Coorong council must do more to retain 'stressed' staff, organisational culture review finds

The Coorong council office at Tailem Bend. Photo: File.
The Coorong council office at Tailem Bend. Photo: File.

The Coorong council must do more to look after its stressed, depressed staff or risk losing many more of them, an external review has found.

The review, by Adam Kennedy of AME Recruitment, found greater scrutiny by new councillors, leaks of confidential information, and judgment in mainstream and social media had all contributed to a tense working environment for staff; and that morale had declined during the long, unexplained absence of former CEO Vincent Cammell.

Such developments had compounded issues including a perceived "boys' club" within the council; the apparent employment of people's friends, relatives and partners; attacks by ex-staff; and difficulties associated with a corporate re-structure.

Three years ago the council had been one team, collegiate, inclusive and community-focused, staff said.

The establishment of a staff lunch club was the one positive recent development.

"There is a real need to manage change, culture and the sense of what working at Coorong District Council means," Mr Kennedy said.

"Reducing staff turnover is critical for future success."

The review found the council had already turned over almost a quarter of its staff in the first half of this year, on top of a 20pc turnover last year.

"A large number" of staff were looking for other jobs, and 20 per cent would not reapply for their current jobs if they were asked.

"Coorong District Council is turning over the entire workforce every 4.2 years," Mr Kennedy said.

"This level of turnover results in significant disruption, loss of intellectual and organisational knowledge and experience and a significant impact on staff morale."

More than 40 staff were interviewed in May, but the report had remained confidential until a council meeting on Tuesday night.

At the meeting, acting chief executive officer Graeme Maxwell noted there were "some issues that need to be addressed" in the coming months.

But for a start, he said, the council had put in place an employee assistance program which would allow staff members and councillors to seek counselling if they needed it.