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Learning from City of Vincent: How They Thrived Through Change

City of Vincent ran their first Voice Project Staff Engagement Survey in 2018. When they ran the survey a second time in September of 2019, they had improved on almost every survey category, decreased employee turnover, and reduced workers compensation spend by 24%. This journey began at the same time that a new CEO was being appointed – the type of change than can often be accompanied by uncertainty, lower staff engagement and satisfaction, and an unclear direction rather than the improvements that City of Vincent saw.

Shortly after joining City of Vincent in 2018, CEO David MacLennan commenced an organisational review which was partially informed by the Voice Project Engagement Survey and the development areas it identified. It showed that staff didn’t understand the work that other areas were doing, and couldn’t clearly see how that work aligned with the organisation’s overall purpose and vision. It was also noted that City of Vincent’s values hadn’t been reviewed or updated in a decade. The review process aimed to embed a new vision and set of priorities adopted in Council’s new ten year Strategic Community Plan into all projects, programs and services, which included a focus on the clarity of roles and of organisational direction under a new CEO.

Building Staff Awareness and Involvement - The Way Forward

All-staff briefings were conducted to communicate the new vision and priorities, and clarify how staff at City of Vincent would need to work and perform in order to achieve those objectives. The organisation also explored staff views about what working as part of Team Vincent meant to them, their teams, and their community. These responses were then used to develop a new set of corporate values which staff were able to vote on.

City of Vincent also introduced a new Project Management Framework, and a whole-of-organisation corporate planning process was commenced with all staff members involved. As part of this:

  • All projects, programs and services were reviewed and prioritised against the new priorities
  • City Services were self-assessed for maturity against their Capability Maturity Model (CMM)
  • Teams combined their projects, programs and services into a long-term strategy with a business plan to improve service delivery over 1-5 years
  • Each staff member’s performance was linked to their team’s business plan and KPIs to ensure they understood how their work contributed to the broader work unit

A target was then set to move all City Services to a state of being ‘proactive’ rather than ‘reactive’. Organisation-wide standards were also put in place to ensure that the same guidance was available across different projects, programs and portfolios.

Challenges Faced

One challenge City of Vincent met along the way was a low level of strategic planning across the organisation. To combat this, City of Vincent sought to obtain general acceptance among staff that the organisation needed to undertake comprehensive and regular strategic planning. This was enabled by the self-assessment of functions against the CMM, which clarified the current and desired future states of the services and required discussion of roles, responsibilities, and relationships between different teams and directorates.

According to David, one of the key factors contributing to City of Vincent’s success in achieving change was to ensure it wasn’t a top-down exercise. Managers and teams were given full responsibility and ownership of their strategy and business planning. They knew what was needed, and understood the challenges and opportunities involved. That meant they were in the best position to identify how to improve their services in a manageable way and with the resources available.

In their follow up Engagement Survey, City of Vincent achieved improvements in Passion (+6%), Progress (+8%), Performance Appraisal (+20%), and Role Clarity (+16%).

They also outperformed the average score of other Councils on Performance Appraisal (+17%), Organisational Commitment (+12%), Progress (+17%), Organisation Objectives (+19%) and staff perceptions of Rate-Payer Satisfaction (+19%).