What Do Angelenos Get for Their Investment in City Employees?

This column is about a fact, a conclusion, and an observation. The fact is, nearly 60% of the current budget goes for employees. That fact leads logically to the conclusion that the City’s 4$-Billion workforce must be well-managed. Yet, it’s my observation that City Officials seem comfortable with the status quo; they don’t feel any urgent need to improve the management of employee performance.

In City departments, managers are keenly aware that employees are their most expensive resource. By contrast, managers in effective service organizations are more likely to view employees as their most valuable resource.

In City departments, managers typically underutilize the abilities, initiative, and energy employees bring to the job. By contrast, managers in effective service organizations understand the conditions under which employees do their best. They create a workplace environment that supports and stimulates employees.

In City departments, managers record probationers’ performance on a legally indefensible rating form. By contrast, managers in effective organizations use probation as it’s intended to be used: to keep unfit employees off the payroll.

In City departments, employees get an annual evaluation on a one-size-fits-all rating form. In effective organizations, performance appraisal is used to appraise job performance. It gives managers usable information about employees’ work.

In some City departments, managers make all the decisions; they’re loath to share power with employees. By contrast, managers in effective organizations are more likely to encourage employee participation. Indeed! Some managers invite employees to help set performance standards for their own jobs.

In some City departments, managers who trash the Charter expect employees to live by the rules. But in effective organizations, managers are more likely to retain employees’ respect by setting a good example.

When I was in City Service, employees were seven times more likely to get a Notice to Correct Deficiencies than to get a Notice of Commendation. Good work by City employees is generally un-noticed and unrewarded. Managers in some effective organizations get it: They “Catch Employees Doing Something Right.”

In City departments, managers rarely see, or talk with, employees. They make an exception for holidays or other special occasions. By contrast, a manager cited by Peters and Waterman in their book, In Search of Excellence, built employee morale by visiting employees’ workplace, and getting to know them as individuals.

What do Angelenos get? They get managers who appear to think an underachieving, 4$B workforce is good enough for city government!

You can contact Sam Sperling at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com

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