Round Rock city manager discusses how to secure, keep municipal employees

Bobby Blanchard

Working a government job does not have to be mundane. At least, that is the hope of city managers like Steve Norwood who are fighting to hire and retain the best employees.

Norwood, the city manager of Round Rock, spoke to students Tuesday afternoon about recent changes in the field of city management. The event was hosted by Citizens for Local and State Service, a student organization on campus that focuses on familiarizing students with working for and with the government. This was the second in a three-part series.

“In the past, usually the Lyndon B. Johnson School [of Public Affairs] offers a course that is taught by a city manager,” said student leader of CLASS Audra Teinert. “Since we didn’t have that course this semester, we collaborated with some people in administration to host this three-part series.”

Norwood said people now change jobs more than in the past and is working to make Round Rock an appealing place to work in order to keep employees. As an employer, Norwood said he is not competing for employees from other city governments, but from companies like Apple, Dell and other private companies.

“That market of employees and that pipeline of employees is getting smaller and smaller,” Norwood said. “I want to keep the good ones. I want to track the good ones, but I also want to keep them.”

Norwood said cities have trouble putting themselves out on the job market as appealing employers.

“Cities are doing an awful job marketing themselves and promoting themselves as a career, as a place to work,” Norwood said.

Norwood said a part of retaining employees is the city keeping up with advancements in technology.

“People want to see everything online, and it’s not laptops anymore,” Norwood said. “Everyone has their iPhone, and they’re getting instant gratification.”

Norwood said cities that do not keep up with technology risk falling behind and losing relevance.

“If people don’t feel like there is a soul or a spirit there, then they are going to go somewhere else,” Norwood said.

But, Norwood said cities should not change too fast or else they risk their goal of retaining employees.

“We all hate when the cable companies change the channels, and people don’t like change,” Noorwod said. “By and large, it has got to be slow.”

Public affairs graduate student Elizabeth Joseph, who went to the event, said she took particular interest in how cities are working to keep employees from leaving for private sector jobs.

“Students in the LBJ school love what we do, but there are some private sector options that are appealing,” Joseph said. “It’s just good to hear that the public sector is working to keep bright students in government.”

Austin’s city manager Marc Ott will speak at the next and last event in the series on Tuesday, April 17 at 12:15 in room 3.122 in Sid Richardson Hall.

Printed on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 as: City jobs face hardships hiring, keeping workers