Council staff asked to moan about their jobs

The intiative is aimed at improving employee relations in the council. Picture: Jane Barlow
The intiative is aimed at improving employee relations in the council. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Thousands of staff at the city council are being encouraged to have a moan to their managers in an effort to boost their morale.

Surgeries and workshops where staff are invited to voice complaints and offer constructive feedback are being introduced following an employee survey which found workers felt undervalued.

“Talkabout” sessions with senior managers are being introduced in one of the local authority’s biggest departments, Children and Families, which employs 9000 staff.

The meetings have been dubbed “moaning hour” by staff who see them as the ideal opportunity to let off steam.

“At the council, we’re like everywhere else,” said one long-serving employee, “there’s too much work to do and never enough people to do it.

“A lot of people just see these sessions as a chance to have a moan – which at least gets things out in the open.”

The initiative is one of a series of measures being 
introduced to improve employee relations at the council. The city’s economic development department is holding a staff “away day” in June to help employees to bond.

Twenty of the council’s best up-and-coming employees, chosen from across all services, are also being cherry picked for a “talent management” programme aimed at preparing them for more senior positions.

Sweeping changes are being introduced across most departments following an internal survey in which more than 500 staff, including council leader Andrew Burns and senior managers, were interviewed.

Results showed just half of those surveyed felt involved in decisions affecting their work – and two out of five did not think that they were valued.

One council insider said staff in target-driven departments were more sceptical about the sessions. “It’s welcome that they’re trying to engage workers,” the source said. “But those in areas like street cleaning, they don’t think it’ll make any difference.”

About 18,000 staff are employed by the council overall.

Cllr Burns said: “If we want staff to feel engaged and to take pride in working for the council, we must be willing to listen to and act on their feedback..”

Critics had cited concerns over a perceived “culture of fear” within the council. Green Councillor Maggie Chapman said survey results showed the potential for “low staff morale, low productivity and poor working relationships”.

Former council employee Peter Gregson, who is campaigning for a whistleblowing hotline within the authority, said an independent channel for staff to make complaints was missing from plans.

He has argued a system independent of officials is needed so any misconduct such as cases that led to the Mortonhall ashes or property repairs scandals could be reported directly to senior councillors.

“They did feedback sessions after the last survey where they asked staff what they thought the problems were and it’s generally down to control and a stifling of suggestions,” he said.

“Any ideas that come out of staff’s heads never get anywhere. They tend to be ignored.

“What they really need is 360 degree appraisals where somebody else asks you what you think of your boss.”