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Engagement Lags for City and State Workforce

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Thu Jul 06 2017

Engagement Lags for City and State Workforce
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Less than a third (29 percent) of full-time local and state government workers are engaged at work. That’s according to Gallup's latest State of Local and State Government Workers' Engagement in the U.S report. That means 71 percent of full-time state and local government workers are unhappy or disengaged with their jobs. This mirrors engagement for government workers at the federal level. (Among the U.S. workforce overall, 33 percent of employees are currently engaged in their jobs.) 

Gallup finds that disengaged employees may meet their job expectations, but they do not expend discretionary energy or feel passion for their work. What’s more, Gallup estimates that a lack of engagement among government employees costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $18 billion per year. 

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“This creates a missed opportunity for city administrators to drive innovation and move their communities forward,” say Justin Bibb, a senior adviser at Gallup, and Steven Bosacker, the director of Public Sector Innovation at Living Cities, in a recent blog post on the Gallup website. 

Indeed, amid a backdrop of budget cuts and rising citizen demands, cities that want to deliver on their promises to provide high-quality services will need to find better ways to make government run more effectively. And engaged employees is a key element for success. 

So what does that mean? Common drivers of high employee engagement include frequently praising and recognizing employees' accomplishments, offering personal and career development opportunities, incorporating employees' ideas, and connecting workers' tasks to overall city goals. 

Gallup reports that many cities attempt to measure and increase their employees' engagement and commitment to doing good work through regular employee surveys, often juxtaposed with equally important resident surveys to understand key issues of public concern. “Gathering such information about what motivates and activates civil servants isn't just cost-effective—it's also smart,” say Bibb and Bosacker. 

There is some good news, though. For example, the City of San Antonio offers employees a series of training and mentoring programs, and recently created a dedicated "employee engagement coordinator" position to keep these values front and center. 

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“The key requirement, though, will be to exercise the courage and the vision to intentionally create a highly engaged culture in every corner of city government,” conclude Bibb and Bosacker.

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