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Whakatāne District Council

How team-developed vision and values shifted the dial at Whakatāne District Council


Whakatāne District Council


Local Government

With the support of AskYourTeam, Whakatāne District Council (WDC) developed a new vision and values achieving strong support and uptake across the Council’s 300-strong workforce, and a revitalised employer brand, attracting higher calibre candidates and reducing employee churn.

Workforce disconnected from organisational purpose 

WDC’s frontline staff told management they were having difficulty relating to the council’s organisational purpose. From their perspective the vision was unclear, and the values were poorly understood. Research shows that purpose is fundamental to a great employee experience, and builds the crucial connections between people, their work, and the organisation. Council staff wanted their organisation to have strong guiding principles that everyone could relate to, and what’s more, the team wanted to be part of developing them.

Employee Voice helps to refine focus

With the help of Employee Voice, WDC embarked on a journey to revitalise its vision and values in a collaborative way that involved the entire workforce. Emlyn Hatch, General Manager People and Engagement, says their people played a big part in developing the vision and values.

Additional surveys were used to define WDC’s work on vision and values, as well as leadership, with the team giving their feedback in a safe and anonymous way. WDC was deliberate about not rushing to solutions, instead taking the time to really understand what the survey results were saying.

"Rather than dive straight into how we were going to respond, we had a lot of sessions with people leaders to talk about what do these results tell us about who we are and what our prioritise are?" says Emlyn. 

"And now our values are used everyday. That's how we acknowledge people, how we celebrate people, and how we talk about performance". 


Living the values and reaping the benefits 

When a team member feels aligned with organisational purpose, magic can happen. It paves the way for deeper commitment and connection, stronger engagement, discretionary effort, better performance, and greater retention, and that’s exactly what happened at WDC. Emlyn says the new vision and values has had a massive impact on leadership behaviours. 

"We saw a huge shift in people saying our leaders lived the values, saw the values every day, and we had a clear vision and strategy to move forward. It made our people feel optimistic about WDC".

There's been other benefits as well, says Emlyn. “Anecdotally, we’ve seen an increase in candidate applications, a higher calibre of candidates, and we're starting to see a reduction in turnover, too. I don't think that's by accident".


Making a commitment to seek continuous feedback

Steph O’Sullivan, the Chief Executive of Whakatāne District Council emphasises the importance of continuous feedback. "I think it's really important that we continue to monitor both the changes and the developments we've made as a result of early surveys."

Steph goes on to say "The commitment to continually seek feedback much more responsively than once a year, and that won't be the only ones we do, we'll be doing other ones as well, that it really starts to set a tone in the organisation of we are, we ask, we hear you, we respond". 

WDC has discovered the benefits of looking after its people. "If you look after and celebrate your people, you set strong expectations, and in turn they’ll take care of your customers.

“Working with AskYourTeam has been a partnership from day one. We know that strong partnerships are all about alignment of values, and we felt that with AskYourTeam.”