Employee Survey

As an employer, the Halifax Regional Municipality is committed to ensuring a positive and fulfilling work culture for our employees. One of the ways we’re looking to accomplish this is by assessing employee engagement.

Employee engagement goes beyond simply measuring job satisfaction. It’s all of the key elements that impact performance on a daily basis and an employees’ desire to grow with our organization as an employer.

Employee engagement has long been linked to workplace culture, efficiency and organizational results, and is credited with having a positive impact on customer service, teamwork and productivity. When employees are engaged they feel committed to organizational successes and passionate about the work they are doing on behalf of our citizens, while taking personal responsibility to promote the development and progress of our organization as a whole.

Introduction by Jacques Dubé, Chief Administrative Officer

Nov. 14, 2018

I am pleased to share results of the municipality’s Employee Engagement Survey conducted earlier this year by Corporate Research Associates (CRA), which are outlined in CRA’s final report and quick-reference infographic.

The data collected through this survey provides the municipality with a reliable benchmark to help us make evidence-based decisions and create plans for improvement.

This feedback shows us where we are doing well – and where we can and must do better – to promote better experiences for all employees, which lead to better outcomes for all communities.

I’m happy to note that our employees demonstrate a strong level of commitment to our organization and to the residents we serve, which can be seen through the leadership, professionalism and excellent work I see and hear about each day. It’s the driving force behind delivering service excellence.

There are also areas on which we will focus our near-term efforts including ways to improve employee participation in dialogue with senior leaders and sharing knowledge across the organization.

Using the survey results to drive measurable change for all lines of business will take time, effort and ongoing commitment. I can assure you the senior leadership team and I are committed and ready to make the most of this opportunity.

We will be addressing the corporate-wide survey insights with a focus on five key areas:

  1. Interest in employee wellbeing
  2. Valuing employee contributions
  3. Professional development & learning opportunities
  4. Employee relations with management
  5. Support for doing what one does best

Over the coming weeks, senior leadership will be working with their management teams and employees to review the employee survey results and make recommendations for improvements. Over the next three to five months, business-unit action plans will be developed. Where possible, some action items will be initiated in the coming days and weeks, while others will require more significant planning and execution.

We’re committed to engaging employees through empowerment, innovation, and collaboration while encouraging a culture of continuous improvement.

This is a vital conversation for our organization, one that will include the voices of leaders from senior management to frontline supervisors.

I’ll be ensuring regular updates are provided to employees and the public with information about the progress we’re making.


Jacques Dubé, Chief Administrative Officer


Common questions

Why did the municipality conduct an employee engagement survey?

Over eight years has passed since our last employee engagement survey; as an organization, we were eager to obtain feedback from employees and need to do so regularly going forward.

Conducting an employee engagement survey allowed us to establish a benchmark and framework, based in evidence, for enhanced workforce strategies and practices to improve our organizational performance and service delivery.

How many employees participated in the survey? What was the response rate?

All permanent part-time and full-time employees (3,533) were invited to participate in an online or paper survey. In total, 2,167 surveys were returned to Corporate Research Associates (CRA). This resulted in an overall response rate of 61 per cent, meeting our target for participation.

How often will employee engagement surveys be completed?

Based on industry standards, the municipality plans to conduct employee engagement surveys every two to three years.

What is the Corporate Research Associates’ employee opinion database (comparator) and why is it used?

The Corporate Research Associates (CRA) employee opinion database is derived from surveys of Atlantic Canadians working in various organizations. The database includes large, as well as medium and small-sized organizations, in both unionized and non-unionized environments, as well as private and public-sector organizations.

The database includes the following characteristics:

  • Total number of employees: 8,000
  • Total number of organizations: 26
  • Number of union/non-union organizations: union (12), non-union (14)
  • Number of private and public-sector organizations: private (11), public (15)
  • Organizations by province: NB (4), NL (2), NS (19), PEI (1)

Where applicable, results of the current study are compared with CRA’s employee opinion database of Atlantic Canadian organizations. The database allows an organization to place the results of its survey into proper context.

Less than half of the employees surveyed stated they knew about the Halifax Regional Municipality’s strategic plan (2017-2021) also, even less stated they were kept informed of future municipal plans.  What steps will the municipality take to more effectively communicate with all employees and when will these changes be made?

Over the past four years, work to inform employees about the strategic plan has been ongoing. Since 2015 we have been introducing all new employees to the strategic plan via a mandatory training program and a copy of the plan is provided for employees to access at all work locations. 

Supervisors and managers play an essential role in education of the plan by ensuring that our employees are not only aware of our key priorities and organizational values but also, that they understand how their day to day efforts align with that strategy.  We remain committed to ensuring there is a steady (yet manageable) flow of communication to inform and engage our employees.

Business-unit-level results have been shared with directors and, over the coming weeks, senior leadership will be working with their management teams and employees to review the results and make recommendations for improvements. 

Over the next three to five months, plans will be developed by each business unit to identify specific actions to be taken.  Where possible, some action items will be initiated in the coming days and weeks, while others will require more significant planning and execution.

How are management teams being held accountable for the fact that only 44 per cent of your employees say they are given regular feedback on job performance?

As part of our commitment to continuous improvement and performance excellence, a coaching culture is being adopted. Part of this coaching culture hinges on the organization providing resources and support to our leadership teams so they are better equipped to effectively engage their employees. This includes recognizing achievements and constructively addressing the challenges faced by employees in meeting intended results.

Our management team provides employee feedback during the regular performance review process. However, more must be done to ensure accountability for providing regular, ongoing feedback on job performance. The specific means to achieve this will be addressed through the development of business-unit specific and corporate-wide action plans. 

71 per cent of employees feel committed the Halifax Regional Municipality as an employer but 17 per cent feel the municipality is committed to them as employees. What is being done to address this?

The municipality is very fortunate to have employees that feel they make a valuable contribution to public service and make a difference in the lives of our citizens. As an employer, we need to do a better job of recognizing those efforts. Key to this will be working with employees to improve employee recognition and opportunities for development. The specific means to achieve this will be addressed through the development of business-unit specific and corporate-wide action plans. 

43 per cent of employees are either low or completely disengaged. How does the municipality intend to improve that?

The survey results identify five key drivers for engagement: (1) Interest in employee wellbeing; (2) Valuing employee contributions; (3) Professional development & learning opportunities; (4) Employee relations with management; and (5) Support for doing what one does best.

The municipality will address these focus areas through a corporate strategy as well as business unit specific strategies to improve the overall level of engagement in the organization. Business unit leaders will be held accountable to the goals of these action plans.

Survey results indicate a key driver of engagement is the level of trust employees have in their managers or supervisors. What is being done to improve that relationship?

The municipality will continue its efforts to improve leadership training initiatives that focus on improving relationship and organizational trust. This includes changing our approach to feedback and recognition for employees. Leaders will be held accountable for reporting on initiatives around workplace culture – including collaboration, diversity and inclusion, as well as harassment and violence prevention. The specific means to achieve this will be addressed through the development of business-unit specific and corporate-wide action plans. 

What steps are planned to have a positive impact on employee recognition?

The municipality has undertaken a corporate initiative, to be rolled out this spring, which will build on our current employee recognition program. The primary focus of this initiative is to encourage timely, regular communication by leaders and peers outside of the formal performance evaluation program to help inspire a culture of recognition and provide an opportunity to celebrate successes. In addition, the municipality will be working with business units to improve leadership accountability for employee contributions and recognition and develop processes for employee input and opportunities to actively share successes and positive experiences.

The survey results support the perception that personal learning and skill development is not a priority at the municipality. What is being done to address this?

The municipality strives to be a learning organization and has initiatives currently underway to support employees in their professional development and career advancement. Some examples include:

  • All employees are required to take mandatory employee courses and are welcome to take any elective municipal course offerings as part of the general employee learning and development path.
  • Within the past year, Human Resources has developed the Foundations for Aspiring Leaders and Emerging Leaders programs, which encourage leadership development from within our organization.
  • Human Resources has collaborated with business units to improve management access to information through the redevelopment of the Manager’s Toolkit available on the Employee Intranet.

Activities being considered as part of the action planning process include: providing regular performance feedback and linking that to employee career development and aspirations; looking at ways to improve communication with frontline staff so that they are better aware of the development opportunities that exist; and holding leaders accountable to report on the development of their employees.

What are the next steps and timeline for addressing the survey results?

Senior leadership and employee representatives from across the organization will be developing a corporate action plan to based on the five key areas of focus. Senior leadership will also be working with their teams immediately to work on the development of business unit-level action plans.

The business unit-level plans will feed into the broader corporate approach. It's anticipated that action plans will be developed within three to five months and that activation of these plans will occur within the next 12 months. Simple initiatives or ‘quick wins’ will be initiated in the coming days and weeks, while others will require more significant planning and execution. We are committed to providing employees and the public with regular updates on actions being taken.

When was the 2018 employee engagement survey conducted?

From April to May of 2018, the data collection for the 2018 Employee Engagement Survey was conducted by Corporate Research Associates (CRA), on behalf of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

When was the previous employee engagement survey conducted? How do these results compare?

The most recent employee engagement survey was completed in 2009. Many years have passed and the metrics we’re using have changed, therefore comparing against the 2009 survey results is not valuable. The 2018 Employee Engagement Survey will serve as our benchmark moving forward.