InTouch – How Engaged Are You? Results from Our Survey


This month I want to talk about the results of our recent Employee Engagement Survey. But before I do, I want to acknowledge Employee Appreciation Day and offer all of you my sincere thanks for the work you do.

Though we’re singling out today to make a big display of gratitude for your efforts, please know I feel it in my heart every day. We could not be a successful organization without YOU. I’m always humbled by your dedication and proud of your desire to make life better for our residents. And, like many people, I need to be better about saying it more often! Thank you! You are amazing, and I’m truly grateful you have chosen to work here at the County.

I think it’s timely that the results of our recent engagement survey coincide with Employee Appreciation Day. The survey is a look into how we feel in our County jobs. “Employee engagement” can be kind of a fuzzy concept. It describes your emotional relationship with the organization.

I want each of you to feel engaged, one, because I hope on a personal level that you have a sense of connection and fulfillment in a place you spend so much of your life. But two, as the one tasked with overseeing this operation, I have a strong interest in performance. Research shows an engaged workforce has higher goal achievement and higher retention rates. An engaged employee is a happy employee, and a happy employee is more productive. A happier workforce is also a healthier workforce, and that’s one more way we make Live Well a reality.

We emailed the survey out in December and about 22 percent of you responded. Not bad, but definitely the first area of improvement to work on. It’s important to hear from as many of you as possible, so we want to get the number of responses up.

I won’t go through every question, but here are a few results.      


Seventy-four percent of you say you feel motivated to work for the County, and 78 percent get a feeling of personal accomplishment. A solid majority of you feel you’re making a difference in the lives of those you serve. That’s pretty good but an area where maybe we can do a little better.

Ninety percent of you understand how your job contributes to the success of your department. I’m encouraged by that. We spend a lot of time on aligning efforts to strategic goals. It’s easy to get caught up in details and lose sight of the big picture, but the number tells me we’re on the right track there. 


Seventy-three percent say your skills are being used effectively. Pretty good, but it also sounds like a fair amount of untapped potential, so that’s an area we’ll need to work on.

Are we getting along? Eighty-nine percent say you have a good relationship with co-workers, while 82 percent say you have a good relationship with your supervisor. Not hard to see how that makes employees happier, and in turn, more productive and again, healthier.


About three-quarters of you feel your department values diversity and inclusion, and that you can be your authentic self at work. We made D&I one of our priorities a few years ago, so I’m heartened by these results and will continue to focus on ways to further our D&I efforts as they go directly to employees’ comfort level at work and our ability to meet the needs of all our customers.

OK, our biggest Needs Improvement grade: recognition. We know how important this is. It’s part of our General Management System. It’s part of our Journey to a Positive Customer Experience. But only 43 percent of you feel you’re frequently rewarded or recognized for good work. We’ve got to do better than that.


Putting in hard work feels so much different when you know someone sees it, appreciates it, and most of all, shares it with others. More formal recognition and awards are great. But don’t forget the day-to-day thank-yous and acknowledgments. Research shows the more immediate the recognition, the greater impact it has. We should be maximizing impact in anything we do.

A lot of that message I’m directing at supervisors. Let’s really work on it. But no one should overlook peer-to-peer recognition, either. It can mean a lot to a co-worker to hear from someone who understands exactly what their job takes. 

This is where we need your help, too.  As I’ve mentioned, recognition can mean different things to different people. If there’s a specific way you like to be acknowledged for good work, make sure to talk with your supervisor about it. We want to make it meaningful to you!

This is the first year we’ve done the Employee Engagement Survey, so this let us set our benchmarks. Here’s an overview of results for all the questions. We’re sharing it with our leadership across the organization, and they’ll be working out how we boost that engagement.

This all brings us back to Employee Appreciation Day. I hope we can make it not just an opportunity to show our thanks, but a day we commit to building habits of gratitude, as individuals and as an organization. That will have a big part to play in how engaged everyone feels.

Only one way to end this: Thanks again, so much, today and every day, for all you do.   

InTouch – Happy New Era!


Happy New Year!  Are you ready to roll?

I hope so, because this new year kicks off a new era at the County. On January 7, two new members will be sworn in to our Board of Supervisors. Welcoming two at one time is a first for me and all but the most veteran County employees. It’s been 24 years since two new board members were sworn in!

When I say a new era, I’m talking not only about the current board transition, but the practice of regular turnover in elected leadership since term limits are in place. The maximum time an elected official can serve as a supervisor is two terms. So our culture must adapt to continuous change.

New elected leadership means new policies and more dynamic shifts in priorities. Our successes of the past will be the foundation for the successes of the future. Old ways of doing things may be reviewed, tweaked or maybe even discarded.  And new ideas and initiatives will be implemented. 

Where we direct our energies might shift. But who we are won’t. We’ll remain dedicated to exceptional public service and the principles of HEART. We’ll demand the highest ethical standards. We’ll encourage innovation and continuous improvement in all areas of our operations.  We’ll be outcome driven and expect excellence in all that we do. 

Over the past several decades, we’ve never stood still, and we’ve shown great flexibility in responding to new demands. Now we’ll need to step it up and be even more nimble than we’ve ever been, as individuals and as an organization.

Our new supervisors and their staffs have an adjustment to make as well. Think back to the learning curve you faced when you got to the County. It’s a big, complex operation. All those acronyms! They’ll need our help in showing them how we function and how the fresh ideas they bring to the table can make their way into what we do.  

The familiar is comforting – but change is exciting. Invigorating, even. Embrace it! And as you do, reflect on some new year’s resolutions of your own. As I’ve talked to employees over the past couple weeks here are a few they’ve shared:

  • Solve problems, don’t just share them.

  • Be a positive force in our residents’ lives.

  • Listen more.

  • Appreciate and help co-workers.

  • Become more tech savvy.

  • Use social media to help, not to criticize.

  • Take a daily walk or run to enjoy the beauty of San Diego (exercise is a side benefit!).

  • Turn off the TV, set the phone aside and have a face-to-face conversation.

  • Smile more.

  • Relax – everything isn’t a crisis.

  • Make at least one unexpected good thing happen every day for someone.

As we close 2018, let me reiterate how grateful I am to each of you for your hard work and dedication this past year. Your commitment was extraordinary. Now, let’s ring in the new era together. We have many exciting achievements ahead. Let’s get going! 

InTouch – Look at What You’ve Done!

InTouch – Look at What You’ve Done!

Each of us stays so busy with the day-to-day demands of our own jobs that it can be hard to get a sense of how all our work adds up. And the County does such a vast variety of things, any one of us won’t be aware of much of what our colleagues are up to.

When you get a big picture look at a full year’s worth of accomplishments and services delivered, it’s pretty darn amazing.

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InTouch – Use It or Not, Social Media is Changing Us

InTouch – Use It or Not, Social Media is Changing Us

Love it or hate it? With social media, it’s easy to be torn between the two.

It’s a great way to keep up with friends, share pictures of the kids, get recommendations, and be entertained. In the wrong hands, it can be manipulative and a weapon.

You can use it to expand your horizons or build a bubble. You can efficiently keep tabs on news and professional topics or get sucked into hours of mindless nonsense.

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