I have recently sent off my ballot in my local council elections and the results of council elections all over Victoria have now been determined. Hundreds of councillors are now taking up their positions on local councils, some for the very first time.
The challenge facing local government chief executives and their delegated staff is to ensure that new councillors are properly inducted, so that the council and senior management team can build a strong working relationship based on shared values and agreed workplace behaviours.
New council members may not be familiar with the code of conduct or other behavioural expectations which were present in the previous council. This creates a level of risk for the organisation, leading to disruption or even possibly complaints from staff or members of the public.
A thorough induction, sensitive to the needs of the new councillor, will minimise the risk to the business of inappropriate behaviour by new members.
The orientation of new councillors into their new roles is also a time of great opportunity for the council – new appointments mean new talents, strengths and skills flowing into the organisation. A good induction takes advantage of these strengths and finds ways to connect them into the existing council – senior management relationship. All of this, of course, is also true for any employer bringing on board new staff, contractors or board members.
Here are five things you can do to get the best out of new people in your workplace, using the appointment of new councillors as an example.
1. Get to know your new councillors
Councillors bring to their new position many new strengths and skills. They can come from many different backgrounds, occupations, and life circumstances. Many will have one, two, or more other jobs. Getting to know more about your new councillors, their breadth of experience, their ideas and what they can do, can energise the council. Similarly, it is important to understand any development needs for your new councillors. No two people will have the same level of experience, so it is important to set up an individual development plan that can unfold over the term of your new councillor. The time you invest in getting to know the new councillors will save you time and difficulty in the future.
2. Set expectations
In a good orientation, the new councillors understand the work of a local council, the differing roles of the council and the chief executive and expectations about behaviour are set. A code of conduct for a council ensures that there is a clear, documented set of behavioural expectations. Also central is a guide book, setting out the role of the council compared to the role executive as well as all of the operational matters that the new councillor will need to be aware of.
3. Conduct training & identify development needs
Training on the code of conduct and guide book is important early on in the life of the new councillor. In addition, once you have identified development opportunities, putting a new councillor in touch with relevant training that can be done over the course of their term is the way to go. Many organisations can provide training in key areas of responsibility. For example, the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) runs a Councillor Induction Day for new council members.
For many neophyte councillors, the key areas of development need will be in leadership and people management. This will be the first time that they are faced with managing many different kinds of people responsibilities and negotiating with different interest groups. Providing councillors with further leadership training (for example on how to conduct difficult conversations at work) is money well spent.
4. Assign a mentor
A proven idea is to set up a mentoring program for new councillors. More experienced hands take the new member under their wing and provide them with an experienced sounding board. The structure of the mentoring relationship can be formal or informal and once the mentoring relationship is healthy, the structure can often be left up to the mentor and mentoree.
5. Refresh your culture
Induction is not a one way street. Councils should use the appointment of new members to examine their policies and procedures and ensure that they are inclusive and up to date.
For many local councils, transitioning to a new team of Council members can be very challenging. The associated stress and risks can be mitigated by a sound induction program that considers the needs of all stakeholders.
About Jodie Fox
Jodie Fox brings to Worklogic a wealth of experience gained working with clients from a diverse range of industries. Previously working as an employment lawyer at a top-tier law firm for almost 10 years, Jodie worked closely with a host of large and small clients.
Worklogic offers a range of training and HR consulting services to support the effective induction and development of new staff. If you need help in this area, contact Jodie for an obligation free consultation via email or call (03) 9981 6558.
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