Future Directions - Written by Business Excellence Coordinator Kath Parry, Lismore City Council

Lismore City Council recognises that staff at the frontline is the point where corporate strategies turn into actions – the quality of people on the frontline is the quality of the service we provide.

With this in mind, Council decided to resource an extensive and comprehensive Frontline Leaders training program, which was developed in consultation with a broad range of staff across Council.

We didn’t want to pick training off a shelf or simply get a facilitator to talk at people. We didn’t want staff just rolling their eyes and saying, ‘here we go again’ – we knew we needed something very specific to them. In order to make it meaningful we started from the top down and consulted with those out in the field.

The result was a program that resonated with staff and has really made a difference to how people behave and how we feel collectively as an organisation.

The Senior Leadership Team was consulted first and publicly supported the program with a written commitment now displayed in locations across Council.

Interviews were conducted with a representative sample of Council staff to develop a clear model for the training, and as part of this, Council’s organisational values were also considered to ensure congruence.

The model defined what leaders at Council needed to ‘Be’, ‘Do’ and ‘Know’ in order to be effective. A one-day training module was initially developed. This module was tested with a pilot group and modified as a result of their feedback.

The positive response of the target audience reflected the fact that this program had been purpose designed for them in response to an in-depth understanding of internal needs and culture.

One of the cultural issues identified was the gap in understanding between ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ staff. Accordingly, it was decided to ensure a mix of staff from across the organisation attended every session.

The Frontline Leaders content was a balanced mix of carefully designed and facilitated experiential activities and ‘classroom’ sessions. A structured Action Planning Process was used to ensure transference of learning back into the workplace. This was further reinforced by face-to-face follow up coaching with some participants.
The training is designed to ensure our frontline leaders are listening and communicating with their staff to ensure all workers are clear about their roles and why they are doing what they do.

Ultimately, as a natural consequence this has resulted in better and more widespread employee engagement, greater job satisfaction, improved morale, more positive workplace culture, and increased productivity.

The operational changes/improvements that have already occurred include:
Supervisors building better relationships with their staff and staff having a clearer understanding of what’s required and expected of them.

Supervisors feeling empowered to address performance issues, as a result of simplified processes as well as learning skills and tools introduced during the training to assist them with having difficult conversations.

Breaking down of silos as a result of people from different parts of Council spending time together in a positive learning environment.
The program’s development, instead of the traditional autocratic approach of dictating what is being delivered, used extensive consultation in order to determine both what was required and the methods of delivery. Consulting with the workforce and the engagement of broadly experienced external consultants resulted in a program that was Lismore-centric and cutting edge.

Around 40 staff members were consulted in the development of the program and to date 130 people have undertaken the leadership training – every single supervisor at Lismore City Council.

Throughout 2016/17, all Lismore City Council staff members will undergo an adapted version of the training that is appropriate to those in non-supervisory roles. So far, 187 people have completed this module of training.

On 10 April 2016, the Frontline Leaders program was awarded highly commended in the Local Government Excellence Awards in the category of Operational Management and Effectiveness.
That’s got to be a sign we’re on the right track!