If you recall back in January, we wrote that the City of Grapevine hired consultants to evaluate staffing levels within its departments. On Tuesday night at the City Council workshop, we witnessed the first report from the consulting group to the City Council. To put it mildly, we were less than impressed.
Mayor William D. Tate seemed less impressed than we were. After a twenty-three minute presentation by one of the consultants, Mayor Tate opened up with what everyone in the room had to be thinking. He said something to the effect of, “I don’t know what this is. And this certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.” And that is the brilliance of Mayor Tate. He can summarize what everyone in the room is thinking in 30 words or less. He went on to say, “we need to put the brakes on and go back and reboot.”
The presentation included zero evaluation of the number of city employees. There were some vague references to the City of Grapevine having “lean staffing” and potential areas where there could be added headcount. But there were no comparisons to staffing levels of any other cities at all.
Having been through several staffing evaluations we can give you the basics. Take your staff by department and make comparisons to that of your closest competitors to see if you are staffed properly. That is really the basic blocking and tackling of the entire analysis.
This discussion would have gone immeasurably better if the consultants created two simple slides. If we had a little more time, we would create the outline and post it here, but for now we will just describe it. First, you need four or five cities to compare Grapevine staffing with. Let’s say for this hypothetical you take Arlington, Grand Prairie, New Bruanfels, Kerrville, and Nacogdoches. List all the cities across the top of the slide. Down the left side you list the city government departments (Parks and Recreation, Convention and Visitors Bureau, etc). In the matrix of slide one you list the number of employees for each city by department. This gives you a quick summary of Grapevine’s headcount versus that of some comparable cities.
For the second slide, you use the exact same format as slide one only remove the number of headcount and replace with average salary by department. Now in two quick slides you compare headcount and average salary by department between Grapevine and four or five comparable cities. You want to know the best thing about a study like this? It is all public information. All the starting data points are little more than a phone call away to the cities you want to compare to. (Imagine doing this type of analysis for private businesses where the information is not public. Hint: It’s a whole lot tougher.)
With those two slides alone you have infinitely more data than what was provided in the council workshop. And you have a basis for input and questions from the City Council. The Council can then tell you which cities and or departments to drill down further on. They can ask you to potentially consider other cities in the analysis that you did not include. You have created a simple starting point to the analysis and a basis for what questions to ask and the next steps to take.
As Mayor Tate put it, the council needed a road map. Or as Councilwoman Darlene Freed put it, they needed more of an executive summary. They got neither. The level of detail and direction provided Tuesday night by the consultant was way off the reservation of what the City Council was looking for.
Thousands of dollars are being spent on this analysis. Let’s hope it gets better.