It’s easy to agree that achieving great things for the community is essential for an organization. But what approach should leaders take to make it happen? HR Director Stacey Black tackled this question almost a decade ago, ultimately leading Southlake to implement Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement program. The engagement of Southlake’s workforce and business outcomes have been improving steadily since.
In fact, Southlake’s current engagement scores rank the organization in the top 25% of organizations worldwide according to Gallup, and the City continues to make strides toward creating a work environment that enhances workers’ ability to serve the community.
“We were looking to strengthen our workplace,” said Shana Yelverton, City Manager. “It’s important that employees have what they need to perform at the high level that is expected, and Gallup’s model has proven to be an invaluable tool for us. Stacey’s leadership in this program has been outstanding.”
Since 2013, the City has utilized the Gallup Q12 employee engagement survey to assess engagement and guide efforts to make Southlake a great place to work. Using ‘State of the Team’ meetings to understand the thoughts behind the survey numbers, action planning, implementation and evaluation, engagement initiatives have enhanced employee wellbeing, workplace experience, and overall performance.
“We chose this model because it’s a scientifically validated 12-item survey with proven links to performance outcomes,” explains Black. “Gallup administers this survey around the world to private, public, and non-profit organizations. Since the question wording was finalized in 1998, the survey has been administered to more than 30 million employees.”
Southlake’s numbers are impressive. In 2013, the City’s results placed Southlake in the 38th percentile of Gallup’s database of organizations. In 2015, the score improved placement to the 69th percentile. In 2017, Southlake moved to the 79th percentile.
The percentage of engaged employees has increased by 36% since 2013 and is significantly higher than the number of State employees and other local government workers in Texas.
“The success of improving our environment has resulted in great results, with double-digit improvements in key areas such as lost-time injuries, absenteeism, promotions, and technical performance,” said Yelverton. “Beyond the numbers, you can also see a difference in the people, in their outlook, and their work.”
A series of changes identified through the Q12 process have contributed to the City’s increased engagement. Improvements have been made to workspaces: equipment updates and process improvements to help employees work more effectively with less frustration. Departments work to build team relationships. Supervisors are trained to provide feedback and recognition for quality work. Leaders have been intentional in changing the culture, promoting positive relationships, celebrating strengths, and encouraging growth.
Black continues to look for ways to boost engagement and the workplace environment.
She recently formed a workgroup called “Making Better Best.” Their purpose is to identify initiatives to continuously improve the workplace experience. Using Q12 Survey results, turnover trends, exit interview data, workforce demographics, and Gallup research, volunteer employees who serve on the MBB team recommend then lead the implementation of these ideas.
“The work world is changing, and many traditional practices are no longer as effective as they once were. Fortunately, we have Stacey Black to help us evolve so that we continue to be an employer of choice in the future,” said Yelverton.
Black sums up program aspirations in this way. “We want to improve the workplace by focusing on engagement – creating a workplace where people come to work knowing what is expected of them, feeling connected, and working in an environment where they want to be. Focusing on engagement becomes a strategy for a great workplace, high-performance management, and better business outcomes.”
For the second year in a row, the City of Southlake has been recognized by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) for strong performance management.
The City was honored at the Certificate of Achievement level and is one of only six Texas cities to be recognized by ICMA for commitment to the principles of performance management and effective communication of performance data.
“This recognition is especially satisfying,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton. “It is a nod to the work we’ve done over many years to establish a strategic approach that is supported by data for better decision-making and performance excellence.”
The cities of Austin and San Antonio received certificates of excellence, while Dallas, Fort Worth and Farmers Branch were highlighted with certificates of distinction. Depending on the level of recognition, excellence being the highest, criteria include incorporation of data gathering and verification, public reporting, benchmarking, strategic planning, community surveying, staff development, dashboarding and continuous improvement, according to ICMA.
“As a small city, this approach can be somewhat challenging, but it is well worth the effort,” said Yelverton. “Our goal is to serve this community as well as we can, and we’re proud that the tools that we’ve put into place have strengthened our performance.”