How long has your council been participating in the Rural Management Challenge?
We have been participating for three years.
What attracted you to participate in the first place and what keeps you coming back?
It is a fantastic opportunity for staff to develop and step outside their comfort zone. It also allows staff from all areas of Council to work together, get to know each other and learn more about what each other does.
What did you put in place to enable team members to take the time out required to prepare and participate in the Rural Management Challenge?
Once we registered the team, we allocated weekly meetings over a period of six weeks. This enabled the team to build their relationships, get to know each other and establish their team values and name. They had the time to look at the pre-challenge task and information that was provided and work at building a profile for the mock Council. Whilst it can be an intense period, with appropriate support and encouragement, it is a worthy development opportunity for staff.
Who were the members of your team and what roles do they have in council?
We had the following employees participate:
- Business Improvement Officer;
- HR Officer;
- Development Officer x 2;
- Patrol Grader;
- Visitor Information Coordinator.
In 2014, we had the first outside Council employee participate in the challenge and it was extremely beneficial for all. He totally stepped out of his comfort zone and really gelled with the team.
Did participating help with cross council relationships?
Yes, definitely. Our Council is spread over four offices and four depot locations with many employees not having face to face contact with each other. It was a great way to put a face to a name and build work relationships between departments. It also gave us a better understanding and appreciation of the varied skills of our employees.
The challenge really encourages the connection and appreciation of the various skills our employees possess. This connection is important to employee relations and builds up morale and allows transfer of knowledge. Each employee was able to come away from the challenge with a new appreciation of their own skills and knowledge base and the confidence to use it. This can only benefit Council.
Which team member stood out in the area of transformation and growth as a result of participating?
One of our Patrol Grader’s participated and his role requires him to work solely on his own with little contact with other departments, which is normally limited to training and/or social events. He was very much out of his comfort zone but during the team exercises before the challenge was able to contribute and build on his own skills. He was very nervous the morning of the challenge but rose to the occasion beautifully, participating and contributing to all the challenge tasks. I think he would also say he gained an appreciation of the work and skills needed to do the work of the inside staff member.
What have been the key benefits to both team members and your council?
As mentioned earlier many staff never get the opportunity to interact with each other through normal day to day operations (or have never even seen each other pre-challenge). The challenge really throws a diverse mix of people together, which helps to create a greater knowledge of all the roles within a Council. Due to the intensity of the Challenge, these relationships remain strong back in the workplace after the Challenge is over.
Improved internal communication between the staff participating in the Challenge, greater depth of knowledge for the team members on how Council works as a whole and improved staff satisfaction of the participants – they feel valued, have experienced the best form of training. This in turn should lead to better staff retention.
Can you provide some tips on how to get the most out of the Rural Management Challenge?
Some preparation meetings are the key. Have a look at the data that is provided, build a profile for the fictitious council, make it a fun event, and really step outside your comfort zone. This is about challenging yourself. If you are afraid of public speaking, this is the time to step up and present. It truly is a fun and rewarding experience.
Do you think rural councils thinking of participating for the first time would benefit from having another council mentor them?
Yes, it is an invaluable experience to work with a mentor. Engaging someone who is willing to share some secrets and assist your team to push themselves and strive high, I would highly recommend.