Exchanging Ideas and Engaging Employees

Posted on May 23, 2022

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Greg Anderson, Management Analyst & Grants Coordinator, for the City of O’Fallon, Illinois. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

What I’m reading: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune & Getting Past No by William Ury

One of the most prominent buzzwords that continues to trend in a “post-covid” world is organizational culture. Benefits, salary, policies, flexible scheduling – they are all under the microscope and if you are not taking a deeper look, someone in your organization is. Employees who feel that their employer cares about their wellbeing are more productive and more likely to be satisfied in their overall lives. People want to be happy and the work that they do should not put a restraint on that.

Comic strip on leadership and passing off work to others.

Cartoon from Dilbert by Scott Adams

We recently made organizational culture one of the top priorities in the City of O’Fallon. It has been an organic process thus far. The starting point has taken months of planning but that is completely okay. This process would not feel genuine should it have been rushed or forced upon our employees. Here are a few lessons that we have learned so far:

  • You need to know where you are to get to where you want to be. When we started building our plan to improve organizational culture, it was quickly realized that we needed a foundation to base our efforts. Earlier this year, the City launched our first annual employee engagement survey based off of the Gallup 12. The purpose of the survey was to collect input on the experiences of the City’s workforce. We utilized this particular format because research has confirmed a well-established connection between employee engagement and performance outcomes such as productivity, safety, absenteeism, quality, and turnover. Consistently measuring employee engagement, rather than satisfaction, help attracts and retain staff, improves the employee experience, and builds the capacity to better serve our community in measurable ways. The survey we used focused on the basic needs, individual needs, teamwork, and growth of our workforce.


  • Start giving employees a dedicated space and process to contribute their own ideas and feedback. In our initial stages of planning, we concurrently launched what we call the “O’Fallon Idea Exchange.” The idea exchange is a space where our staff can create, share, and submit their ideas to improve how we do business. The goal of the exchange is to empower our staff to share innovative ideas that improve efficiency, save time, save financial resources, better service our customers, or improve organizational culture. At first glance the idea exchange is another page on our intranet. However, the feedback we have received has been invaluable. We have invested in a better lighting system at City Hall to make visitors feel more welcome. Our EMS team now have LUCAS chest compression devices. City Hall staff now have a dedicated space to enjoy their lunch break outside. We even started a garden club and have planters for staff to grow fresh vegetables and fruit.


  • Create a vision and core values that actually reflects who you are, what you are doing, and where you want to be. Our organization recently completed an overhaul of our Strategic Plan and Master Plan. These documents outlined our mission of being a connected and caring community, but it was hard to buy-in to the idea that this would be meaningful to our staff. Our leadership team did a comprehensive review of survey results and created a vision statement and core values that will continue to be incorporated into each step in our cultural journey.

Culture can be complicated and difficult to change, but it has to start somewhere. Otherwise, the status quo can, and will, lead to a stagnant and potentially hostile environment. The journey of building, changing, or maintaining organizational culture will look different for everyone. Our approach is still fresh and continues forward. Our next steps include survey review sessions for all staff, leadership at all levels training, quarterly conversations, and a champions network for culture.

Good luck!

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