Beyond the Org Chart: Mapping the Ties that Bind in the Workplace

by the Bloomington, MN for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Relentless Creativity

In its effort to become a high-performing organization, the City of Bloomington's Community Services Department went beyond the typical employee satisfaction survey to find out how work really gets done.  A poll the year before found that while there was pride and passion in the overall work that employees did, some felt there was poor communication and limited opportunities for relationship-building. We hypothesized that this indicated there were areas in the department where trust was lacking.

When we were approached by university researchers about a free project that would provide map out the social networks in our department, we jumped at the opportunity. Organizational network analyses are rare for local governments – we were the first public sector entity the researchers had studied.

Our 2017 analysis entailed site visits, an employee survey that probed into linkages between employees and a mapping of various networks in the department’s divisions. The analysis gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the informal networks in the department – the employee friendships, who goes to whom for advice, and who trusts whom – all in a confidential, anonymous manner. It indicated where teams were cohesive and employees were willing to trust their co-workers. It also identified where disruptions existed and distrust was prevalent.

Since then, we have conducted an in-depth assessment into parts of the department where the density of the friendship network was low and the trust network fell into the negative category.  Based on interviews with employees and stakeholders, we are restructuring the department to better align it with the City Council’s strategic priorities, improve accountability and more effectively utilize staff’s strengths and talents. We have also initiated other efforts such as a quarterly newsletter help employees get to know each other better and to build more informal networks across the department. 

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