Beyond Navel-Gazing

The Value of External Employee Engagement Benchmarks in Local Government

What do snowflakes, fingerprints, and local governments have in common? Their uniqueness; not a single one is alike. In 2012 (the last census of governments) 89,004 local governments existed in the United States.  By 2015, close to 11 million people were full-time local government employees earning more than 49.5 billion dollars between them. Thanks to empirical evidence and scholarly studies we know employee engagement influences retention and absenteeism rates, performance and bottom line efficiencies.  Employee engagement survey companies have reams of sector-specific employee engagement benchmarks that back this up. “Sure,” you say, “benchmarks are all well and good when you’re comparing apples to apples.  But local government to local government? Uh uh, not applicable. Not when uniqueness is the defining characteristic of this sector.”

employee engagement benchmarks

Yes, many rural counties cover vast areas with small populations while major metropolitan areas in the U.S. often consists of several counties, several dozen towns or cities, and a hundred (or more) special districts. Some oversee all public sectors; accountable for fire and police protection, sewage service, public transit, public libraries and water resource management. For others, those responsibilities may fall to a consolidated city-county jurisdiction. Some operate in silos. Some share resources. Some have large or multiple HR divisions. Some operate with skeletal staff.

Strip away these differences, though, and the fundamental factors that motivate and engage employees remain at the core. Granted challenges are mightier in major metropolises. Nonetheless, regardless of size or geography, all local governments jump through hoops to get approval to spend taxpayer dollars. Justifying an employee engagement survey may be a harder sell than usual. But you need to start somewhere to keep a leg up on your competition – especially when it comes to the workforce market. Do-it-yourself employee surveys can be revealing (though their reliability is questionable if employees don’t answer honestly because of confidentiality concerns). And internal benchmarks are often your best benchmarks, measuring changes from one survey to the next. What’s important, however, is external benchmarks available from 3rd party employee engagement survey companies broaden the focus beyond internal navel-gazing. They let you see everyone else’s performance – distinct from yours – so you can compare.

How so? Well, what if you have low turnover. That’s a good thing, right?  Not necessarily. You might want to take a closer look at what that high retention rate really means. Are you keeping people you don’t want to keep? People with elevated levels of disengagement who are sticking around because of union benefits, holding out for a golden handshake, or biding their time until their pension kicks in? That’s where comparing your organization’s employee engagement scores against those of others starts to bring bigger picture clarity to issues that may not have even been on the radar.  Your overall retention might be high because of an older workforce. But what will you do when they retire and it comes time to replace them?  Those enticing salaries your local government offered in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s are a thing of the past. Nowadays there’s a lot of Republican-style pressure to cut taxes. Budgets are being squeezed so much so that some unions are bargaining away benefits of future employees to retain the best interests of current members. How are you going to compete for highly expectant millennials when their numbers are in short supply and your competitive advantage has flown the coop with cutbacks?

And that’s just “one” example of how tapping into external benchmarks can make a difference.

Having conducted thousands of different surveys in every type of organization across North America, TalentMap offers you the employee engagement benchmarks, insights, and experiences of those organizations alongside a deep understanding of local government nuances, drivers, and next-step actions.

TalentMap has a comprehensive local government employee engagement bencharks

Find out how you can use this data to improve employee engagement in your organization

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