Find a way to recruit the right people and then give them reasons to come to work with all their energy and creativity.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 25th, 2019



My friend Vince Fiorito, one of the best environmental advocates Burlington has, taught me that there is nothing that comes before the environment – not jobs, not the bank rate, not even who we elect as Prime Minister – without an environment that meets our needs – nothing else matters.

And, he adds, that environment is something we play a very large part in creating;  given the climate changes we are going through now – it is clear that we have not done a very good job with some thinking that we are never going to be able to recover if we don’t do what has to be done before it is too late.  The planet will go through another stage of extinctions. We have had three so far – the planet survived the creatures on it didn’t.

This time WE are the creatures on this planet.

That lesson – that the environment comes before everything, taught me something – that in every situation, organization or endeavour there are things that have to come first.

After publishing a report on the risks Burlington faces with its labour force the Fiorito lesson struck me.

The only thing that matters at city hall are the people who enter the buildings every day to work for the people that pay them.

Unfortunately those people do not seem to be able to pull together very well. And we aren’t paying them what other municipalities are prepared to pay them.

Laura Boyd 2

Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd

In her report to city council Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd spoke of some of the feedback her department had received and added that:

“When the results were further analyzed, it became apparent that communication within the organization diminishes between hierarchical levels.

“Specifically, between the Burlington Leadership Team and the Supervisors/Manager level and then between the Supervisors/Managers level and their direct reports.”

No wonder we are in the mess we are in.

My question was: How long has Boyd known this? Did she send her message up the food chain to the city manager at the time? Did she alert the Mayor?

The Gazette has listened to Ms Boyd report to city council in the past – we never heard before what she had to say earlier this month.

Staff is what counts. It is their energy, their creativity and their willingness to put in that extra effort that makes a city work.

They aren’t putting in the energy apparently, partly because they are not being paid as well as their peers in other municipalities.

Have you ever seen a city staff member wearing a T shirt with the city logo?  Not much pride in working for the city of Burlington.

In the past few days we have seen comments from people who once worked for the city. Some comments could be sour grapes. We’ve noticed that many of the people we got to know are no longer with the city.

A major change in the culture of the city’s work force and the way they are recognized is needed. That falls on the desk of the city manager.

Laura Boyd

Laura Boyd – Has worked in one city department during her 29 year career.

If we have the numbers right Ms Boyd has been with the city for 29 years – which suggests getting close if not eligible for retirement. All her work experience is with the one department – Human Resources – that too might be part of the problem.

In her report to Council Ms Boyd reports that something close to 20% of the leadership positions will see retirements in the near future.

That gives the city manager some room to find the people that are needed to bring the ship of state around and find more favourable winds to move it forward.

Related news story.

Troops are not happy.
Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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5 comments to Find a way to recruit the right people and then give them reasons to come to work with all their energy and creativity.

  • Elan

    As one who works in private industry, I think that argument is nuts. Pay me 15% higher salary and I will wear all the ‘Burlington-Strong” t-shirts you can give me. This is not a zero sum game. residents pay. The question is what else are they getting for the increased price tag.

    City staff get guaranteed salaries (whether they excel in their role or not, so many absolutely do, some few fail galactically), vs private industry, whose compensation includes some ‘variable’ $$, where the company ranks each worker against each other vs how they have or have not achieved their annual goals.

    Avg increases to salaries in private industry in GTA and beyond is barely 2%. Burlington staff got 4% last year…(?) and still they are concerned with turnover?

    Private industry staff get partial benefits coverage (80%) at best, and a defined contribution pension (i.e., employees contribute to their own RRSP and employees bear the market risk if their investments go south). City staff get a guaranteed defined benefit pension (stay this long, you get that!) and 100% benefit coverage across the board.

    Laura seemed to think compensation somehow comes first, or is an integal part of culture..wrong. It is a dissatisfier….meaning it is never enough….

    Engagement is about coming to work every day and being inspired by your leader and the team around you. Money comes after. Also, turnover is not bad. It makes room for new ideas, new opportunities for those aspiring to move up, and serves as an outlet for those who need to self select out.

    Check the Sunshine list. These roles are overpaid vs private industry, with far less expectations on them. But, who cares? its a bottomless pit, right?

    You know what? What am I saying? Heck with it. I am applying to the City. No established expectations. No real performance consequences, guaranteed 4% salary increase annually, gold plated benefits and guaranteed pension….and the press that feels my pain. Where is my T-Shirt?

    • Elan

      Replying to myself, staying in a leadership role for 30 years, in private industry, is called ‘blocking’. Normal process is to negotiate out this blockage (fairly, of course) to allow those below some hope to aspire to higher levels.

      • Elan

        Reiterating…do not fear turnover. No one is ever really irreplaceable. The world will continue to turn. In many cases, it will be revitalized. Many aspire to lead, but are frustrated by lack of avenues, then they leave to lead elsewhere. Is that the real challenge?

  • Hans Jacobs

    Re: “…we aren’t paying them what other municipalities are prepared to pay them…” – If that is truly the case, then presumably there are very few applicants when there are job openings.

    • Roger

      I am tired of the woe of city workers – good pay – excellent benefits – pension plan second to none – good work hours – want to leave – please do not let the door hit you on the way out – there will be 10 people looking to replace you