Culture rebuild at Wellington City Council

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Wellington City Council (WCC) has pledged to rebuild its workplace culture after the results of an employee survey, in which 81% of staff participated, found dissatisfaction was rife.

Three key findings of the survey were that staff were unclear what was expected of them, that many were not enjoying their work and did not expect to continue in the organisation long-term, and that the WCC could do much to improve service delivery.

According to the survey, a majority of staff believe that the council fails to meet its values of ‘aiming high’, ‘encouraging fresh thinking’, and ‘delivering what is right’. Chief executive Kevin Lavery observed that WCC had gone through a significant restructure in the past 18 months, inevitably resulting in an “unsettling time for staff”.

“Having said that, the staff have spoken…they clearly want to work in a supportive environment where they can enjoy their work and strive for quality knowing that everyone or anyone can come up with good ideas,” Lavery said in a statement.

WCC has made the development of an action plan to improve its workplace culture a priority, according to Lavery. The plan would focus on four areas:


  • Leadership: managers will undertake leadership programmes and role model the culture that staff want
  • Communication: there will be regular communication via intranet video and emails from the CEO to all staff, as well as more face-to-face meetings
  • Staff involvement: staff will be included in the process to improve the workplace culture
  • Accommodation: WCC will shift to open-plan offices and hot-desking


Lavery said that he had asked the property team to develop a plan for flexible working and hot-desking in the belief that open-plan working dissolves barriers and will assist WCC in achieving the desired culture change. “This means that myself, all directors, managers and section heads will give up our offices and work in open-plan environments. I intend to be the first person to give up my office,” Lavery said.

Changes would be driven hard and the new workplace culture embedded quickly, according to Lavery. “I want Wellington City Council to be a place where people and graduates want to work and are proud to be,” he said.

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