This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate
CROMWELL — The results of an independent, months-long municipal employee climate and culture survey, with the goal of assessing if the town is an “employer of choice” and organization striving for “community excellence,” has identified 22 areas that need improvement.
Sondra Hathaway, a consultant from BerryDunn of Maine presented the findings in a 38-page report to the public during a special meeting July 18.
Both residents and town officials have been eagerly awaiting the results of the anonymous survey.
This is the first time in town history that such a project has been undertaken, Common Councilman James Demetriades has said.
The report was delivered to a room packed with town workers and members of the public, he said Friday.
"All of BerryDunn's findings, even when they were not super positive, even when they were kind of ugly, are included in the report," Hathaway said. "It has not been sanitized, it has not been scrubbed …”
The overarching goal of the assessment, Hathaway said, was to "assure that the town's culture, environment, policy, practices, values, norms and performance are aligned with its mission to be an employer of choice and an organization achieving community excellence."
"The question is 'does it?' and the answer is 'not yet,'" she added.
“That is what this report gives us the blueprint for,” mayoral candidate Demetriades said Friday.
“We have a lot of work to do to create a professional, respectful work environment," added Demetriades, who is running against Mayor Steve Fortenbach in November.
Overall, survey responses reflect an average of 37 percent positive sentiments, while 14 percent were neutral, and 17 percent had negative reviews, according to the assessment. An average of 31 percent of employees did not respond to some or all of the questions.
“If you look at the neutral (14 percent) and did not answer (31 percent), that’s pretty significant,” Town Manager Anthony Salvatore said Friday. “The ultimate goal is to do a good job, and, ultimately, for the people we serve."
“The report identified a number of places where we are not operating in a manner that instills confidence in our employees, and where the expectations are not clearly set out,” Demetriades said, pointing to study findings, including job descriptions, employee handbook, access to information and equitable treatment. “Those are all things that we need to modernize and work on.”
The council recently approved the handbook, but it remains to be given out, along with education on its contents, Demetriades said: “One step forward, two steps back.”
The consultant said several initiatives have been implemented, the councilman added. “We’re not going to say it’s all doom and gloom, but there’s a lot of work there.”
"Our job was to examine the shared values, beliefs, behaviors and norms" in Cromwell, Hathaway said. "Culture matters. It impacts the way a town can function. If an organization's culture discourages risk taking, experimentation and new ideas, it can stifle innovation, but it doesn't stop there.”
That may result in employees not feeling confident enough to suggest ideas or believe they may be discouraged from doing so, Hathaway said.
"There is a perception that not enough people are involved in making the decisions about what gets budgeted, whether or not I can make a case to have a certain expense, whether I can approach the council and explain why I'm asking for certain budgets," Hathaway said.
The council eliminated the human resources director position about eight years ago, and the town hired an “excellent” human resource generalist about six years ago, who works between 20 and 25 hours a week, Salvatore said. Also, both one of his executive assistants and the senior executive assistant help with duties.
Many of the findings are already being acted upon, he added. “A lot of them have been done, some of them are in the works, and others are spelled out in the town charter,” such as the budget process.
The up-to-date handbook, which was recently accepted by the council, will soon be distributed to workers, Salvatore said.
The need for a full-time IT director was also identified. The town retains a firm that performs some of these technology duties, and there is a person on site Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the town manager said. “We’ll maybe look at expanding it to every day."
"This is like 1950 all over again," Councilwoman Paula Luna said, referring to the need for a handbook, job descriptions, and head of HR. That would allow "Tony to back out of all these decisions that he shouldn't be making. And an IT person — absolutely," Luna added.
"We have a ways to go as a town, as a leadership," Councilor Jack Henehan said.
When town employees examine the results, Councilman Al Waters said at the meeting, "they're not going to be very happy at all. ... I'm astonished by what I see here. I think our phones are going to be ringing off the wall," he added, referring to town leaders.
“There are always going to be minor disagreements, and sometimes management and employees aren’t going to see eye to eye, but they need to feel respected, feel part of the team, safe collaborating and those are the things we need to do as a council to reset the tone,” Demetriades said.
“Overall, based on the assessment surveys, the report says we’re doing a pretty good job,” Salvatore said, “with definitely some changes to be made, and we’re looking at that, but overall our employees are doing an outstanding job.
“We want to make employees comfortable and want to work here. We want people that want to come here to work — that’s everybody’s goal,” the town manager said.
“We hired an outside consultant so she’d be honest with us that we do have significant challenges, but, just because you have challenges and you need to face them, doesn’t mean you’re being negative. It means you’re being realistic,” Demetriades said.
“We have a lot of trust to rebuild with our employees, and we need to make sure they feel valued and listened to, and we can get there," he added.
"... I think having your assistance in developing a cohesive mission statement with all the different disciplines within the town ... tells us what we're about, and becomes the gold star on the front of the page that says this is what we're about," Mayor Steve Fortenbach told Hathaway.
To read the full report, visit cromwellct.com.