Over 90% of municipal governments in the United States serve populations under 25,000. Small communities are separated from larger municipalities by distance and are often limited in their resources, yet still aim to offer citizens economic stability in a safe and livable environment. The challenges presented by serving a small population mean that the government has to be creative and resourceful, and often workers must perform a variety of jobs. The ability of a small community to provide better services is directly tied to their ability to equip current staff to do more. Here are a few ways you can help your staff, which ultimately can improve productivity:
What are their most essential, value-added jobs? If you and an employee listed out their top five priorities in rank order, would those lists match up? Ensure their day is organized around these and set realistic expectations about what needs to get done. Help everyone understand how one-time projects or tasks, ongoing activities, and trainings rank against each other.
Evaluate work processes
Scrutinize work processes to make sure they align with demands. Is there a way to streamline tasks or communication? Clarifying and honing work processes can reduce double work and improve consistency and quality. Above all, avoid the trap of status quo and don’t be afraid to change things up. The way things have been done might have worked in the past, but in this ever-changing technological world, there may be unexplored options that can make a drastic improvement in productivity.
Don’t think of training as a one-time event – it should be ongoing to expand and enhance employee’s knowledge and skills. With more expertise comes more productivity so keep your most valuable asset—your staff—trained and motivated.
Provide employees with the “freedom to act”” and clarify their scope of authority so that a fear of overstepping bounds doesn’t interfere with simple decisions. A well-defined decision-making process leads to more responsive and transparent decisions with less confusion and conflict.
With such a strong sense of community and commitment to place, small municipalities need strategies to ensure they not only survive but thrive. Focused attention on the unique challenges facing small towns can lead to self-sustaining and empowered communities. Giving employees the tools to succeed in their many responsibilities is critical to ensuring your government achieves its purpose of providing a high quality of life for citizens.