I Have to Ask You: Traits of a Strong Organization

Posted on August 28, 2017

In this series, guest columnists respond to one of three topics selected by ELGL co-founder Kent Wyatt. This week Roy Atkinson, City of Altoonia, Wisconsin – Management Analyst, responds.

By Roy Atkinson, ELGL ProfileLinkedIn and Twitter
When you are considering job opportunities in local government, what makes one organization more attractive than another?
This prompt takes me back to when I was job hunting fresh out of grad school. I remember stalking job opportunities, spiffing up my resume/cover letter and clicking the submit button with no idea what would happen next. When I applied to certain cities, I had a few standards that I held close. After interning for two different sized municipalities (one with 34,000 residents and the other 3,000), I had an idea about what type of City organization I wanted to work for. The pay and benefits are obviously important but aren’t the sole contributing factors to making a decision. In no particular order, the following are considerations that I believe make one organization more attractive than another.
Both financial and political. When doing research on a prospective employer, if I type the name of that employer into Google News and find that there is a high turnover of managers, there is a knack for controversy, or there are terrible self-inflicted financial struggles, the red red flags fly. Like most, I want to work for an organization that isn’t a roller coaster. I have heard too many horror stories in this profession to make that mistake overtly. I seek out stable organizations and will always do so.
Like-Minded Goals
When considering employment, I think it is important that a prospective organization have core goals that align with my own. You can gauge this by talking with those that you may work with during the interview process or by thumbing through comprehensive plan/budget documents. It is important for me to know that I am working for an organization that is committed towards achieving similar objectives as my own.
A Great Organizational Culture  
One of the first questions I wanted to ask during my interviews surrounded organizational culture. I have been a part of a siloed organization and I have also been apart of a dynamic tight-knit organization. From here on out, I want to be apart of a team that is family oriented, open/transparent, team-based, respectful, fair, etc. I am so happy I landed in Altoona because we have an amazing organization. It is one big family.
A Commitment to Professional Development
An organization that will encourage, as well as support my continued professional development, is an organization I want to work for. I don’t think that I could work for an organization that wouldn’t offer me opportunities for continued learning.
Positive Recommendations From Others in the Profession
A method that I have leaned on in the past and will continue to lean on in the future are recommendations by friends/colleagues that also work in the field. I’ve steered wide of employment opportunities before based on such suggestions. Advice is out there and for the taking.
Embracing Millennials
Believe it or not, being a millennial is not always the best thing. As a millennial (m-word), I feel that I have been periodically reminded throughout the years of the stigmas that are attached to young folk in the work force. I think it is important that any employer not make an issue of the fact that the next generation of employees is entering the workforce but instead embrace us. At this point, there is no other choice! I don’t think this is a huge issue most of the time.
Appearance of City Communications/Social Media Pages
People may find this humorous but I have an affinity for an organization that puts time and effort into their city communications. I have seen the extremes of city communications. An organization that takes the time to utilize social media, provide a nifty newsletter, and enthusiastically tell the story of their community is an organization that is more than likely putting their best foot forward. I am cautious when I see cities that aren’t proactively embracing communicative channels with/for their residents, though such deficiencies may signal a great onboarding project to get that organization with the times!
This is purely subjective. I am convinced I will always be a Midwesterner by choice.

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