Many municipalities struggle to attract and retain employees.

Cities often keep their staffing levels low, as they are under pressure to do more with less. However, this forces employees to fill multiple roles and take on heavier workloads. Then, they get stressed and quit.

With so much employee stress, it’s not surprising that the government sector has the third-highest turnover rate of all sectors in Canada.[1] Municipalities that fail to address this problem will struggle with inefficiencies and meeting service levels.

Municipalities often rely on dated technologies that create work for city employees. For example, they spread records across filing cabinets, offices, and databases. Then, city staffs must search multiple areas when they need a file. This slows employees down and makes it hard for them to respond to citizens’ requests promptly. Looking for information also takes employees away from more fulfilling projects that build value in their community. 

Industry analyst, Gartner Group[2], conducted a State of the Digital Workplace survey that found, “ample evidence of government’s lagging status, revealing some distinct differences in the government workplace relative to that of non-government counterparts.” According to the survey, “Government workers are fundamentally more dissatisfied with their workplace technology” when compared with employees who work in other industries.

A third factor that impacts municipalities’ ability to attract and retain employees is the multi-generational workforce. Millennials currently make up the largest percentage of the workforce. However, Gen Z will account for 32% of the global population and outnumber Millennials by 2019.[3]

As more Baby Boomers retire, the workforce will primarily include younger generations that expect modern technology and flexible working environments. According to a recent survey[4], 82 percent of Millennials said that they would be more loyal to their employer if they have flexible working hours. This requires that they have access to technology that allows them to work from any device and location – such as secure file sharing and web conferencing tools. 

Municipalities must embrace digital transformation if they want to create a rewarding environment for this cross-generational workforce. Gartner1 further states, “Accelerating adoption of digital workplace technology — and, more broadly, a digital workplace initiative — can enable governments to compete for and retain workers, improve the satisfaction of their current workforces, provide better tools for employee engagement, and improve their ability to manage and develop their workforces.”

3 Ways to Transform Your Municipality

Digital transformation not only engages employees; it also helps you give citizens faster, more responsive service. Here are three steps that your municipality can take to streamline your processes and transform digitally. This will help you boost employee satisfaction, attract new talent, and improve your relationships with your community.

  1. Change your culture.

Digital transformation requires a culture shift.

However, many people are resistant to change and don’t want to use new technology or processes. Some leaders want to maintain a traditional office where employees arrive at 9:00 a.m. and sit at their desks all day. This is because they associate hours spent at a desk with productivity.

However, this isn’t always true.

According to research by Canada Life Group Insurance[5], workers in cubicles and open offices feel more stress than those who work from home. Meanwhile, 91 percent of people who work remotely are more productive when they’re out of the office.[6]

While it might not be possible for all of your employees to work remotely, you can enhance loyalty and decrease turnover when you focus on productivity over hours. You can increase your efficiencies when you make it easy for employees to work from any device or location. 

  1. Digitize your paper records.

Municipal employees are overwhelmed with paperwork. They spend a large percentage of their time searching for records and updating them manually. Digitizing your paper records allows employees to find information and fulfill requests from citizens quickly.

Digitization also helps you achieve the following benefits:

  • Enhanced security, as you can place access controls around who views your digital files.
  • Improved compliance, as you will have secure, digital audit trails of your records.
  • Lower costs, as you don’t need to pay for real estate to store files.
  • Happier employees, as they can spend less time on admin and more time giving back to your community.
  1. Automate your workflows.

Manual workflows are slow, costly, and error-prone. For example, a record may sit on someone’s desk until they have a chance to review it. This can create delays that frustrate both employees and residents.

Automating processes, such as invoicing and approvals, allows city staffs to complete tasks faster by reducing errors and rework. This makes employees happier, as they will reduce their workloads and stress levels. It also makes citizens happier, as they will receive help faster.

Success Story: How the City of Saint John, NB Slashed Its Permit Review Times by 30%

The City of Saint John, New Brunswick, has, in the past, relied on paper-based systems for many of its processes, such as approving building permits. Customers submitted applications on paper. Then, each application passed through a sequence of approvals. Since staff worked in different buildings and couldn’t share files digitally, the Saint John team needed to ship applications to multiple locations for approvals.

The City of Saint John knew that it needed to modernize its processes and make them more customer-friendly. Saint John digitized its records and automated 61 of its workflows, including building permit reviews. Now, when a customer submits a permit application, it is automatically e-delivered to everyone who needs to review it. This cuts down on approval times, as reviewers don’t need to wait for the person who is before them on the chain to approve it. 

Thanks to these enhancements, the City of Saint John has reduced its permit review times by 30 percent. Saint John has also improved its relationships with customers, as staff can approve permits faster and give contractors a better understanding of how long the review process will take. Meanwhile, the Saint John team can focus on serving the community, not on paperwork.

Do You Want to Modernize Your Processes So You Can Improve Employee and Citizen Relationships?

Digital transformation offers municipalities many benefits – such as improving employee retention rates and citizen relationships. In many cases, you can achieve these benefits within your current funding levels. The savings that you can gain through digitization and automation may offset your costs in other areas. This allows you to free up funds and redirect them back into your community.

See how other municipalities are delivering positive citizen and employee experiences. Visit


[1] HR Reporter: Canada ranks 4th globally for highest employee turnover, March 15, 2018 

[2] Gartner ID G00311278: Government CIOs Must Create a Digital Workplace to Attract and Retain the Next Generation Workforce, Refreshed January 8, 2018

[3] Bloomberg: Gen Z Is Set to Outnumber Millennials Next Year, August 20, 2018

[4] Inc.: Why Are Millennials Hell-Bent on Flexibility at Work? January 19, 2017

[5] Canada Life Group Insurance: 9.7 million workers say their productivity is damaged by stress and anxiety, April 16, 2018

[6] TINYpulse: What Leaders Need to Know About Remote Workers, April, 2016