Eye on KELOLAND: A ‘Peakon’ Employee Engagement


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Whether you’re an employer or an employee, in any job, communication is essential.

Right now, the City of Sioux Falls has a way to stay engaged with all 1,300 of their employees.

After over 15 years as his time as director of parks and recreation with the City of Sioux Falls, it’s fair to say that Don Kearney loves his job.

“I’ve had an opportunity to do something that I’ve wanted to do since I was 16-years-old. To be able to come here and do that and serve the community and provide great parks and rec services and facilities is just something that I love and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Director of the City of Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation Don Kearney said.

And it’s just as important for him to have his employees feeling the same way.

“The reality is that we spend about a third of our adult lifetime at work, and so to be able to have a work group that’s really engaged and enjoys being at work is really important,” Kearney said.

As the director, he has 79 employees under his watch, and it can be challenging to engage with all of them. With over 1,300 working for the City of Sioux Falls, it can be even more difficult for Mayor Paul TenHaken.

“It’s one thing to have low turnover, which is good. It’s another thing to have low turnover because your employees are very engaged, they want to provide good service, they’re excited to come to work on Mondays, they know they’re making a difference, they feel that they’re valued,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said

One way he is able to check in is with a survey app called Peakon. For a year now he’s been sending it out once a month to all 12 of the local departments, seeking feedback on employee satisfaction and engagement.

“It’s part of my job to create a culture that says, ‘this is where you want to be. I want you engaged and I want you to know you’re doing meaningful work for the citizens of our city,” TenHaken said.

Employees of the city then submit their answers anonymously, giving scores rating how they feel in their current position. That data is then measured, highlighting specific areas that could use improvement.

“We are then using that data to drive action and drive change. And that’s part of the reason why culture has been a buzz word for me and within the city. Why we’ve recently hired and will be appointing a Chief Culture Officer for the city,” TenHaken said.

Rana DeBoer will be that officer. Her job will involve working close with TenHaken and directly with departments to put those improvements into action.

“So my job as Chief Culture Officer is to help create both not just a physical environment where people can do their best but also psychologically that we feel a great sense of passion a purpose in what we do and that just helps us shine,” Sioux Falls Chief Culture Officer Rana DeBoer said.

And each department has their own unique needs. Another job of hers is working with department directors to give them the tools to make those changes within their own sector.

“Leaders need to understand, ‘what does that look like in my team, and what can I do to foster that environment for my people to do their best,'” DeBoer said.

“We’re really trying to focus on really keeping doing the things people really like but also try to work on the things that they say, ‘Hey, we could use better equipment, or we could use more communication or what ever it might be,” Kearney said.

The city has already been taking steps to engage with employees.

“We’ve increased our recognition efforts: we have a new employee of the month, for a lack of a better term, program; we’re honoring people from around the city. We have challenge coins that we give out to employees who go above and beyond in their work,” TenHaken said.

Values that he and Kearney hope can be carried on to the next generation.

“One of the most important things to them is culture, and ‘how will I be a part of the organization,’ they really want to feel like they’re part of the purpose behind the organization. Employee engagement allows them to be a part of that organization in a better way than somebody who doesn’t have a great culture in their organization,” Kearney said.

And each survey can provide a peek into the future of employee engagement for the City of Sioux Falls.

DeBoer’s role as Chief Culture Officer goes into effect early next month. You can get a peek at Peakon, here.

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