THE CACTUS SPEAKS: SeaTac Employee Survey is out and here are my thoughts…

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Earl Gipson is a view of SeaTac city government. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff. We are seeking additional regular columnists to reflect opinions and views of SeaTac residents. Those interested can e-mail us at [email protected].]

by Earl Gipson

The SeaTac Employee survey (conducted by the Metrus Group) results are now out and I have read through them. This survey is the first step of Process Improvement and should be recognized as such. The City cannot fix its internal problems until it knows where they are so this is a good thing even though quite a few areas don’t look so good right now. I will go into those in a bit.

This survey will be useless unless City management follows through with the next steps, which would be (my opinion):

  1. Where are the problems? The Survey provided this. While I would have asked different questions or in a different way Metrus did a good/thorough job without stomping on peoples toes. I may have been more willing to do so. This is another advantage of having a disinterested party conducting the survey.
  2. Plan and Prioritize. Which items are most inefficient and will provide the greatest benefit initially? What actions/policies/procedures need to be implemented to achieve those benefits (i.e. Action Plan)?
  3. Implement action plan. It has been my experience that this is where most companies/organizations fall down. The Action Plan/s sits on a shelf and collects dust. Managers/employees lack the wherewithal or desire to change. Many fear the cure will be worse than the disease. It is a question of leadership if the Plan/s are implemented.
  4. Re-Measurement and adjustment. This is where you check the results of Action Plan/s. It could be by doing another survey in a year or two or on a case by case basis. This is the value of keeping the Metrus Group involved so we are not asking different questions and the results cannot be skewed by those implementing the Plans.

Okay, let’s look at some survey results. The survey is 33 pages of data (and actual employee comments). I won’t go into all of them just-some highlights (lowlights if you will) and these are my interpretations.

Human Resources is almost universally despised. This is not unusual but not to the extent shown in SeaTac. This attitude goes back 30 years when HR became an arm of legal/management versus helping an employee. If you have a problem with management get a lawyer instead of talking with HR (or find another job). The $17K annual increase to the Director did not help I’m sure.

City Manager’s office had continuously low marks in areas that are their sole responsibility. Lots of consensus in that the rules do not apply to everyone on the SeaTac Staff or even to some Citizens. One employee comment that especially stuck out is that the City Manager himself has a grudge against a particular property owner and it is implied that it has driven some decisions (Park N’ Fly rules as of late). Some Council members also (from observation) hold this grudge. Many of us Citizens and businesses have been aware of this and it goes back quite a few years. We now know the employees are well aware of this also and that needs to stop NOW or the City Manager needs to find another place of employment.

Community and Economic Development also received continuously low ratings. There is probably some residual negativity from the re-organization a couple of year back but we have new management in place now so these new individuals have a great opportunity knowing the issues in advance.

This is all I will write about for now. Those that have the survey please weigh in on your interpretations. I do want to thank the employees for their candor and should you experience any retaliation, I and other SeaTac Citizen’s will stand by you. To SeaTac Management I say this: it was a bold step to take on this self-improvement endeavor and have some dirty laundry out there. Let’s not waste this opportunity. Let’s set an example for other Cities that things can change for the better. Canada’s comedian Red Green has the man’s prayer. “I’m a man, I can change, if I have to, I guess.” Just put Manager in the place of “man.” :- )

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