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Building Champions: Community Planning and Development

Building Champions: Community Planning and Development Department

The 2015 employee engagement survey provided a theme around the engagement level of all employees. Highly engaged employees are “Champions”… motivated, cooperative, loyal, and willing to go above and beyond! Through the “Building Champions: Driving Engagement” feature, we’ll share stories of the work being done to inspire us all to be Champions in our work every day. In the coming months, we will spotlight the work that is being done in response to the survey and share it with you here in the DEB. 

This week we focus on Community Planning and Development's employee engagement initiatives and the progress they have made to date. 


Two of Community Planning and Development’s (CPD) directors, Janice Cornell and Paul Kresser, are leading CPD’s 15-member employee engagement team. They provided their perspectives on the challenges, successes and research their team has been focused on resulting from the 2015 employee engagement survey.

For Community Planning and Development, the 2015 employee engagement survey indicated core areas of focus around recognition, training and development, promotions and onboarding.

“With onboarding new employees, we wanted more of a consistent product,” said Kresser. “The onboarding experiences of the past depended a lot on the manager or supervisor. What we’re developing now is establishing a baseline of what the onboarding experience will look like and the resources new employees will be exposed to… with the manager having the ability to customize the experience.”

“We sought to have people understand why certain things were important in the onboarding process, like having a welcome sign at a new employee’s desk on their first day,” said Cornell. “It wasn’t just about having a sign there… it was what it meant to the new person coming into the department. There wasn’t a process for things like this, and we wanted to remedy that.”

“Also, we’ve been surveying new employees with quarterly surveys about their onboarding experience,” offered Kresser. “This information has been influencing additional improvements to our processes.”

The department has also been surveying staff after Quarterly Employee Recognition events to learn how the events could be more valuable to staff. “The feedback has been terrific. We’ve received great input on how to make the event more engaging, with ideas ranging from how to increase interaction all the way to switching the variety of food we serve at it,” said Kresser. Cornell offered, “And we are testing closing our counter areas during the employee recognition events so that more employees can attend these events and celebrate with their peers.”

Kresser spoke next about the work their team has done to improve work in the promotions area. “We’re working to be more transparent about the promotions process and speak to those employee applicants who didn’t get a position to have a follow-up conversation with them. We want to provide them with training resources to allow them to prepare for the next time a position is available.”

As the City and County of Denver continues to see unprecedented growth and development, the demand for CPDs services has grown, too. “Our permit counter is busy, all the time,” said Kresser. “But we still needed to be able to find time for these employees at the counter to attend staff meetings and trainings.”

“The hope is that more trainings will help improve the customer service experience at our permit counter, leading to even greater efficiency,” remarked Cornell.

To get more information on the recognition work they wanted to accomplish, the CPD employee engagement team assigned pairs of its group members to interview managers and supervisors. They asked them questions around how they showed recognition to their employees, how they practiced appreciation in day-to-day tasks and if they were aware of any of the recognition tools available within CPD.

The employee engagement team has been compiling the results of those interviews and analyzing the results to identify themes. The group will be working with the OHR Learning and Development team on organizing a manage/supervisor retreat to talk about the recognition tactics that are working, and which ones need to be refined.

“We want to be able to identify what’s pertinent across the organization, and what’s not,” said Kresser.

The CPD employee engagement team is also working on improving technology, especially as it improves employees’ abilities to perform their work and feel engaged.

“We’ve definitely made progress in this area,” commented Kresser. “Whether its enhancements to our enterprise permitting application or launching a SharePoint resource page that helps encourage collaboration.”

Cornell stated, “We also have an electronic plan review initiative that will reduce the amount of paper that employees have to lug around.”

Both Cornell and Kresser are very optimistic about how the work the employee engagement team is performing will shape the future of the department.

“We would love to see, when the results come out from the 2017 employee engagement survey, that  positive changes have occurred in the department overall,” Cornell said.

Kresser added, “Thirty percent of our staff are new. We recognize that there is opportunity and risk for next year’s survey because of that.”

Cornell agreed, “Out of 17 total supervisors in CPD, eight of them are new to the role in the past year. They all have different levels of experience and varying perspectives, which will also affect our employee engagement survey results for 2017.”