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With the Power of Data, Accountability to Constituents Improves in Minneapolis

A common grievance levied against government is that money is being wasted and employees aren’t working hard enough. The reality is, government employees have an impossible job to do, facing a landslide of needs with paltry resources and budgets. It’s like David vs. Goliath.

Minneapolis is a city of more than 400,000 residents. That means there are 10 times the residents compared to public sector workers, as 40,000 government employees across 22 departments work to keep water running, streets clean and residents happy. With a workforce the size of a small city itself, the Minneapolis city government has used data to ensure that it is performing to its full potential employee by employee.

“This is a city that is data-driven, and so I’m really just modeling what I see in the city already,” said Patience Ferguson, Chief Human Resources Officer for Minneapolis. “If we have data in terms of how we’re leveraging our resources in the community, if we have data in terms of how we are being efficient and effective with taxpayer dollars, then why wouldn’t we have data around our most basic asset, which is our human capital?”

To that end, the city has invested in data and analytics as they pertain to the workforce. The effort has already yielded gains.

For example, the city found that 82% of its public sector workforce engages in government-sponsored wellness programs. As a result, worker satisfaction has increased and benefits costs have decreased because of a healthier workforce. More money can go into other programs because of data.

Additionally, the city has doubled down on its employee feedback cycle, cutting the time between employee engagement surveys from once every two years to once every six months. With the new frequency, the people spoke and the government listened. What’s more, employee recognition took on more importance as hundreds of public sector employees won Star Awards program, which recognizes the important accomplishments of government workers.

City employees also asked for more interoffice employee resource groups to help every person feel like they belong and could excel, and the city subsequently created several for African-American and female employees.

Analyzing the well of data that Minneapolis possesses has kept the city accountable to itself, the workforce and its standards. Data can reveal whether one subset of the workforce is resigning or retiring prematurely at higher rates than others, hinting at a culture or code in need of change.

Furthermore, the city’s performance management technology, PerformMinneapolis, can pair up individual goals with department needs, ensuring employees are working with the right efficiency and toward community betterment. The platform also offers trainings to foster employee growth. These capabilities can show high performers worthy of promotion or reward and reveal low performers who need to be addressed.

“We can not only look at the data, but we can begin to start seeing if the things that we’re doing and that we’re investing in, as it pertains to our human capital, are making a difference,” Ferguson said. “And then if they’re not, we could take a step back and then ask ourselves why.”

The use of data and analytics by Ferguson’s department means Minneapolis taxpayers can rest assured that their money is funding motivated, talented and hardworking public servants to deliver services that will improve their city.

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide “7 Tips to Transform Your Data Into Compelling Stories.” Download the full guide here.

Photo credit: Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash

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