Counties continually must find more efficient ways to deliver essential services, under the pressure of rising federal and state mandates and increasingly stringent caps on their ability to raise revenue. One solution can be found in each and every county — county employees. Counties that make employee engagement a priority save time and money and get better overall organizational performance and service delivery.
At NACo’s 2017 Annual Conference, the Counties Futures Lab hosted a workshop on how county officials can harness the engagement of their employees. Bob Lavigna, the Director of the CPS HR Consulting Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, shared his insights on employee engagement, why it matters and how counties can create a culture of engagement within their workforce.Printable PDF Speaker Presentation Contact Speaker
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An engaged employee:
- Has pride in their work
- Has a heightened connection with their employer
- Shows personal interest in the organization’s visions and goals
- Goes the extra mile for customers and stays on board, even for less money
- Volunteers ideas
- Shows up and gets things done
- Delivers “discretionary effort,” or a willingness to do whatever needs to be done for the organization to succeed
Why Does Employee Engagement Matter?
Across employment sectors, a majority of employees state that they feel fully or somewhat engaged with their employer. According to a 2017 CPS HR Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement national poll, 44 percent of local government employees feel that they are fully engaged, while 37 percent feel somewhat engaged (See Figure 1).1 This is a higher percentage than for federal or state government and comparable only to the private sector. Engaged employees have a more positive view of their organization than disengaged employees. When asked, 76 percent of engaged local government employees agree that their organization is successful at accomplishing its mission, more than the 64 percent of state and federal government employees and comparable to the private sector.2 The local government employees who stay involved with their organization also believe that they can positively affect quality, cost and customer service through their work.
“Employee engagement is about performance. It is not another HR thing… It is about improving the level of commitment that our employees have to their organization so that we can deliver better, high quality performance and services to the citizens we serve.”
– Bob Lavigna, Director,
CPS HR Consulting Institute
The engagement value chain is a virtuous cycle, according to Bob Lavigna. As the level of engagement increases, performance also increases. Highly engaged workers are more productive and often are more proactive in servicing customers than disengaged workers.3 Customers and residents that interact with front-line county employees in turn have more trust in their government. Improved citizens’ attitudes towards government contribute to a confirmation of a job well done and a higher level of pride for local government employees who get further engaged. Employee engagement translates into dollars, as higher productivity, lower turnover and absentee rates have a positive budgetary impact. For example, high turnover rates amongst millennials alone cost employers $30.5 billion a year.4
Figure 1. Level of Engagement Across Employment Sectors, 2016
An engaged workforce matters.
Engagement of employees starts at the top.
Engagement needs to be an integral part of a county’s strategy – not just an HR initiative.
Creating a culture of engagement starts with the hiring of an employee, and continues through the employee’s tenure.
Never underestimate the power of a “thank you.”
Recognition of efforts and achievements can be accomplished in effective non-monetary ways.
 Bob Lavigna, “Driving Employee Engagement: Results from a National Survey,” CPS HR Consulting, September 2017
 Susan Sorenson, “How Employee Engagement Drives Growth,” Gallup, June 20, 2013, available at http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx.
 Andrew Hartsig, “Managing County Workers: Recruitment, Retention and Retirement,” National Association of Counties, July 2017, available at http://www.naco.org/resources/managing-county-workers-recruitment-retention-and-retirement.
 “Census Bureau Reports There Are 89,004 Local Governments in the United States,” U.S. Census Bureau, August 30, 2012, available at https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/governments/cb12-161.html.
 Bob Lavigna, “Driving Employee Engagement: Results from a National Survey,” CPS HR Consulting, September 2017.
 Bryant Ott and Emily Killham, “Would You Fire Your Boss?” Gallup, September 13, 2017, available at http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/28597/would-fire-your-boss.aspx.
The author would like to thank Bob Lavigna for his presentation during the workshop that forms the basis of this report. Within the National Association of Counties, the author would like to thank Emilia Istrate, Christina Iskandar, Jonathan Harris and Kelsey Wilson for their helpful comments and contributions. The author also expresses his appreciation to his Public Affairs colleagues for the graphic design and the website versions of the report.
For more information:
Dr. Emilia Istrate
Managing Director, Counties Futures Lab
About the Counties Futures Lab
The NACo Counties Futures Lab brings together leading national experts to examine and forecast the trends, innovations and promises of county government with an eye toward positioning America’s county leaders for success. Focusing primarily on pressing county governance and management issues — and grounded in analytics, data and knowledge sharing — the Lab delivers research studies, reports and other actionable intelligence to a variety of venues in collaboration with corporate, academic and philanthropic thought leaders to promote the county government of the future.