Audit of the Kauai Department of Public Works Solid Waste Division
From Kauai County Auditor, September, 2021 (excerpts)
In early 2019, the Kaua‘i County Council (“Council”) was informed by members of the public and employees of the Division “that the morale within all facets of the Solid Waste Division…..is at an all-time low, explaining that an audit may be necessary to determine the cause of the problem and its potential effects on employee performance.”
As a result of this information, the Council issued a Memorandum of Concurrence, dated April 25, 2019, which called for a performance audit to be conducted of the Division to identify the cause(s) of low morale and its effect on the performance of employees of the Division. …
Our findings are summarized as follows. .
Finding 1: The employee survey indicates the Division likely has an employee morale problem.
The employee survey results indicated that the Division likely has an employee morale problem that appears to be driven by employees’ negative perception of Division leadership. Twenty-nine employees responded to the survey out of a possible 67 respondents, a 43 percent response rate. A response rate this low usually indicates that employees have low expectations that anything will come of the survey and also a negative perception of management, which is confirmed by the ratings of those who did respond to the survey….
Summary of Most Improvable Organizational Factors
1. Clearly the most significant challenge is a negative perception of and lack of confidence and trust in Division leadership. This issue is a problem in all the units, with the possible exception of Recycling. Given that it is top leadership that sets the tone for organizational effectiveness and culture, negative ratings such as these may explain much of the other negative responses in other categories in the survey.
2. Survey results indicate that employees feel that the way work is done does not make sense, that if something does not make sense, they can’t get it changed, that their opinions don’t seem to count, and it is not safe to speak up if what they have to say is unpopular. Comments suggest that ineffective work practices impact the equipment that is used in the workplace, and that may have an impact on perceived safety. This issue appears to be a problem in all units with the possible exception of Recycling.
3. There is a negative perception of performance management in all units with the possible exception of Recycling. Comments indicate that poor performance management is resulting in problem employees becoming a distraction, and it is likely that the perception of a negative impact of flex schedules and employees who work more than one job is a result of poor performance management.
4. There is a consistent perception of poor communication across the Division, starting at the Division leadership level.
5. Supervisory effectiveness is consistently rated negatively across the Division. Supervisors are not perceived to be responsive, respectful, trustworthy, accurate, or encouraging. It is important to note that organizational behavior studies have consistently revealed that the number one reason that employees stay or leave their jobs is the quality of relationship they have with their direct supervisors.
6. Flex schedules and employees who work more jobs than their County job appears to be perceived as having a negative impact on work performance. This is likely to be a result of poor supervisory effectiveness and should be addressed through improved supervision….
Finding 2: The policies and SOPs regarding Flex-Time are inadequate and risk operational problems and costs.
We found that the DPW Flex-Time Policy used by the Division falls short of best practices.... As a result, policy administration is inadequate, and causes operational problems, such as the absence of one or more top-level SWD supervisors from the workplace during portions of regular working hours. …
The fact that two of the higher-ranking Division leaders were allowed nonstandard, flexible schedules calls into question
(1) the adequacy of management and supervision in the Division,
(2) whether the County’s Flex-Time policy ensures that public services are provided during County working hours and
(3) whether an employee’s rank or personal connections affect whether Flex-Time requests are granted, as suspected by some in the employee survey. …
Finding 3: The policies and SOPs related to Outside Employment (moonlighting) are inadequate and risk operational problems and costs….
In interviews, we were informed of concerns about the Outside Employment practices of the SWD. Among the concerns that were expressed were:
- Whether the Outside Employment contributed to employees being too tired to adequately perform County duties.
- For employees required to be on call, whether the Outside Employment affected their availability for emergencies.
- Whether the employees were leaving work earlier than allowed to go to their moonlighting jobs. In one case, an employee had two moonlighting jobs that began fifteen minutes after the end of the work day at the Division. This is a very short time, during which the employee would have to end work duties with the County, commute to the moonlighting jobs, and get ready to start work there.
We understand that questions were also raised about why one SWD employee was allowed to be a substitute bus driver for the County Transportation Agency, and whether others could do the same. We were also informed that the fact that a SWD employee was allowed to moonlight in another county job was a reason for this audit.
The results of the survey and interviews indicated that feelings about preferential treatment and supervisory coverage could be underlying the concerns about Outside Employment, and contribute to morale issues at the SWD and complaints from the public.
We tested Outside Employment requests and approvals against the DPW policy for Outside Employment to evaluate whether any non-compliance occurred. We were provided six Outside Employment requests from four employees to test. This number is significantly less than the 11 employees who noted that they had outside jobs in the employee survey. As 29 out of 67 employees responded to the survey, it is likely that there are more employees with outside jobs than Division records indicate. This situation indicates problems with policy compliance and/or recordkeeping. …
read … Full Report
TGI: County’s Solid Waste Division audited, morale in question