Strengthening Leadership Development at Municipalities: 3 Key Initiatives

For city and county governments across North America, 2022 is halfway through, and many local municipalities are feeling the effects of the new and changing talent pool. Most businesses are well aware of how drastically hiring processes and human resources have changed over the last several years, and municipalities are no different. In city or county governments, retaining skilled and knowledgeable staff comes with all of the challenges and obstacles that small- and medium-sized businesses face, but with some unique ones as well: sometimes local municipalities struggle to match the offerings of private-sector companies despite offering very stable conditions, salary, and benefits. The labor market continues to change, and businesses of all types must continue to evolve as well.

Covid-19 brought a shift in the fundamental way knowledge workers view their work, productivity, and priorities. This new era has enabled those with in-demand skills to be more selective in terms of the companies and organizations they are willing to join. The perks of working in the public sector are well known and typically include work-life balance, reasonable hours, great insurance and, in some cases, childcare and pension benefits. However, many public entities are being challenged by companies that are improving salaries and benefits across the board, including offering the option to work from home. As all levels of government shift their attention from surviving to thriving, public-sector leaders must focus on crafting a positive employee experience. This renewed commitment can harness human strengths that enable the broader organization to flourish, as well as retain valuable human assets.

Many leaders from municipalities across the United States and Canada feel that the most effective strategy they have to attract and retain talent is to nurture the development of great people leaders within their organizations. Ironically, a great number of new and existing managers in municipalities have not had the opportunity to develop their own leadership skills because the municipalities in which they work have not, for whatever reason, chosen to make that investment in the past. However, over the last year, we have seen a shift in our discussions with these entities. We are now regularly meeting L&D champions inside these great organizations who are driving these important development initiatives. They see leadership development as a must-have, especially for new leaders and middle management.

Leadership development enables an organization to build a reputation for being a great place to work because it actively invests in its labor force. Having leaders at all levels who demonstrate empathy and understand the importance of coaching and communication skills drives hiring and retention. Through investing in their leaders, municipalities can build a coaching and feedback culture where people want to work—and choose to stay.
Here are three ways municipalities can improve or get started on their leadership-development efforts:

two coworkers looking over paper

1. Manage the Leadership-Development Process

Who are the learning practitioners in the organization? Is learning a mission or priority? Who is responsible for driving development initiatives internally and owning their execution? Is learning and leadership development spoken of by the organization’s leaders? Understanding the answers to these questions and the priority given to learning is key to improving your leadership-development efforts or getting them started. Learning practitioners in these organizations (often Learning & Development, Human Resources, or Talent Management) should be equipped to drive their organizations towards improving leadership competency. Many have become learning advisors, curriculum developers, and learning guidance counselors.

2. Conduct 360° Assessments

Helping a leader to know themselves better through formal assessment is often enlightening for them and allows them to see their strengths and gaps side by side. Governmental organizations have found that expanding their 360° assessments for mid-level managers can help them course-correct in gap areas early or midway through their careers. It also reinforces the areas where they already excel. For many leaders, the knowledge they gain through a 360° assessment provides the inspiration they need to continue to grow and develop. As an added incentive, the individuals who directly participate in the assessment process are not the only people who benefit; the assessment report provides transferable insight into how to improve the leadership of people throughout the organization overall. It improves both the employee experience and retention of individual contributors and other leaders.

3. Include Your Team Members’ Voices

Addressing these new needs and challenges requires looking at the human experience from a different angle. 2022 team-survey responses consistently highlight wellbeing as a critical priority for employees, with both burnout and stress affecting employee morale, productivity, and overall retention. Leadership must infuse employees’ physical and mental health into the structure of work, allowing them to learn new methods and tools that will empower them and enable them to be successful on and off the job.

Ultimately, if your leaders can become better coaches, communicate effectively, and lead people more strategically, they can create a desirable employee experience. Armed with these insights and team-member voices, they can build leaders and teams in a more strategic manner. This will enable better recruitment and improved retention.

CMOE works with government organizations, NPOs, and NGOs globally to address their individual learning needs, whether they be in Coaching, Applied Strategic Thinking®, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or a variety of other essential topics. CMOE offers learning and development experiences led by trained facilitators in a variety of formats, including self-paced digital courses, live instructor-led sessions, and virtual instructor-led sessions. Contact our team to discuss how we can help your organization move to the next level.

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About the Author

Mark Parkinson

Mark Parkinson is a Vice President at CMOE, overseeing marketing and sales of leadership, employee, and organizational development projects. He also provides consulting and facilitation services. He has expertise in how social media trends, corporate KPIs, and mobile technology affect the workforce, especially from a generational point of view. Mark is driven by the opportunity to enable good managers to become great leaders.