Key West city employees recently rated their workplace morale as they do Amazon products, on a scale of 1 to 5. 

Overall morale among city workers scored a lackluster 2.6, according to the 2021 Key West Employee Survey conducted by consultant Elisa Levy as part of the city’s ongoing strategic planning process.

The most prevalent need cited by employees was better compensation. “Only 35% of employees feel fairly compensated for the work they do, and 89% report that they cannot afford to live comfortably on their salaries,” the survey report states, meaning, “Only 11% of respondents feel they earn a livable wage.”

After compensation, communication from the city commission and city manager was the primary need cited by employees, the survey found.

“Only 26% feel well informed about decisions within the city, and 13% and 29% respectively feel that the city commission and city leadership (city manager) consider their input,” Levy’s executive summary states.

The anonymous, 44-question survey was sent to 427 employees and 266, or 63%, completed it. It asked employees about job satisfaction, compensation, institutional culture and leadership. The survey asked, but did not require, employees to identify the department in which they work.

According to the survey, job satisfaction scored high, with a vast majority of workers — 71% of respondents — saying they enjoy their job. And employee turnover is relatively low — 10% in 2020 and an average of 14% in prior years. A majority of respondents also indicated they feel proud to work for the city, and most feel supported by their immediate supervisors and department heads, the results show.

“Despite this good news, morale is surprisingly low,” the summary states. “…While an increase in staffing and compensation will definitely help, these things alone will not solve the morale problem. There is undoubtedly a need for improved topdown and inter-departmental communication, along with efforts to acknowledge, listen to and recognize employees for their work. These efforts do not require a major overhaul of organizational systems; they can be done simply by putting consistent and systematic measures in place.”

City commissioners received the survey results on Friday, March 18,  and will likely discuss them at the March 31 commission meeting. 

“The results of the employee survey are very informative and important for city leadership moving forward,” City Commissioner Sam Kaufman told the Keys Weekly on Saturday evening, March 20. “Although not surprising, myself and others are concerned that such a small percentage of employees report that they can afford to live in Key West. I expect these results to be emphasized during the upcoming budget process beginning in April. We need to address salaries for our employees so they are fair and competitive with other government agencies and the private sector.

Kaufman added, “We have exceptionally strong employees and managers across the board in all city departments. We need to retain our employees and continue to build the leadership from within each department.”

Also on the agenda for the March 31 meeting is a discussion of the selection process for a city manager to replace City Manager Greg Veliz, who has accepted a job with the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority

“We as a commission need to select the next city manager who will be sure to prioritize retention and morale of city employees,” Kaufman said. “Without our employees, we can’t successfully serve the residents and visitors in Key West or accomplish our goals as a city.”

The two lists below are included in the summary of survey results to show the “Top 5 Wins” and the “Top 5 Challenges.”

What’s Working? (Top 5 Wins)

  1. Job Enjoyment: Overall job satisfaction is high (71%), and most employees have the tools they need (72%).
  2. Middle Management: There is great appreciation of middle managers, with 81% approval for supervisors, and 66% for department heads.
  3. Diversity: The majority of employees (70%), believe that differences in race, gender, ethnicity are respected.
  4. Benefits: 2/3 of respondents feel the benefits offered by the city are adequate.
  5. Teamwork within Departments: There is generally a strong feeling of comradery within teams (62%).

What’s Not Working? (Top 5 Challenges)

  1. Compensation: Only 35% of employees feel fairly compensated for the work they do, and 89% report that they cannot afford to live comfortably on their salaries.
  2. Staffing: 20% of employees feel they have enough staff in their departments to do what is required of them. (This may be a greater problem for certain departments, including KWPD, Public Works, Code Compliance, etc.)
  3. Communication: Only 26% feel well informed about decisions within the city, and 13% and 29% respectively feel that the city commission and city leadership (city manager) consider their input. Communication was the number-one need cited after compensation in the narrative portion of the survey.
  4. Recognition: Approximately 2/3 of employees feel the city fails to recognize outstanding employees.
  5. Teamwork between Departments: While teamwork within departments scores highly, only 38% of employees believe that cooperation between departments is strong.

 

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