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West Palm Beach sees improvements after citywide employee survey

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Jan 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-21 19:23:20-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Is the city of West Palm Beach a great place to work?

1,182 city employees answered that question, among others, in a citywide survey distributed for the second year in a row.

"The happier they are, the better service they deliver to the community," Mayor Jeri Muoio said.

In 2017, Muoio hired the company, Great Place To Work, for $40,000 to survey city employees. The survey included a variety of statements to agree or disagree with on topics, such as fairness and pride.

The city learned quite a bit from that initial survey.

"People felt like they weren’t getting the resources that they needed to do the job they had to do, and they felt like they weren’t having enough input in the decision making around the jobs that they’re doing," Muoio said.

Since then, the city put some changes in place based on the survey responses, including instituting project meetings with department heads, looking more at data and key improvement objectives, weekly newsletters for staff members, and evaluating salaries compared to other cities.

"At our water utility, we started something called two-way feedback where each supervisor sits with their employee and talks about things," Muoio said.

The biggest changes were made at the police department, where the feedback from employees in 2017 consistently ranked as the lowest among the departments, especially in regards to communication and equipment.

“I think the initial results kind of depicted the feel that you had throughout the department," West Palm Beach Police Chief Sarah Mooney said.

10-year-old computers at the police department got replaced, and there’s now a better schedule for upgrading police cars.

Chief Mooney said communication has strengthened within the department as well.

"When that was seen as a priority, immediately it started getting addressed," Chief Mooney said.

The city gave the same survey again in late 2018. About 200 more employees took it compared to 2017, including more police officers who still said a clear disparity exists between the police department and other city departments.

However, Chief Mooney believes some of the survey questions, which are usually used to evaluate corporate settings, aren't geared toward police.

"One of the questions is, do you work in a safe environment?" Chief Mooney said. "Well, that question for an administrative assistant is completely different than that for a police officer."

Overall, the police department's responses improved from 2017 to 2018. So did the city’s trust score, increasing five points from 56 to 61 points. The Great Place To Work threshold is 65 points.

"Five points and that’s highly unusual. It’s usually one to two points a year," Mayor Muoio said. "I was so excited to see the gains that we saw."

Muoio doesn't know if her predecessor will continue the surveys annually, but she hopes he or she does to continue to track progress and make improvements.