Customer Success Story

Chestermere Steps Up Employee Engagement with TalentMap

employee engagement at the city of chestermere

Once a small lakeside summer village, the City of Chestermere has evolved to become a dynamic recreational oasis in Canada’s west.

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As one of the fastest growing municipalities in Alberta, it saw 105 percent growth between 2006 and 2016. The City’s current population of 20,331 is projected to more than double, reaching 50,000 over the next 20 years. Amidst all this growth and change comes continued pressure from the community; a workforce of 149.2 full-time equivalent municipal employees bears the brunt of the burden.

A Pressure Cooker of Disengagement

When Cathleen Peter-Swart joined the City in 2014 as HR Manager (she is now the Assistant Director and Interim Director of Corporate Services), employee turnover was extremely high and morale was at an obvious low. “Everywhere you went you could see people weren’t happy to be at work, you could see it in their demeanor,” she recollects. The City had introduced a complete reorganization that wasn’t managed well. Employees were affected across all levels.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Cathleen decided it was time for an employee engagement survey and spearheaded the City’s first. People wanted to talk. They wanted to be heard. Chestermere’s first employee engagement survey drew an 85.6 percent participation rate. The overall engagement score was a tellingly low 27 percent. Communication and feedback ranked especially low.

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To understand more clearly what was going on and why, the City held world cafés. Every employee participated. “We set up a room of tables and at each table set out a series of questions specific to different themes,” explains Cathleen. “People rotated from one table to the next; a member of the group would take notes, preserving anonymity in the process.“

From that exercise, the City formed staff committees to develop recommendations for the senior leadership team. All but one of the recommendations were accepted as part of the City’s improvement strategy.

The City rolled out its next survey in early 2016. This brief pulse survey drew an 86.7 percent participation rate and showed engagement rise to 57 percent.

Survey for Survey's Sake or For Engagement Insights?

Chestermere had used a local survey vendor for its first and second surveys but shifted to TalentMap for its third. The ability to compare results against an extensive library of municipalities in TalentMap’s database was compelling and Cathleen really liked the ability to be able do the reporting in-house.

With TalentMap on side, the timeframe from start to finish “was quick and impressive.” The City signed mid-February 2017. TalentMap worked on mapping questions with the municipality’s previous employee engagement surveys. By mid-March the survey launched with a three-week period for completion — garnering a 92 percent response rate. Detailed results came a month and a bit later with a final presentation in May. The City’s overall engagement score was 73 percent, a remarkable 207 percent increase since its foray into employee engagement less than three years earlier.

TalentMap knows exactly what they’re talking about. They have deep knowledge around HR and engagement. It’s not just another survey exercise, it’s about engagement: what our drivers are based on our results and where we should focus.

This shift is huge. Morale is vastly improved. The City is brimming with people craving to be creative and innovative, to have the authority to go out and do something meaningful, and to be trusted and empowered.

In year one, Chestermere took steps to address weaker performing areas such as work/life balance, communication, and feedback. Year two, three, and beyond have concentrated on an organizational culture initiative called Create Amazing. This initiative includes focusing on areas such as recognition, interdepartmental collaboration, teams and teamwork, creativity and innovation, as well as a LEAN culture.

“What I really love about TalentMap is how they analyze drivers of engagement using data and analytics and that their engagement driver analysis focuses our improvement efforts on drivers that are critical to engagement in our organization. The natural inclination is to focus all your improvement efforts on the areas with the lowest results in order to improve engagement but if we do that, then we may not be focusing on the drivers that our employees have shown are important to them and their engagement. It does not mean that we should not focus on underperforming areas but we should be more deliberate in focusing on the drivers that are critical to engagement here at the City,” says Cathleen.

In the not-to-distant future, Chestermere is heading into municipal elections. It’s not improbable that a new Council could bring about changes in municipal policies and directions. What Cathleen intends to do is calm the waters and prepare by following next-step suggestions from TalentMap’s experts.

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