City Council rating in employee satisfaction survey remains low
Steamboat Springs — An internal survey reveals city employees in Steamboat Springs are collectively more satisfied with their jobs and work environment than they were last year.
But the City Council still has a long way to go to gain the support of the city staff.
The staff continues to give the council a failing grade when it is asked to evaluate that body’s leadership.
Of the 139 city employees who took the survey last month, only 10 of them, or 7 percent, thought the council “provides the strategic direction that keeps the organization strong.”
Fifty percent of city employees disagreed with this statement, while 14 percent strongly disagreed and 29 percent were indifferent.
While the council score was an improvement over the last two years, a closer look at the survey reveals a divide continues to exist between the council and all levels of city staff.
Only two of the city’s seven department heads who interact most often with the elected officials gave the council a favorable score on the leadership question.
And only four of the 43 managers and supervisors who responded thought the council is providing the strategic direction to keep the city strong.
Council President Walter Magill said he wants to see the score continue to grow, but he doesn’t expect the council to ever get a positive response on the question from more than about one-third of the staff.
He said because the council must make tough budget decisions and sometimes say “no” to staff requests for more employees or pay, the council will inevitably lose some staff support.
He pointed to the council’s recent decision to table the proposed replacement of a child care facility as an example of an issue where staff and the council will not always see eye to eye.
“If we get 100 percent support, we’re doing something wrong,” Magill said. “We’d be giving away the house.”
Still, Magill said he would like to see the council garner more support from staff.
“I would like to see the department heads feel that there is better leadership from council,” he said.
City Manager Gary Suiter, who was been overseeing the city government since October, said he feels city staff’s relationship with the council is improving.
“In the past, I think council and staff relationships were strained, but I do think they are improving, and we need to continue to work on that,” Suiter said. “It’s a matter of open and honest communication.”
He added he wouldn’t mind seeing the council question disappear from future city employee surveys because the question itself does not improve the relationship between the council and staff.
“It can drive a wedge,” he said.
Suiter praised the current council for agreeing to conduct strategic visioning sessions.
In addition to the council, the only other item to receive an overall negative mark from city staff was the issue of employee pay.
Staff members had a negative response when asked if they felt they were paid fairly compared to others doing similar work in other organizations.
The city’s police officers and firefighters were the two departments that had a negative view of their overall compensation.
The internal survey, which the Steamboat Today obtained through an open records request, does show several improvements for the staff at City Hall.
The staff’s overall satisfaction with such things as working conditions, work-life balance, supervision, leadership and work climate were all positive and on the rise.
The survey results also show members of the city’s police department believe their work climate, communication, work-life balance and leadership have improved significantly in the last year.
In the 2015 survey, the police department was polled as part of the emergency services division and the division gave negative marks for leadership, communication and climate.
This year, the police department scores were broken out separately, and members of the department collectively gave positive scores on all satisfaction categories except for compensation.
The uptick in satisfaction comes in the wake of a change in leadership at the department following an internal investigation that found evidence the department’s former leaders presided over a hostile work environment.
“For me, it’s pretty exciting,” Police Chief Cory Christensen said of the results. “I’m happy to see improvements in pretty much every area at the city. And when it comes to police services, I’m pretty excited about that. But just because there are improvements doesn’t mean we are done.”
He said he was especially excited to see the increased scores for work-life balance — an uptick he attributed to the department now being fully staffed.
As an example of increased communication at the police department, Christensen said he gave all employees the opportunity to give feedback on proposed changes to the police policy manual.
He also sought feedback from employees when he was tasked with updating the City Council on what was working well and what needed improvement at the department.
The satisfaction survey is the first under the tenure of new City Manager Suiter.
Christensen credited Suiter for some of the increases in the scores.
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