Since 2008 when the local government entities of Townsville City Council, NQ Water and Thuringowa City Council amalgamated to form the new Townsville City Council, PolicyPoint has been helping the Council meet its employee training and corporate governance commitments.
With more than 1700 employees, Townsville City Council services 175,000 residents across 3,700 square kilometres of far North Queensland. The Council provides a wide range of services including infrastructure, water, parks, waste, leisure and public works.
In the lead-up to the amalgamation, a comprehensive review of Council policies was undertaken. When the new Council came into being, Council management needed to ensure that the organisation’s core policies and procedures were understood by all employees.
“Each of the three organisations that became amalgamated had their own sets of policies and procedures, all of which had to be reviewed to determine their appropriateness for the amalgamated Council”, said Geraldine Wood, Executive Manager Corporate Governance, Townsville City Council. “There was a lot of potential for confusion and uncertainty amongst staff when the new Council was formed; in particular there was the risk that employees would find themselves working under policies that were obsolete, incorrect or unexplained.”
Rather than opt for an in-house solution, Townsville Council installed PolicyPoint Enterprise, a complete policy compliance solution that allows an organisation to distribute policy information, capture staff members’ acknowledgement of relevant policies and test for understanding.
“When the new Townsville Council was created we required a policy awareness program for all employees – we regard a program of this type as one of the central building blocks of good governance”,. “The PolicyPoint system impressed us as a solution that would easily enable staff to know what our policy direction is with regards to the job role they occupy.
“It is important that the Council maintain high standards when it comes to our corporate culture. As with any local government we are funded by the public and we are accountable to the ratepayers; accordingly all our staff need to know what we stand for and what is required of them.”
The PolicyPoint solution forms part of every new employee’s induction program as well as ongoing training. Council policies are broken down into categories with many being department-specific, for example finance, roads and engineering etc. Policies that need to be understood by all employees cover such areas as codes of conduct, the environment and workplace health and safety. For many policies – for example electrical safety – there is a legal requirement for all employees to be aware of them.
Approximately every two weeks a new staff member logs onto PolicyPoint via the Council’s intranet and is introduced to a new set of policies. After reading over the policies the user answers a handful of multiple choice questions to verify their understanding of them. As new policies are introduced new PolicyPoint modules are created for staff members to respond to.
“The PolicyPoint system has enabled us to avoid a situation where new employees are bombarded with Council policy material”, said Ms Wood. “PolicyPoint allows us to pace the policy education process steadily, allowing employees the best opportunity to understand the Council’s guidelines, policies and procedures and how their job responsibilities relate to them.”
Since PolicyPoint was installed there has not been an incident whereby an employee’s ignorance of a policy has produced harmful consequences for the Council.
“As a risk management tool PolicyPoint has proved its worth as is evident by the lack of any serious policy breaches”, said Ms Wood. “From a monitoring and verification perspective PolicyPoint is also proving effective. There have been a few occasions where an employee has claimed they were unaware of a particular policy, but in response we have been able to point to their completion of the relevant policy module to determine that that was not the case.”
The PolicyPoint system has been well-received by employees, as Ms Wood explains: “PolicyPoint has gained widespread positive acceptance amongst staff, which is very pleasing”, she said. “The ongoing task of learning and being tested on Council policies is effective without placing an onerous burden on staff members. For the vast majority of our employees meeting their PolicyPoint obligations is a stress-free part of their job.”
Looking towards the future, Townsville City Council plans to stick with PolicyPoint as its policy management solution.
“PolicyPoint is doing exactly what we expected of it”, said Ms Wood. “Importantly the customer support we have received from PolicyPoint has been first-class from day one. The professionals at PolicyPoint are very tuned in to our needs and objectives and they have developed a strong relationship with the Council. In the immediate future there is potential to expand our use of PolicyPoint particularly with regards to training.”