Common Council held a special meeting on Jan. 15 to discuss the results of a citywide employee engagement survey conducted last year. The survey asked a series of questions about employees' thoughts across eight categories ranging from customer service to the overall work environment. It also examined some of the elements of the city government that need improvements.
Some of the key themes throughout the study were that employees saw customer service and diversity/inclusion in the workplace as points of pride. However, respondents did perceive there is a disconnect between city staff and city leadership, with plenty of opportunities to improve trust in the Common Council. The Council will be looking to make sure some of the suggestions made to keep that disconnect from continuing. Other focus areas are having accountability on all levels of city government, compensation, and increased opportunities for professional and employee development.
Michelle Ferguson of the Novak Consulting Group briefed the Council on the results. In a series of open-ended questions, city employees were asked about some of the things the city does well. Most employees responded by saying the staff was responsive and resourceful and had high standards. Negative perceptions were found in budgeting practices and interactions between staff. Employees were asked to list departments that perform quality services in this regard, to which a majority of people named the Department of Public Works, Economic Development and the Planning Department. Of 405 city employees, 315 responded to the survey questions.
Employees were also asked to name three departments whose work impressed them. The top three departments named were the Department of Public Works, the Ithaca Police and Ithaca Fire Departments. When asked what were some of the most significant challenges facing the city, a majority of employees said aging infrastructure such as roads and city-owned facilities. Others said the role of politics in City operations, a need to establish service level expectations, and budget constraints such as having limited resources and tax base.