Future directions - By George Dedes, Acting General Manager, City of Ryde

Article image - Future directions - By George Dedes, Acting General Manager, City of Ryde Staff celebrate the relocation to new North Ryde offices.

Every organisation these days – big or small – wants to become an Employer of Choice.  

So for a council that has dealt with its fair share of challenges in recent times, including the threat of forced amalgamation and an unexpected whole-of-council relocation, it was a very positive and quite uplifting experience to be awarded Employer of Choice in the 2017 Australian Business Awards.

Our executive management team has always known how vital it is to maintain staff morale through uncertain times, not just to ensure productivity and service delivery remains high, but to maintain a skilled workforce that is resilient to change.  

Having a comprehensive Education, Training and Development program in place, that applied to managers and all staff equally, was one of the underlying reasons why we, as an organisation, were able to achieve our goals and live the phrase ‘business as usual’.  

Thanks to a strong work culture and good communication, we maintained our momentum, delivered on our stated goals to the community and were able to achieve several high profile projects, including the agreement of residents to a Special Rate Variation – no mean feat for any Council.  

It is my strong belief that when an organisation invests in employee training and development, employees feel valued and appreciated.  Because when people feel valued by their employer, it leads to longer employee tenures and less turnover.

At Ryde, we’ve worked hard to develop a human resources management framework that enables us to attract and retain high quality employees, and support staff initiatives to improve service delivery and readily adapt to changing environments.

Both internal and external training and development opportunities are equally important.  On average around 8000 labour hours per year are dedicated to training courses, and attending conferences and seminars.  Tertiary-sponsored studies are also provided.

Training is offered to staff across all disciplines - for operational indoor and outdoor staff, management and leadership programs, team building, internal mentoring and communication programs, corporate systems training, mandatory WHS and regulatory/governance training.  

We also have in place sponsored training for certain professions, including engineers to help them acquire their professional qualifications.  

Recent high achievements for staff include: three postgraduate degrees, seven undergraduate degrees and one diploma plus 18 Operational Works and Civic Construction Certificates.

Encouraging new talent and providing opportunities for young people has seen a number of successful cadetships lead to permanent roles.   
I can’t think of another industry that employs such a diversity of workers.  From senior managers, to engineers, landscape designers, town planners, financial experts, librarians, environmental and marketing specialists, tradespeople and emergency work crews, people are drawn to local government to use their skills and to contribute to their community.  

It’s good business sense to ensure that we nurture and invest in our workforce with effective training and development opportunities, because people are our most important asset.

Note:  In 2016 City of Ryde also received the Local Government Engineers’ Association Employer of Choice Award.