City Hall review highlights reasons for ‘legacy of under performance’

Posted at 11:57 AM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 12:50:40-04

RICHMOND, Va. – The results of a comprehensive review of City Hall, commissioned by Mayor Levar M. Stoney, concluded that multiple factors have contributed to underperformance which stalls Richmond’s evolution into “the City it could be.”

The mayor asked the Performance Management Group in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University to provide him with an idea of what works and doesn’t work in the Richmond city government.

Only one in four city employees responded to a short electronic survey that was sent to the almost 5,000 city employees in 35 agencies. The 25 percent participation rate means that 1,209 people responded to the anonymous survey, according to the report. In some departments, follow up individual and focus group interviews were conducted.

The highest response rate came from the human resources, information technology, and procurement services departments.

The majority of responding participants reported that they are engaged and committed to moving the city forward, but they feel there are multiple shortcomings in their departments, according to the review’s findings.

The eight major, often interrelated themes that employees feel need to be improved dealt with processes and procedures, responsiveness, communication, personnel, technology, culture, physical environment, and training.

Morale – mentioned 110 times in the document -- was reported as low in multiple departments for a variety of reasons; pay, feedback, recognition, team unity, lack of empowerment and leadership support, and workload.

Social services employees said that caseloads routinely exceed national best practices and state guidelines by a factor of two or even three.

These high caseloads, combined with the complexity of the challenges facing the department’s clients, create an unsustainable retention situation for staff, particularly given that the City reportedly pays less than peer agencies and has less attractive health and retirement benefits, the report concluded.

“Excessive bureaucracy, micromanagement, unnecessary delays and sometimes poor leadership have led to a system that is often not as agile, responsive internally and externally, or as skillful as it should be for Richmond to become the City it could be,” the report stated.

Mayor Stoney says they need to focus on four departments that the entire city depends on: IT, human resources, finance and procurement.

"And also problems we hear about or see continue because our failure to actually fix those departments," Stoney said. "Here's the thing, we have made improvements—in  finance we made some improvements, but we have a ways to go in HR and IT."

Specifically, the review revealed a need for improved financial controls and reporting, better hiring processes and career development, streamlined procurement practices, and upgraded and integrated technology.

“While all departments’ shortcoming must be improved upon, these four [things] touch each department in major ways and are essential if all departments are to effectively deliver services and make city government as a whole healthy,” the review states.

“We have some substantial challenges ahead of us to make City Hall deliver the government the citizens of Richmond deserve, and this report is an important first step in that journey,” Mayor Stoney said.

Stoney said that the goal of the report is not to point fingers, but to make fixes.

“With the support of our employees, our City Council and our community, I am confident we will get there,” he said.

Stoney said that could mean making changes in personnel.

A copy of the review can be found here.



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