How a Government Agency Became a Great Place to Work


Ever wonder if your government agency could ever be a Great Place to Work? Probably not. If you’re like me, you believe that there is just too much tape in the public sector to justify the office perks, an innovative culture, and professional growth opportunities that is becoming standard practice of private industry today. Well, in the last three years, a local municipality has achieved the status of being a Best Place to Work and continues to holding a rank on that list. Let’s take a look at the small city government that started in 2003 and is in the suburbs of Sacramento, California.

The City of Rancho Cordova earned a spot on the Best Places to Work List in 2013. The government agency has a staff of 67 employees in three locations and serves 67,000 residents and businesses. Drop in for a visit and you’ll already notice some unique features of their work environment: standing desks, tablets for employees, free snacks and beverages throughout the day, and even treadmill desks.

The Culture: The City of Rancho Cordova employees work in a flat organizational structure where ideas are exchanged freely (they even have an Office of New Ideas) and creativity is encouraged. Employees are empowered to make decisions and 94% of employees state that they feel their managers are competent in running the city. Over 80% of employees feel the local government is transparent with communicating information.

“Ideas are shared freely without the concern of negative repercussions throughout the organization. Management has even realized that they can be a little busy and set aside time specifically to be available to new ideas of the organization. It is a highly innovative group.”

Managers advocate for their staff, always helping them look forward and prepare for the next step on the career ladder. Employees can come up with their own projects to pursue as long as it pertains to their department at the wellbeing of the city.

The family atmosphere is tangible. All hands on deck are dedicated to improve the services to the community. The activities team plans events throughout the year which include family picnics, Kids Day (where children get to see their parents at work), and fundraisers that benefit local schools and programs. The cohesiveness of the team starts in the first week on the job, where the city manager takes new hires on a tour of the city, pointing out his favorite stops and getting to know the new hires on an individual basis. This little city government also engages in many philanthropic events, donating close to $800,000 each year.

The Perks: Employees enjoy a flexible work schedule, onsite mail and concierge services, and access to a gym that features equipment employees often give feedback on. Ping pong tournaments are common, along with monthly birthday celebrations and ice cream outings to celebrate accomplishments. Employees also get an extra 30 minutes twice a week during their lunch hour, as long as it is used for exercise activities with coworkers. Tuition reimbursement is $2500 per year and all employees are invited to a week-long Continuing Education for Public Officials  retreat which is a three year program. There, they learn about their leadership style and build relationships at the retreat site.  Employees also get 12 holidays a year, 130 days of protected maternity leave, and 100% medical coverage.

While all the perks are nice to have and help employees feel appreciated, the level of trust, family, and community this organization has is what sets it apart from the rest. In the comments below, share how your governmental organization demonstrates some outstanding programs. If you’d like to read more about great employee practices, visit the site: Government Career Coach.

Ellen Steinlein is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). Check her out on LinkedIn and Facebook too! To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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