Lavery said the participation rate was outstanding – well above the industry average – and showed that staff wanted to have their say.

He said the results showed there was a lot of room for improvement but were understandable in the context of the Council having gone through a significant restructure over the past 18 months.

The results showed there is a large gap between what the Executive Leadership Team believes the Council’s culture is and what the rest of the organisation believes it to be.

The results have been presented in what are called ‘circumplexes’ (see graphs below), which is the result of collating all the information. When the results are broken down, there are essentially three key findings:

  1. Role clarity – staff say they are unclear what is expected of them
  2. Employee satisfaction – many staff are not enjoying their work and do not expect to be with the organisation two years from now. This is also supported by consistently high turnover and feedback that staff don’t feel empowered and that the environment does not support fresh ideas
  3. Customer service – staff believe the organisation can do much more to improve service delivery

Culture Survey Circumplexes (162KB PDF)

The results also highlighted gaps around the Council’s values of aiming high, encouraging fresh thinking and delivering what is right.  This strongly suggests that we need to improve on acting with integrity and respect. In other words, a majority of staff think we need to do more to live up to our values in those areas.

“Restructures are always an unsettling time for staff,” says Mr Lavery.

“Having said that, the staff have spoken. They’ve told us how it is. They clearly want to work in a supportive environment where they can enjoy their work and strive for quality knowing that everyone or anyone can come up with good ideas.”

Mr Lavery said the Council as a priority was developing an action plan to improve the workplace culture.

The plan will focus on four key areas:

  • Leadership – managers will undergo leadership programmes and be role models for the culture that everyone wants
  • Communication – regular communication via intranet video, and email from the CEO to all staff – and more face-to-face meetings
  • Involve staff in the process to improve the culture and implement a comprehensive training and development programme
  • Accommodation – implement open-plan offices and ‘hot desking’ for all staff.

“I have asked the property team to work up a plan for flexible working and ‘hot desking’ . This means that myself, all directors, managers and section heads will give up our offices and work in open-plan environments. I intend to be the first person to give up my office. I believe open-plan working breaks down barriers and will help change our culture.”

Mr Lavery said the changes would be driven hard so that the new culture was embedded quickly and so that it sticks.

“I want Wellington City Council to be a place where people and graduates want to work and are proud to be,” he says.

“The Council is one of Wellington’s best and most dynamic institutions which does great work every day. But I think it’s fair to say that morale is not as positive as it should be, and we’re going to change that.”

The full results of the survey will be shared with staff in the coming weeks.