City Manager pushes forward with employee survey plan

Panama City Beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Since day one, new Panama City Beach City Manager Tony O’Rourke says he wants to connect with the citizens and community immediately.

One way he is doing that is through surveys; the first being given to the employees. O’Rourke says this is the first time Panama City Beach has done an employee survey.

The city is currently accepting bids to find a company to put together the survey and collect the data.

O’Rourke says he’s doing this to get direct feedback from the city employees on how the city runs and treats its workers.

“Confidentiality is important, they’ll be assured of that but hopefully that will give us a good measure of what employees think of the good, the bad and most importantly what we build upon and what we can improve so that they are satisfied,” he said.

He says this is important information to get as he continues to adjust to the area and learn more about it.

“They’re the ones delivering the services to our customers. I’m not doing it. They’re doing it. The front lines. Whether it be police, fire, public works, utilities, you know, they’re the people delivering these services so we want to make sure that we’re optimizing their experience as a city employee.”

He’s been on the job for just under a month now and says he’s learned of some concerns already.

“Generally seems to be a positive employee environment here. There are definitely issues with pay in certain classifications. Hear some grumbling about the health premiums charged dependants. It is quite high,” O’Rourke said.

He says once they get the results back, they’ll start prioritizing what issues to address first.

“We can’t resolve everything. We don’t have the time or resources to do that but I like to prioritize and get back to employees and say hey, these are the top three issues. We are definitely going to address these three issues. There may be 10 issues in total but we’ll take them in groups like that so if we can address the top three issues, we’ll make a positive step forward.”

O’Rourke says actually delivering on promises is vital moving forward to give confidence to the employees that their voices are heard.

“The employees know that we’re serious so when they take the survey in the future, they’ll know there is a consequence of what they say and what we do. There’s a link to that. The worst thing you can do whether it’s an employee survey or citizen survey is soliciting opinion and then ignore it.”

O’Rourke says they are also accepting bids to conduct a pay study. This will tell city leaders if their current salaries and pay for employees are too low, or even too high.

“We want to be in the midrange when it comes to competition. See how our different classifications compare with other classifications in the region and with different organizations,” he said.

He says this will not only help with employee happiness but also employee retention.

“Today with low unemployment, recruiting is more difficult, retention is more difficult. Particularly in the areas of police and fire. Those are career opportunities. We have to make sure that we’re attracting a good pool of candidates to start with and once we hire, keep them. It’s very expensive to lose good officers and good firefighters. We need to make sure that we keep them.”

He says getting both of these tasks completed will improve the quality of service in Panama City Beach.

“The importance of that is, we cannot provide world-class services to your residents, your businesses, your tourists unless you have world-class employees so we need to identify what are the strengths in the organization, what are the opportunities for improvement and the best way to get that is directly from the employees.”

Once the bids are closed, the City Council will be presented the best options and then will decide what companies to partner with for the projects.

They will look to get the citizen surveys out soon after the employee.

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