The City Walks the Talk

Reading the Edmonton Journal the other day, I noticed an insert on Alberta’s 65 Top Employers for 2014. The City of Edmonton is one of them. It made me want to know what makes the City such a great place to work. Since I was offering a writing workshop called Love Your Job, I decided to ask the participants to tell me.

The insert focused on benefits such as parental leave top-ups and flexible hours upon return to work, ongoing employee development with formal mentoring, in-house and online training programs and tuition subsidies for job-related courses and a scholarship program for children of employees who pursue post-secondary studies. It also talks about diverse opportunities, competitive compensation packages, innovation and collaboration, and recognition programs.

But what does this actually mean to individual employees? I received some unexpected answers.

Leah Anderson, a clerk with Development and Zoning Services, said she likes working in Current Planning with the City of Edmonton because of the lunches! “Every month there are Lunch & Learn programs, discussion events, film screenings, and colleagues eager to discuss the content of those sessions; synthesizing it into the things Edmonton could do, should do, and must do.”

Leah pointed out that in an administrative position, she wouldn’t usually be allowed to attend such events, but, with the City, such events are open to anyone interested. “It makes me hopeful that I can contribute all of my skill(s) into shaping Edmonton into the best version of itself. I love knowing that at the end of my day I have helped, in some small way, to propel Edmonton forward.”

“We all love our EDOs (Earned Days Off), so I’ll write about something else—the organizational structure,” wrote Laura Frey, “There’s an opportunity for an individual to move around, to try different roles and to be supervised by different people. I’ve had six supervisors and I’ve learned from all of them; they’ve each allowed me to try on different roles and identities.”

“I enjoy the good pay, flexible schedule and benefits,” wrote Cara Smith, Communications Advisor. “These are all very important, but if the people inside this organization don’t have inspiration and a passion that drives their potential—what’s the worth? Eventually, we become accustomed to our flexible schedules, benefits and pay. Those things don’t make the hard days easier. It’s when you can wake up in the morning with a fire that has been stoked, not smothered, by your job and the people you work with every day…that’s a reason to stay.”

From the responses I received in the workshop, I got the sense that those fires are stoked. “Every day I come to work, I learn new things,” Nalini Patel, a clerk in Fire Rescue Services in the Emergency Systems Sections wrote. Nalini works with the Telecommunications Coordinator to provide things like portable radios and pagers. “Without this equipment our 911 Fire Dispatchers could not communicate with the Incident commander or Firefighter on the scene,” she said. Nalina takes pride in the fact that her department serves citizens indirectly by working together as a team and protecting them from danger to their life or property. She spoke of how she feels respected and valued and as though she makes a difference every day.

Exceptional places to work are exceptional not because of the programs they have on paper, but because of what actually happens in practice. I’ll return to Leah Anderson who put it well: “Management seminars often focus on teaching that employees want to feel valued, respected, and that their work matters” she wrote. “What that message fails to convey is that the feeling is a lie if the employee isn’t valued, respected, or doesn’t matter. I have better days knowing that it is not only what I do but who I am that is valued by my peers and supervisors.”

It sounds to me as though the honour of being one of Alberta’s top employers for 2014 is well deserved.