The City of Arvada employs nearly 700 full-time people and hundreds more temporary and seasonal employees. We have been voted a Top Workplace by the Denver Post in both 2012 and 2015.
Our organization is not only a great place to work; our employees are dedicated to making Arvada a great place to live. Recently, the City embarked on a process to re-define and improve our organizational culture. Some 80 employees at all levels of the organization participated in this process, drafting new Vision, Mission, and Values Statements that define both who we are and what we want to be.
What is Organizational Culture?
The culture of an organization can be related to the human body’s DNA. Culture determines how everything else in the organization operates, reflecting deeply held values and beliefs. The culture changes naturally over time—sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. A determined effort to change and improve the culture, as opposed to a natural evolution, is one of the most difficult challenges leaders face.
Organizational Development as a Tool for Cultural Change
Under the leadership of City Manager Mark Deven, the City of Arvada embarked on an Organizational Development (OD) initiative in 2014 with the understanding that while our organization and our culture were already good—as evidenced by our 2012 and 2015 Denver Post Top Workplace awards—we needed to establish a formal process to sustain and enhance this high-performing organization. We needed to ensure that our systems and structures aligned with our values. Why? Because the demands on local government are changing, and therefore the City of Arvada must continually improve to meet those changing demands and needs, maintaining its reputation as a great city, a great place to work, and most importantly an organization that provides excellent services for our citizens.
This initiative is many faceted. Establishing new Vision, Mission, and Value Statements was simply the beginning. Developing those statements from the bottom up—rather than implemented from the top down—was a critical component that required many months of conversation and ideas among dozens of employees at all levels representing all departments. Armed with these new statements, Arvada’s employees are now reflecting on how they impact them in their daily work—whether they are patrolling the streets, mowing the grass, processing payroll, programming computers, plowing snow, or approving development plans.
Other elements of the OD initiative include:
- Restructuring the City’s hiring process
- Ensure the best talent are in the proper positions and best prepared for the changing demands of each job
- A new performance review process
- Create a culture of accountability
- Evaluate employees based on the organization’s Vision, Mission, and Values.
- Embracing process improvement and innovation
- Maximize collaboration across City functions to best leverage the synergies of an aligned, efficient operation
- Integrating the FOCUS Performance Management initiative
- Hold regular performance management meetings and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of our programs and services
- Provide performance management “dashboards” and other forms of performance reports on the City’s website for citizens to review and provide comments
- Intentionally seeking broader and more consistent citizen feedback
- Create additional opportunities for citizens to respond to surveys beyond the citizen survey conducted every two years
- Expand opportunities for citizens to engage with the City within neighborhoods
The City of Arvada’s Organizational Development initiative is a deliberately planned, organization-wide effort to become a high-performing, results-oriented, and customer-focused organization. It is our journey to becoming excellent and be among the “Best of the Best.” We believe this will occur through consistent and meaningful engagement with our citizens.