Gympie Regional Council’s honesty and openness was not only a popular target for criticism among the community, but within the council too.
Gympie Regional Council’s honesty and openness was not only a popular target for criticism among the community, but within the council too.

Staff survey reveals honesty an ongoing issue for council

A LACK of honesty and transparency may have become common complaints of the last council, but newly released internal staff surveys reveal these two issues have plagued the council internally for the past decade.

In 2012, 58 per cent of workers disagreed the council's communication was open and honest, compared to a meagre 18 per cent who said it was.

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By 2015, the number of staff unhappy with council's honesty and openness had dropped to 43 per cent, but it blew back out to 52 per cent in 2018.

Internal staff surveys have revealed a number of issues plagued the council over the past decade.
Internal staff surveys have revealed a number of issues plagued the council over the past decade.

A lack of recognition for doing a good job, processes that stalled the movement of good ideas, the council failing to work like a single unit, and no organisational cohesion were other legacy issues where dissatisfaction never dropped below 36 per cent, and no more than a third of workers agreed the council was doing these things well.

And although these improved between 2012-15, these gains may have been the result of diminishing returns.

In 2012, almost 90 per cent of staff members answered the survey questions.

New Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig tried to get the surveys released confidentially to councillors last year.
New Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig tried to get the surveys released confidentially to councillors last year.

By 2015, this response rate had plummeted to 70 per cent. This number ballooned back to 87 per cent in the 2018 survey - the same report in which most results took a backward step.

And although the ongoing frustrations with communication and honesty were the dominant topics, there were some areas where staff said the council shined.

Job satisfaction, employee engagement and satisfaction with direct managers and supervisors consistently scored highly from 2012-2015.

During this period more than two thirds of staff were motivated to go "beyond what is normally required" to get work done.

The number of council workers to respond to the surveys dwindled from 2012-2015, before a big jump in engagement in 2018. Photo Craig Warhurst / The Gympie Times
The number of council workers to respond to the surveys dwindled from 2012-2015, before a big jump in engagement in 2018. Photo Craig Warhurst / The Gympie Times

Co-operation was also popular; more than eight out of 10 workers said they were happy with it in the surveys conducted 2012-15.

Rumours of staff dissatisfaction have haunted the council in recent years, and several councillors - including new Mayor Glen Hartwig, and councillors Bob Fredman, Dan Stewart and Hilary Smerdon - tried to have information from the surveys released confidentially to councillors last year.

They narrowly lost the vote 4-5. The surveys were finally released by the council last week following a successful Right to Information request by The Gympie Times.