These unprecedented and difficult economic times have created a “new normal” for local governments. The vast majority of us are struggling to balance the service demands of citizens against budgetary realities. As challenges escalate, crucial conversations with employees become increasingly important. While most government leaders understand the need for courageous discussions, understanding how to best engage employees on emotionally laden topics is another matter.
Sarasota County Government (SCG) has deliberately turned to its philosophical commitment to the networked talent model, where all levels of an informed and engaged workforce participate in solution-generation and decision-making in pursuit of a common goal.
Over the years, SCG employees have taken advantage of opportunities to learn together, offer feedback, share ideas and recognize performance. Venues such as award and recognition programs, team assessments, broad-banding, etc. have fostered and supported positive cultural change. In addition, the investment in customized initiatives like the Leadership Development Program (LDP) and Academy of Leadership Excellence (ALE) or in trainings like the High-Performing Organizations seminar (HPO) have created further capacity by setting the expectation for building leadership at all levels of the organization.
The success of these past efforts set the stage in January 2009 for SCG to take its employee engagement practices to the next level, through the emergence of the CSI Alliance: Challenges, Solutions and Innovations (hereafter CSI Alliance). The intent of this program is to actively engage a large, cross-functional group of employees to address enterprise-wide challenges through innovative thinking and no-to-low cost solutions.