Findings from Council’s Labour Force Strategy revealed
23 October 2019
Confidential findings from Council’s recent 2018 Labour Force Strategy were leaked to the media last week, and Council is concerned that the findings may be taken out of context.
In 2018, Council commissioned a staff survey to assist with the development of its Labour Force Strategy, and at the time staff were assured their responses to the survey would be treated confidentially.
Council has sought to prevent the Southern Free Times from making the findings public, however last week a member of staff acted to provide the report to the media outlet.
While excerpts from the 2018 Labour Force Strategy were reported, there were omissions from the Southern Free Times article.
The 2018 Labour Force Strategy made a number of recommendations to senior management based on feedback from staff, including:
• Staff wanted a greater level of trust between all levels of Council including the Chief Executive Officer, Directors, Managers, Coordinators and Supervisors.
• Staff clearly identified that there was a need to proactively deal with staff that were not adding value to the organisation.
• Staff indicated a strong desire for the two Enterprise Bargaining Agreements to be formalised.
• Staff wanted recognition of the good work undertaken by staff and better management of poorly performing staff.
The 2018 Labour Force Strategy outlined a number of potential recommendations for consideration, and many of these recommendations have been completed 18 months on, including:
• Both of the Enterprise Bargaining Agreements have been finalised.
• A review of the Values and Expected Behaviours has been completed with all staff involved in the assessment process.
• A weekly Message from the CEO is circulated to all staff.
• Productivity objectives have been incorporated into both the Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.
• A new Work Health and Safety reporting system has been implemented.
• Recruitment processes have been reviewed.
• A comprehensive organisational restructure has occurred, allowing for the better delivery of services and the best utilisation of staff.
For the first time in almost five years, there will be a full management team in place in Council from November 2019; with the commencement of the Manager for Water and the Manager for Strategic Planning and Prosperity.
It has been reported that some senior staff have left the organisation due to an implied poor culture and internal decision making processes. This is simply not the case. As with any organisation, there is a level of expectation surrounding the performance and responsibilities of all senior staff employed at Southern Downs Regional Council.
Following the adoption of the 2018 Labour Force Strategy, a number of staff have left the organisation and a number of new staff have joined the organisation. It is heartening to see that the staff joining the organisation come from a broad age spectrum with a diversity of skills and experiences. The staff of Council are performing exceptionally well in an environment that has issues such as de-amalgamation, drought, bushfires and the influence of social media.
Since the 2018 Labour Force Strategy was adopted, Council staff have excelled in delivering services to the Southern Downs region, including:
• Jenny McConville from the Customer Service Contact Centre was a finalist in the 2018 National Local Government Award for Leadership in Customer Service.
• Keith Clarke won the 2019 National Local Government Award for Leadership in Customer Service.
• The Customer Service Contact Centre staff from Warwick and Stanthorpe were recognised as finalists at the 2019 National Local Government Award.
• Council entered a team in the 2017 Southern Queensland Local Government Managers Association Rural Management Challenge. The SDRC’s team won the award. In 2018, another team from Council competed in the challenge and won again, making Southern Downs Regional Council the only local government authority to win this award in successive years.
• Shaping Southern Downs was recognised as a finalist at the 2019 Local Government Managers Association awards.
Participation in these activities provides leadership experiences for staff and assists in developing future leaders within the organisation.
The performance of Council can also be measured in a number of different ways, including:
• Through careful financial management rates increases have been kept at 2% which is the lowest ever experienced by Southern Downs Regional Council.
• The External Auditors have provided feedback that Council is now financially sustainable, with debt forecast to drop under $20 million this financial year.
• Staff have prepared professional and robust funding applications that have resulted in record levels of funding, including the most recent funding of $15 million for the supply of water for Stanthorpe from the Queensland State Government.
• The percentage of completed works in the capital program for the last year was in the order of 96% which is an outstanding result.
• Innovation remains at the forefront with Council staff designing new equipment to deal with weeds or assisting landholders to obtain drought funding.
• Each month in the internal newsletter, there is an average of 6-8 letter or emails from the community praising the work of staff, as well as recognition from the Executive Management Team.
While feedback from the survey indicated staff were looking for a greater level of trust, it will be difficult now that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed to conduct meaningful and effective consultation. Why ask questions on culture if Council isn’t prepared to listen, learn hard truths and work together? Paramount to that process is ensuring confidentiality. This is why Council sought SDRC Media
to defend requests for the results of the survey to be released. Confidentiality and trust has been lost due to the deliberate leaking of the report. Alternatives that protect the confidentiality and wellbeing of staff will be considered in lieu of undertaking staff surveys and focus groups to check on organisational health.
It is noted no other organisations or businesses in our region are put under the same level of scrutiny as Council.
Organisational development will continue to occur with the staff of the Southern Downs Regional Council, with the objective to be recognised as one of Queensland’s leading local government authorities.