Region's police have low job satisfaction - workplace survey

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 03/07/2014

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Waikato police are feeling detached from their jobs and lack faith in the national police strategy.

The fifth annual workplace survey reveals the region has one of the most disengaged forces in the country.

It coincides with revelations from a Waikato police insider who described a culture of low morale among rural cops. He fears someone will die before resourcing in those areas is improved.

But Police Minister Anne Tolley dismissed his concerns as "scaremongering". She said the background to the survey was massive operational change and police had more resources now than ever before.

The NZ Police Workplace Survey 2014 reveals fewer than half of the region's police agree the department has a clear vision of where it's going and how it's going to get there.

The 44 per cent agreement on that issue was an 18.3 percentage point drop from the previous year, far outweighing the biggest gain and well below the national average.

It also revealed more staff feel detached from their jobs, placing it among the worst in the country.

The measurement is known as the "engagement index" and is squeezed out of a set of questions designed to measure how employees apply themselves mentally, emotionally and physically at work.

It includes job satisfaction, willingness to recommend the force as a great place to work, and effort.

Nationally, Waikato is at the bottom end at 63.9 points, a 4.6 percentage point fall from 2013.

The number of "engaged" staff also dropped 3.8 percentage points and the "disengaged" ranks grew 4.7 percentage points.

Waikato is on par with bottom-ranked Southern and is only eight points above the worst performing region in engagement terms, Northland.

The independent report, compiled by IBM, states: "Compared to NZ Police overall, Waikato District employees have significantly lower levels of engagement and less favourable perceptions on most aspects of the workplace climate."

Perceptions around top-down communication also declined.

Only 31 per cent of staff feel communication is open and honest - that's an 11.6 percentage point drop from the previous year and 15 percentage points below the national average.

It suggests "an overall sense of disconnect between people from Waikato District and NZ Police as a whole".

The biggest gain, of 9.4 per centage points, shows more staff feel they are encouraged to provide ideas and suggestions to improve the way things are done. Yet the 48 per cent mark is still 10 percentage points lower than the national average.

And just 18.6 per cent agreed that actions will be taken based on the survey's results. That's 10 percentage points down on 2013 and 15 percentage points below the national number.

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The report said: "It is crucial that Waikato District work on specific actions this year related to the key recommended areas and involve and inform employees throughout the process."

New district commander, Superintendent Bruce Bird, said a number of initiatives had already been implemented, such as improving internal communications to keep staff well informed, share successes and encourage staff development.

"I recognise there has been a decline across some areas comparative to previous years but a number of scores still remain higher than the state sector average," he said.

"The results were not unexpected however, as police have been moving through a transformational change programme in which there is always some uncertainty."

Tolley said the district had "produced fantastic results in cutting crime while undergoing change. Part of that was due to increased foot patrols.

She said police were better-resourced than ever before.

"All officers have been equipped with iPhones and iPads to input and access important information while on the streets. They also have better access to Tasers and firearms to protect themselves and the public."

District commanders decided where to deploy staff and "I back them to get this right to produce the best possible results to keep communities safe", she said.

Bird said he had seen staff across the district demonstrate "exceptional levels of commitment" to the job.

"I look forward to working with staff district-wide to create a work environment that they can be proud of and that will enable staff to perform to the expectations of the community."

- Waikato Times

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