Promote Core Practices and Behaviors, Not Just Values

When you diagnosed your culture, you identified practices and behaviors that contribute to your goals, and which are detracting. Create an awareness campaign for core practices and behaviors you want to see more of, highlighting how small but significant changes in behavior signal a shift in the right direction. For example, Chicago food inspectors are reducing food-borne illness by using data to identify high-risk restaurants for prioritized inspection. Celebrating their success internally is creating healthy competition inside the health department and signals that data-driven behaviors get rewarded.

Find employees and programs, like the food inspectors, who are already exhibiting the desired practices and behaviors every day. Leverage them to teach and train your team on what success looks like when model behaviors are implemented. Focus on middle managers, who make and break culture. Give them direct feedback on specific opportunities to exhibit model behaviors. At the end of the day, employees change the culture more than the leaders, so leaders should acknowledge their own vulnerability, admitting they don’t always exhibit model behaviors but are willing to change themselves.

Communicating Success to Employees

Even though employers and employees may differ in their personal definitions of success, there is general agreement that success is an important organizational value. The first step in getting on the same page about success is determining what success looks like to each group. Organizations commonly measure success by how well they have achieved their objectives or accomplished their mission. How do employees know if they are on the right path to the right destinations? How do they know their approaches are achieving results? This is where and when communication becomes important to engage employees, accelerating progress and productivity. A great organization will inform its employees about the progress it is making towards its goals. It will recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of its workers, and create opportunities to promote future success of its employees. If employers communicate with employees regularly and in an effective manner, employees are much more engaged and are incentivized to approach work with positive spirits and attitudes. This is true for all employees regardless of where they work and their type of work. Whether they are working for private companies, government entities, or not-for-profit organizations, they care about success, incentives, and recognition. Cities can communicate successes to their employees in a variety of ways:

  • Recognizing Achievements
  • Rewarding Accomplishments
  • Documenting Success Stories
  • Acknowledging Contributions
  • Saying Thank You and Offering Praise for Excellent Service
  • Providing Opportunities for Advancement

Recognizing Achievements

Invariably, employees everywhere respond positively to sincere recognition for a job well done. Let city employees know what they are doing well. Let them know their contributions are valued and recognize the important role they play in the city’s administration. Genuinely acknowledge employees’ extraordinary achievements by recognizing and celebrating their accomplishments. For instance, Denver has an employee recognition program that recognizes individuals and teams that exemplify “STARS” (Service, Teamwork, Accountability, Respect and Safety) values. This program celebrates employees who supported practices that deliver a world class city by achieving one or more of the city's goals.

Instead of remarking “well done” or “good job,” communicate specifically what employees have accomplished to merit the recognitions. For example, the human resources department of City of Daly, California initiated the “You are a star award” that recognizes employees for:

  • performances that enhance efficiency and effectiveness of their departments
  • going above and beyond their job descriptions to contribute to community service and development
  • providing outstanding achievements over time
  • exceptional participation in teams, special projects, and committees

A committee made up of employees representing various departments reviews nominations from coworkers and selects deserving awardees for public recognition. Awards range from a plaque, or write-up in the city’s employee newsletter (the Foghorn), to recognition at the city council meeting.

Rewarding Accomplishments

Practitioners of performance management believe that “what gets measured gets done,” similarly, “what gets rewarded gets repeated.” This means that people are likely to do more of what they can accomplish if they are rewarded for it. This motivates others to replicate behaviors that lead to rewards. In essence, you get more of the behavior you reward. When building a rewards program, think about the various stakeholder groups you are targeting and what could best motivate them. Reward employees who surpass expectations with meaningful benefits and incentive packages.

People are motivated by different things: money, career improvement opportunities, time off, promotions. A reward can be “free” or cost a city a few dollars depending on the city’s budget and any legal constraints. The important part is connecting the reward to the employee’s motivations and celebrating accomplishments. The city of Flagstaff, Arizona has multiple award systems that reward hardworking employees with the following:

  1. Unique name tag
  2. Engraved award
  3. Monetary award
  4. Day off and paid vacation
  5. Promotion
  6. One-time bonus up to $500 or a quality step increase for group awards
  7. Choosing item from a catalogue for 10-35 years every five years.

    Documenting Success Stories

Documenting success stories shows how the city is making a difference in the lives of its residents. Not only does telling stories about the positive changes the city is making reinforce public trust and confidence, but also it is an important way of communicating to employees that their efforts are making a positive difference. It is a powerful way to demonstrate to the public and stakeholders the value of the city administration to residents. There are a variety of ways to document success stories that could inspire both current and future employees to give off their best, including internal publication platforms such as magazines, newsletters, city’s website, videos, podcasts, etc. Pick the method that most suitably tells the city’s success stories to the public and employees as well.

One of the ways Louisville, KY tells its success stories is by sharing the testimonials of their clients on its website. This provides a meaningful feedback to employees that their work are making impact and residents are appreciative.

Acknowledging Coworkers’ Contributions

Coworkers are likely to identify the outstanding contributions of their peers which could otherwise be missed by managers. Coworkers spend more time with each other, know each other’s strengths, work products, and accomplishments. Celebrating the accomplishments of their peers is one meaningful way to inspire coworkers and help create a thriving, innovative. and productive work environment.

The city of Murfreesboro, TN, STARS Employee Recognition Program allows employees to nominate their peers for awards. Research has shown that recognition from peers promotes respect, boost morale and improves productivity.

Saying Thank You and Offering Praise for Excellent Service

Saying “thank you” to employees for work done well is a powerful validation of their efforts and an effective reward and recognition tool. Verbally and publicly praise employees for their contributions to achieving the goals of their departments. As part of its employee recognition program, the city of Modesto, CA verbally recognizes the achievements of employees in front of the Mayor and other staff. Praising employees publicly in the full view of their colleagues not only makes them feel proud about their achievements, but it also demonstrates to other people that hard work and good performance are both visible and appreciated.

Providing Opportunities for Advancement

Professional advancement is one of the most important elements for employee satisfaction. Recognizing the employees’ achievements by providing them with opportunities to advance their careers is a great way of motivating them. Advancement opportunities may include promotions, educational opportunities, tuition reimbursement, training courses, professional development programs, etc.

Employees want to know what they are doing right,recognizing their work is an effective way of communicating success. An effective recognition is specific, sincere, immediate, and meaningful. For instance, the city of Oak Point immediate recognition award as part of its employee recognition program rewards employees based upon their exceptional contribution to exceptional customer service, increased morale in workplace, job performance and community development.

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