During another unConference session at #TLG19, city participants discussed the challenge and importance of institutionalizing knowledge in cities. The times and places where this challenge becomes glaringly obvious are bookends: city onboarding and succession planning.
Many of the city staff that participated in this session shared a common problem: once new hires have completed HR’s onboarding, they show up at their respective departments but still require quite a bit of training. There is often very little (sometimes zero!) standard practice for how this onboarding should go. The result is that many new hires feel lost and isolated when they are supposed to be integrating into their department, and high staff turnover rates follow.
How can city onboarding be improved? One approach was discussed in quite a bit of detail: after formal HR onboarding, one city takes an entire year to complete a more casual, department-by-department onboarding. Each department runs periodic tours and intro sessions for new folks. Before a new employee has finished their first year, they’ve done hands-on tours, demos and intro sessions with every city department.
The benefits of this approach have been:
The discussion about how to improve city succession planning really centered on the issue of institutionalizing knowledge. Even seemingly small efforts to institutionalize knowledge – like using digital document sharing, for example – can be met with a lot of resistance.
In the end, the group agreed that a lot of that resistance to institutionalizing knowledge amongst city staff can be traced to job insecurity or a fear of job loss. It was also agreed that the only way to address those underlying fears is by building organizational trust and confidence.
City participants also discussed some very tactical ideas to improve succession planning. They included:
For all of these solutions, the group discussed the importance of:
One major outstanding question: does anyone have onboarding plans, checklists, etc. they can share or point to? If yes, comment on this article and Ellory will reach out! This was a request from several participants.
H/T to Lee Bramlett (Organizational Development and Training Leader, City of Olathe), Jen Prehn (Business Operations Coordinator at City of Westminster, CO) & Helen Sangster (GIS Analyst, City of Olathe) for taking the lead on this discussion…and sharing their notes!