Public Transit Director
Phoenix Public Transit Department
Getting on good terms with employees, and staying there, is a goal for Phoenix city government as a whole, and the Public Transit Department in particular. Government agencies are created to contribute to the community, and serve the public. If we expect our employees to devote themselves to the public good, it’s only reasonable that they expect we have their best interests in mind as well.
How do we do show that their interests are our interests? We do it by making long-term, substantial investments in our employees. Phoenix Public Transit is very fortunate to be a part of Phoenix city government. It allows us to bring many resources to bear where employee relations are concerned. Our municipal leaders consider supporting staff a priority. They have — through policies and programs — shown employees that the city they work for is a great place to live — and a great place to work. A host of benefits are provided to every city of Phoenix employee, with slight variations depending on position: tuition reimbursement to pursue advanced degrees; professional development funds to attend seminars and conferences; financial aid for childcare costs; and both pension and 401/457K programs; and career consultation to rise in the ranks of management citywide. This is all in addition to the city’s other health and life insurance benefits.
Starting with such a solid foundation, developing good employee relations is much less of a challenge. Phoenix Public Transit strives to create the best working environment possible, and also implements its own programs to provide opportunities for staff development. One of the best practices a manager can implement is a fair-minded, professional workplace. When staff members know that they will be given clear expectations, and treated with consistency both in their successes and their challenges, everyone benefits.
Rules aren’t the only means to an end, however. Investment in employees is crucial in today’s competitive employment market. When staff members know you have taken the time to invest in them — as old-fashioned as it sounds — they will invest in you. As a part of that investment Phoenix Public Transit has been testing pilot staff development programs for its internal use. A department-wide mentoring program, designed to let employees learn about different careers in the department has been warmly received. By overseeing a special project with a manager outside their area, the mentored employee develops new skills and fosters relationships that will be beneficial in the future. We’ve taken this commitment to employee development very seriously. Each member of our executive management is required to mentor at least two people as a part of their annual employee reviews. We’ve also instituted a less formal shadowing program for employees who are simply curious about their coworkers’ duties, to give them an opportunity to “check under the hood” and see how other areas operate.
These efforts add to an already strong sense of ownership and involvement from Phoenix Public Transit employees. How do we know our efforts are succeeding? One simple fact: Employees who join our department stay here. Citywide the turnover rate for employees is just over 9 percent. At Phoenix Public Transit we’ve managed to lower turnover to less than 7 percent. In the same vein, employees stay with us for decades, because they know it’s a genuine partnership here and a chance to grow. In the end, that’s the most important result of good employee relationships, and why we continue to work toward the best workplace possible.
Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet)
It is my belief that success comes from trusting employees to know what works best in their own areas and then entrusting them with the power to make needed improvements.