Council staff ‘struggling under pressure’

Council staff are not happy (click to enlarge)

Redland City Council is in the spot marked ‘A’ (click to enlarge)

Employee feedback surveys suggest that staff are not happy at Redland City Council.

The Council has been an organisation “struggling under pressure” for the past two years according to consulting firm Accenture. This puts Council in Accenture’s ‘unsustainable’ zone.

Issues highlighted in Accenture’s 2014 summary report include:

  • There has been a significant drop in understanding and agreement to the Vision and Direction.
  • Confidence and trust in the leadership of the immediate boss and the Group Manager has improved, while that of the Executive Group has dropped.
  • Communication has improved significantly, as has Emotional Energy. These improvements need to be sustained. However, written comments suggest that frequent changes taking place are resulting in confusion among the employees.
  • 50% of the respondents believe that Business Performance has improved – which is 7% higher than the previous cycle. 23% feel it has remained the same, while 27% believe it has become worse now.

Who’s happy and who’s not?

Redland City Council offices

Redland City Council offices

It appears that Council’s senior bureacrats are feeling a lot happier than the workers. Using Accenture’s terminology, the Senior Managers are ‘Cruising” while most of the workforce are in either ‘Struggling under pressure ‘ or “Just get on with it” modes.

There are also 24 confused people who are unsure of their employment status. They must be doing better than most because it seems that they are “Sleepy with success’.

Individual comments

Unfortunately, the Council has withheld the pages from Accenture’s summary report which included “sample written comments”. These might have helped us to understand what Council staff really think about their organisation and its leadership.

CEO Bill Lyon

CEO Bill Lyon

It is understood that a lack of trust with CEO Bill Lyon was a theme that featured among the many individual comments provided by Council staff. Other individual comments dealt with:

  • a lack of vision and direction
  • concerns about job security
  • the impact of reduced resources on workload

 Council’s ‘change agenda’

The Council’s 2012-13 Annual Report said that to support its ‘significant change agenda’

…the development of a survey has commenced to specifically measure, track and monitor how well Council manages change. This information will be used to deliver new ways of working to address identified issues and opportunities for improvement.

Since then Accenture has conducted two employee feedback surveys for Council. Summary reports, obtained through a Right to Information request, are now available here:

Redland City Council Strategic Analysis June 2014

Redland City Council Strategic Analysis October 2013

The change agenda does not seem to be progressing very successfully, from the perspective of more than 800 Council staff who participated in the 2014 survey.

So what needs fixing? Has the ‘significant change agenda’ not been well thought out? Or is it not being well implemented?

The Council staff probably know the answers to these questions but are the Mayor, Councillors with portfolios and the CEO listening?

Who is Accenture?

About-Accenture-SignAccenture is a large multinational consulting firm. In fact it claims to be the worlds largest firm as measured by revenue earned. Redland City ratepayers have helped them get a little bit bigger.


Redlands2030 – 24 October 2014


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7 thoughts on “Council staff ‘struggling under pressure’

  1. The problem is clear if you need to hire a consulting team to study ‘emotional energy’ you have lost the plot. The executive is far to isolated from the staff. The officers are people not units.
    Of course the staff are fearful of losing their jobs being units of production are anonymous expendables.
    From a practical perspective the idea of a customer service centre handling complicated requirements is ludicrous. The customer service staff understand the system but not the requirements of the decision makers.
    I have recently tried to get approvals for simple kit extensions. But when explaining the needs of the departments who make the decisions. In effect it’s like getting detailed technical help from a part-timer in Kmart….. reading the back of the packet to me.

  2. I take on board your comments Examinator, but from working in local government for 18 years and meeting councillors all over Qld, a good education of not a top priority, if a councillor has good common sense, the ability to have an overall knowledge of the workings of Council and most importantly has community spirit and understands the needs of their residents then that is a great start. Firstly Mayor Williams is not a teacher but was a florist, I have known quite intelligent well educatored councillors who have no common sense, what a nightmare. Councillors should have basic knowledge of all things local government but employ professional council officers which specific knowledge in all types of areas, especially finance, planning and engineering and they should be able to give good honest ethical advise to the elected members. There has to be trust between councillors and staff, that they are all working in the best interest of the ratepayers. I have to say that some staff will only write what they think council wants to hear, a disgrace in my opinion. All advise should be well informed and honest, let the debate be had on the floor of Council and if the elected members don’t agree then it is on their shoulders, they must be accountable, if staff just become lap dogs they are best elsewhere, a liability to the council and the ratepayers.
    Redlands council history for some elected members is not who you know but how much is put into the campaign fund from whom. I suggest people read the report on John Burns and why he was not at work for 3 months on suspension, sadly he was paid a full pay. Another shameful outcome, he should have been sacked

  3. I would have to say that if senior management need to hire a consulting firm to run surveys on things like “emotional energy” then it is they who have lost the plot.
    If your staff are fearful of losing their jobs then it’s clear as crystal that they don’t identify (ownership)with the organization or its goals.
    In my mind the city has built a gap larger than the two floors elevation between the doers, the residents and the ivory tower gnomes. Including the councillors and the hopeless leader(sic) mayor

    The customer service staff are trained in how to fill out forms not help the residents get something done. Often their help is no more than reading out the turgid instructions on the said forms. While this patronises the public it must frustrate the staff in the meaningless nature of what they do. They are functionly little more that casual staff in Coles…. try getting answers to something not on the packet/form.
    Most are intelligent people and both want and need to feel that they offer more/personal achievement than the 1950’s process factory worker.
    The same can be said for the dumbing down of jobs for the doers in the field.
    Current management is obsessed with WE are the smart and the rest are plebs there to do what we say.
    ( welcome back to the past and work study timings Durkheim etc) In short the workers are expendable units not people with needs and aspirations.
    The mayor and her coterie of councillor supporters are lost in an ideological fog of business/ growth and efficiency are God.
    What they fail to understand is that Redland city is NOT corporate with an elite stock holders demanding a bigger profit dividend. The City is a service provider to its residents not necessarily a host to businesses to feed off it.
    one needs only to look at the environment (al) sensitivity ( a suitable place to raise a family or retire). What it isn’t in the minds of most people is a place where development runs unchecked or is a big quarry
    In short the objective is very different and not surprisingly neither are the objectives of their ordinary staff.

    • Oh so true
      Many staff I casually come in contact with tell me the place is not the same, everyone is frightened of losing their jobs, especially when Council makes poor decisions especially if that is not what is in the best interest of the community. Only 2 building inspectors left and senior plumbing inspector sacked so the call centre staff are expected to be experts in everything, sadly 85% of staff are Redlands residents and are sickened by what they see happening in Council. Developers getting discounts, all at the cost of the ratepayers, departments once doing long term planning being either staff transferred or sacked. $1.6 million being set aside for incentives for developers in Cleveland CBD, when that didn’t happen transferred that money into incentives for tourism but at the same time Council sacked the Manager of Tourism. Business is struggling and the one person in contact with many Redland businesses had her contact cancelled. I recall a senior person in LGAQ told me one that employing a CEO who had no idea how Local Government works is a recipe for disaster.
      The latest disgrace is the decision regarding Woodlands Drive/Taylor Road development and the fact that the owners of these properties were well aware that the land was not zoned for development, but they were very vocal supporters of Mayor Williams and Cr Talty, so there lies the problem or opportunity for some. Whilst Cr Beard used his casting vote he also benefited from the work of these owners as he was also part of the Williams team who got great support, some would call it a conflict of interest

      • Einstein once said that a definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing…expecting a different result.
        To me the problem is that we just don’t learn from history. Employing (voting for) Councillors, mayors who don’t have appropriate education or skill sets is as disastrous as CEO/board members who don’t know how LG works.
        It is a fact that people tend to stick in their comfort zones and resist loudly and aggressively any move away from that myopic script. The more limited the background , experience, knowledge base, skill sets the more limited is the outlook.
        It seems that Redland political history is based on the fallacy it’s not what you know but who you know.
        In fact historical research shows that the Redlands has been a longtime hotbed of nepotism, cronyism , patronism and land owning political dynasties.
        On a strictly competence Ms Talty is a teacher and nothing more she may be Brilliant at that but at being objective and even handed with benefits for the ratepayers? Her extra background is that she is the daughter of the just legal ex Councillor Burns. He claims to have been a “chippy” before his time on Cr and a millionaire after he left.
        I don’t believe that life skills are transmitted genetically nor does it migrate on the marital pillow
        Ms Williams also a teacher/ex country singer and from landed. Her political indoctrination was under the tutelage of perhaps the most polarising and divisive mayor in the last 30 years. I have written before about her lack of real technical skills and how her ideology misguided her into a silly conclusion.
        What is very telling about the rise and fall of ex Cr Dowling ( a failed oil sales manager) is how his Brother in law ( a failed manager)was anointed and presented to the back room king makers to take over Dowling’s Council Div 4 seat.
        For some time Dowling’s sister and husband have been raising her council profile amongst Div 4 voters….is he planning to become Mr Redlands and her the replacement Cr.
        If that is their plan do the branch members know of the candidates common traits?
        There are other Church and Landed associations on council but the public doesn’t know .
        I am a firm believer in competence/ appropriate experience and integrity trump all the isms above. Not to mention that of being rich, landed or stooges of anti/ indifference community myopic land development

  4. Of course the Executive staff are happy! The Fat Cats of the Council are being paid obscene amounts of salary. If they were paid by productivity and professionalism they wouldn’t be happy black ducks any more!

    Their salaries would plummet!

  5. I believe that most council employee’s are silent because of fear of losing their Jobs and a lot of them are unhappy.

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