Work is a big “meh” for most city workers in U.S.
May 16, 2017
• Seven out of ten just putting in their time, syrvey shows
• Costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $18 billion per year
There aren’t many city employees who end up in history books. And Hollywood has pretty much (aside from “Parks and Recreation”) skipped over the chance to put city workers on the silver screen.
Turns out, there might be good reason for that. Most city employees in the United States are just putting in their time, not engaged in trying to do a good job or show much enthusiasm for their employer, according to research by Gallup Inc.
Falling revenues, major demographic shifts and rising citizen demands have become the new normal for city governments across the U.S. If city halls want to deliver on their promises to provide high-quality services, they'll need to find better ways to make government run more effectively, Gallup says.
“One big way to do that is to view every city employee as a key contributor to their success. Every single one,” says the report from Gallup.
Only 29 percent of full-time local -- as well as state -- government workers are engaged at work, according to Gallup's 2016 "State of Local and State Government Workers' Engagement in the U.S." report. This mirrors engagement for government workers at the federal level.
As a result, 71 percent of full-time state and local government workers are unhappy or disengaged with their jobs, and this creates a missed opportunity for city administrators to drive innovation and move their communities forward.
Among the U.S. workforce overall, 33 percent of employees are currently engaged in their jobs.
Gallup also finds that disengaged employees may meet their job expectations but do not expend discretionary energy or feel passion for their work.
Gallup estimates that a lack of engagement among government employees costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $18 billion per year.
On the positive side, big productivity gains are possible when local governments fully and creatively deploy that same discretionary energy, Gallup says.
Many cities attempt to measure and increase their employees' engagement and commitment to doing good work through regular employee surveys, often juxtaposed with equally important resident surveys to understand key issues of public concern. Gathering such information about what motivates and activates civil servants isn't just cost-effective -- it's also smart, says the report.
Common drivers of high employee engagement include frequently praising and recognizing employees' accomplishments, offering personal and career development opportunities, incorporating employees' ideas, and connecting workers' tasks to overall city goals.
Many cities are succeeding on these fronts. For example, San Antonio, Texas, offers employees a series of training and mentoring programs, and recently created a dedicated "employee engagement coordinator" position to keep these values front and center.