Letter: Is Our City Tuned into its Employees?

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I learned the other day that our City Human Resources/Risk Management Manager has decided to take another position in a nearby city. I don’t know if this is lateral move or a career step-up. This director hired on with our city in 2017. This individual appears to be a top-notch professional in the HR field and according to co-workers was well-received and well-respected. Such professional and personal qualities suggest to me that we were extremely lucky to have hired this person work in our city. Which is why I find the resignation perplexing after just four years of employment. While I get that every city experiences a percentage of annual employee turnovers for various separation reasons (retirement, better positions/better pay/benefits, relocations, terminations, etc.), a position at this level in our beautiful, intimate coastal community would be a dream come true for most professionals that choose a job in local government. 

While I don’t have comprehensive data on our city employee turnover/retention rates, I have observed a number of top-level management employees choosing to leave our city to work in other cities over the last decade and particularly the last five years. It leaves me wondering why? I know for a fact that we pay our employees well and offer very good benefits.  We’ve all heard in business that people don’t leave companies; they leave bad managers and toxic work cultures.

Could we have a systemic problem? We are fortunate to have so many good employees providing our city services and we should be investing in them and retaining as many as possible. Is it time to take a serious look at our city hall environment and measure employee retention and satisfaction? I personally believe it is.

By looking at employee retention data like turnover rates and reasons why employees leave, we can better understand how managers are handling employees and what operational challenges exist. By measuring employee retention we measure our managerial success. By conducting periodic employee satisfaction surveys during employment, we can understand their views and challenges and ward off losing good employees. I’m not aware of any employee satisfaction surveys conducted by our city.  I think it is time to conduct one.  Especially now when we are embarking on hiring a new City Manager.

I would think that current employee survey data would assist the City Council in selecting a city manager with the qualifications, expertise and personality we need to ensure a healthy work environment who will prioritize the retention of dedicated and professional city employees.

MJ Abraham, Laguna Beach

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