Democracy on the Front Lines
City Administrator’s Blog
June 15, 2006
What is a learning organization? To create a progressive and creative work environment, what elements need to be included? Trust in your employees, no doubt, is an essential ingredient. As I mentioned in Monday’s blog, your basic philosophy must be that people want to do a good job and will succeed if given the proper tools.
Another element is an organizational structure that allows employees to participate in the decision making process and to take ownership in the quality of City services. Employees must have the flexibility to make suggestions, try new things, and not be punished if experiments fail. We have addressed this through a team management program that includes a formal training process and interdepartmental teams that focus on specific issues in the organization.
We have had teams work on our computer systems, web site, evaluation system, development, and the annual budget. In particular, our Performance Team is analyzing structural barriers to employee efficiency and is developing strategies to strengthen functional process networks that are essential to service delivery.
A third element of a learning organization is the ability for employees to learn new things. The City of O'Fallon provides tuition reimbursement and has offered occasional training opportunities, but there is no formal training curriculum for employees to improve their skills. Today we held the first meeting of the Training Team that will develop a training program for City employees.
As a result of an Active Listening exercise conducted by the Performance Team on communication issues in the organization, training was identified as a priority for performance in the organization. Three training areas were identified: (1) new employee orientation training, (2) technical and professional development training, and (3) government-mandated personnel training (sexual harassment, FMLA, etc.). The team will determine the various training needs of the organization and develop a formal training program for City employees to address those needs.
The team consists of employees from different departments and varying levels within the chain of command. All opinions are equal and decisions are made by consensus. The team will probably employ several data gathering methods to discern the organization’s training needs and they will be responsible for implementing the training program.
The training budget is often the first thing to be cut during the budgeting process, but I would contend that training is commitment to the future. A learning environment will encourage employees to continue to learn and that will contribute to the improvement of City services to the public. A learning organization is good for the employee and for the community.