HRD 5-Star Employer of Choice 2023: City of Goldcoast

Tim Baker, CEO, talks about transformational change at his organization

HRD Australia speaks with Tim Baker, CEO of the City of Goldcoast, about his efforts for transformational change at the organization, including a culture survey, monthly CEO updates, a whistleblower line and 16 signature actions.

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Kylie: Hello and welcome to IBTV. I'm Kylie Speer and today I'm talking with Tim Baker, CEO at City of Goldcoast. Who are the HRD five star employer of choice winners for 2023. Welcome to you Tim. Congratulations and thank you so much for joining us today. 

Tim: Thank you. And it's an absolute pleasure to be here to talk about all the great things we're doing inside the city administration here in sunny Goldcoast. 

Kylie: Well, firstly, Tim, upon assuming your current role, you are open about your plan to transform and change the city administration into a high performing customer focused organization. How far along are you on this journey? 

Tim: Well, let's go back to the start, Kylie. So I've been in the role now for about just over 12 months, and I came to this role with a clear mandate, a mandate that was given to me by the city and the councilors who run the city. And that mandate was to effect transformational change inside the organization. So pretty much from day one we put in place a culture survey and we got an assessment of what was going on inside the city. We thought that was really important and I thought that was really important to get a baseline for how behaviors and were were inside the organization and what the culture is. When you're a new CEO and you come into a role, you get told lots of things, but it's really important to get that baseline in place. So we did that and I think it was in week three of me starting this job, I announced that we would be doing the first whole of organization Wide Culture survey in over ten years. And, and so as soon as that happened, we also kicked off a range of conversations around what high performing meant and what, what it should look like inside the organization. And that started with monthly CEO updates to the over 4000 staff within the organization and they've been going on since I've started. We now average well over 2000 staff per update and we talk about issues to do with culture and what high performance means. So having received those results, it was a pretty stark reality for myself as CEO and for the council and for the staff inside the organization. But we were really clear that we just didn't want to present to the staff the the results. We also wanted to present to the staff what the solution would look like or at least how we were going to get the solution, because all the staff inside the organization were part of that solution. So having done the survey, having got the results, we then rolled out what we call the One Step project, which is the City one City transformation programme, and that programme involves six discrete programmes of change inside the organization, starting with culture. And we were really it was really important that we made that a dedicated team with. So no doing this off the side of your desk and we set about a plan to roll out that change. We are now some six months into that change programme. It's going to run for about 18 months and we're starting to see real results like the one we're talking about today. You know, I've described to my staff inside the organization that we've made it to base camp. We've done a huge amount of things in a short period of time, but we're a long way from the summit yet, so we've done a lot of great work, including addressing things like behaviors, addressing purpose inside the organization, transforming us into a purpose led organization. But we've still got a lot of work to do yet. Kylie. 

Kylie: Tim, another topic you've mentioned is delivering value for money services for the community. How challenging is it to find the balance between value and serving the public? 

Tim: Well, I actually think they're the same thing. And so in my first in my first year and the first budget that I handed down as CEO, we implemented a 2% savings across the board at 2% at what we call an efficiency dividend. And, you know, that was the first time this city had done anything like that in sort of living memory and the organization. Now that 2% has gone straight into delivering better services and for front line services. So I'll give you an example from that 2% savings we've been able to employ for more lifeguards on the beach as a result of being able to take from the back line and invest in the front line. So for me, there isn't a there isn't a challenge or a there isn't conflict between the two. In fact, they go hand in glove. And our goal now is to roll out 4% next year, again with reinvesting half of that into the business and half of that into services being delivered inside the city. So our view is that an efficient running organization will deliver an even more effective service to our customers, who in our case are the ratepayers and the and the many visitors who come to the Goldcoast every day. 

Kylie: Tim, last year you created the Transformation Directorate to lead change within City of Goldcoast Administration as a culture survey confirmed the need for accelerated change. What particular initiatives have you prioritized as part of this? 

Tim: Yeah, so this is really important for us. So as I mentioned, the one program, as we call it, because everything in council has an acronym, the one program is delivering in six main areas. And they, they include culture, they include organizational planning, they include accommodation, they include it. And then there are two externally focused work streams within that program. One looking at our entities. So that is the the funded organized actions that the council run. So that's things like tourism, major events, arts and culture. And that work has been completed in fact already and we're now looking to merge those together and might come together another day. Colleen talked about the that program because it's been an interesting ride. And then the sixth one is around customer experience. So a specific program looking at customer and how we can drive customer. But included in that program was a really important piece of work and that's called our signature actions program. So what we did is off the back of the culture survey, we went back to the staff and said, Look, you told us we needed to do a number of things. And in response to that we're going to do the following things. So and we use that language deliberately. So this concept of you told us we delivered was really important. So if you walk through any part of our organization, you know, all the lunch rooms, the back of the toilet doors, you can see a list of the 16 signature actions that we've put in place in response to the Culture survey. And any staff member at any time can go to our intranet and get a and get an update on how we're tracking with those services, those actions to give you a flavor about what some of those actions are. There are things like putting in place a independent reporting whistleblower line, because we were told that that we were that that staff were raising concerns and they weren't necessarily being listened to. It's things like an innovation fund. So we were told that staff inside our organization have lots of great ideas, but they're not necessarily being listened to. So we're putting in place an innovation fund. We were told that we had a lot of workers who were being employed as contractors or as as contract labor. So we're putting in place a program to bring those employees onto our books, by the way, saving us significant money, and particularly in a climate where retention is high. So that's just a flavor of of the 16 actions that were put in place. But the key point here is it's based on what the staff told us. So that's partly, I think, why in a relatively short period of time we've been able to go from having a culture that needs a lot of work. And that culture journey will continue to the award that we're talking about today and something we're immensely proud of. 

Kylie: Speaking of major events, Brisbane will host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2032. How much benefit and change a city of Goldcoast seeing from this? And are you working closely alongside the team delivering the games? 

Tim: Yeah. So look. Well, the first thing I'd say to you is that Brisbane is hosting the games, but so are the Goldcoast. And so and so is the whole of south east Queensland. You know, we have a range of events, Olympic events and Paralympic events and we're very proud of that fact. In fact, we're the second biggest partner for the games and we're the largest venue owner for the whole games because all of the events that we're that we're running will be delivered by events that we run and operate on behalf of the people of Goldcoast. The big difference, though, between us and Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, we're also going to have some events is we've got experience in delivering games. So in 2018 we delivered the Commonwealth Games and it was a huge success. So we're working really closely with the team out of Brisbane. We're working closely with the Queensland Government and we're really focusing on on legacy because if you walk around this city today, there is still a legacy from the 2018 games. Now that legacy in some cases is built infrastructure, which is great, but it's actually about more than that. We're incredibly proud of the fact that off the back of a very successful Commonwealth Games, we have significantly improved our relationship with First Nations people, for example. And those those structures that we put in place for working with with First Nations, people are still in place and they're being replicated as part of the games, the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and as part of the Commonwealth Games, which will be held in regional Victoria in a few years time. And I would also make the point that in terms of legacy and the benefit, another great secondary benefit that we've got in place is off the back of the the Commonwealth Games. We've now got an arts precinct which was largely driven through that as well. So yes, there'll be new venues. We'll give our existing venues a good, clean, spick and span, make them look spick and span. But the legacy that games can deliver is about much more than just sporting infrastructure. It can be cultural, it can be, and it can also be it can also obviously be a huge economic boom for our city. 

Kylie: Tim, data shows 88% of trips in City of Goldcoast are done via car, with a number of trips projected to double by 2031. How big an area of concern is this for you and are you still focused on creating light rail links to combat car use? 

Tim: I would say that of all the things that as CEO and as an organization, we are, we're focused on how we maintain that Goldcoast way of life is at number one. Now, the Goldcoast, like a lot of south east Queensland, has a great problem and that problem is, that we're popular and everyone wants to move here, including myself and my family. So off the back of that, you know, we're projecting to see by the time the Olympic Games comes around, about 250,000 people move to the Goldcoast. We'll be at about a million people on any given of residents, let alone all the visitors. So that growth is good. But of course, it comes with growing pains and how we manage that. Growing pains as a city is critical to our success. That's why our purpose, our newly defined purpose is about enhancing the Goldcoast way of life. So from a transport point of view, you're absolutely right. We're one of the most highly reliant on cars of any city in Australia. Now. We think that's partly because we've got a lot of tourists in our town and they love a rented car. So and that's always going to happen. So in response to that, we need and we're putting in place an integrated transport strategy. Now, that integrated transport strategy inside this city includes heavy rail, it includes light rail, it includes cars, of course, but it also includes a ferry service, which we operate. And the one which I think is the great sleeper is the active transport. So more and more we're seeing people want to get out on their bikes and yes, Kylie, their scooters. And we've got to build a city that can handle that. So we're a long city. We're a long, heavily popularized city, linear city. It's sometimes described as and because of that, rail does work. We are absolutely committed in in working with the Queensland Government to run rail further down from Broadbeach to Burleigh is happening right now. And then the goal is to get that light rail to the airport by by the games. Again, the challenge for us will be doing it in a way working with the Queensland Government so we can minimize disruption because once it's in it'll be a game changer for this city. 

Kylie: And finally, Tim, in terms of having a transformational change agenda, is there ever an end point? And when do you know when it's time to create a new agenda of change? 

Tim: Well, it's a really interesting question. I mean, so my my politician type answer is yes and no. So so we've put in place a programme that will run for a discrete period of time, and that's our one city programme and that will run for 18 months. At the end of that 18 months, we need to have built a foundation for continual improvement. So the idea is, is that all of the transformational work we're doing now will get us to a point where we can we can build that continual improvement into what we do every day, that will in a lot of ways that will be the ultimate success. We're about, as you said at the outset, we're about delivering a high performing organization that delivers best value for money possible for the ratepayer. And in order to do that, we're going to have to continue to innovate every day. You know, back in the day, councils were about rates and rubbish and roads. That was what it was about. That's not the case anymore. A city like a city like the city of Goldcoast and a council that's the second biggest in Australia is about the full life cycle of the city. You know, we're our own little mini organization that's running this city and we've got to make sure that we continue to improve and we continue to enhance. So yes, the program will end, but the challenge will then be for the business to pick up that mantle and continue to innovate. And that's why we're doing things like building an innovation fund and its things and making sure our structures can cope for whatever the next disruption is, whether that be in transport or whether that be in social services and community services we run. You know, that change is always coming and I think the best thing you can do as a leader and as an organization is get ourselves ready for that change. 

Kylie: Well, congratulations once again, and thank you so much for your time today, Tim. It was really lovely speaking with you. 

Tim: Thank you. Thank you very much. And as always, I'm happy to come and talk any time. 

Kylie: And thank you, of course, to our viewers for watching the latest episode of HRDTV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.