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MD of Bighorn enacting organizational review with five new hires

“Over the last number of years, it has seemed as though our to-do list has always been greater than our accomplished list and we just haven’t really had the capacity within our administrative team to accomplish everything.”

MD OF BIGHORN – The MD of Bighorn is making strides to address identified staffing shortages, retention and organizational issues with several new employees joining the municipality in recent months.

The MD has recently hired a deputy fire chief, infrastructure services engineer, communications coordinator, manager of operational services and a human resources and payroll coordinator.

All new hires are filling newly created roles that were recommended in a third-party organizational review conducted from June to October 2023. The report, done by J.R. McDonald & Associates Inc., recommended hiring or updating over a dozen positions to address service gaps, effectiveness and deficiencies within the growing municipality.

“All five of these positions were very much highlighted and identified as needs in the organizational review, as well as some of the other studies we’ve done, such as the governance audit and the Bow Corridor fire services plan,” said Bighorn Reeve Lisa Rosvold.

“We are starting to fill these positions knowing they’re going to support the rest of the staff and council and making sure there’s always going to be capacity within our administrative team to continue working on current and new projects.

“Over the last number of years, it has seemed as though our to-do list has always been greater than our accomplished list and we just haven’t really had the capacity within our administrative team to accomplish everything.”

Based on interviews with MD staff and analysis of staffing structure, the organizational review noted that most respondents believed staffing levels were adequate but a noticeable minority did not share this sentiment.

“This suggests that some departments or roles may be feeling understaffed or overburdened,” the report stated. “The strain of extra work duties and wearing multiple hats was also identified.”

Staffing inadequacies were identified in several departments, including corporate services, where in addition to a human resource coordinator, it was recommended a procurement/insurance and asset coordinator, records management and FOIP coordinator also be hired.

The review further recommended hiring a planning and development technician/bylaw officer in 2024 to support the MD’s director of planning and development services and help resolve identified policy and procedural issues within the department.

The MD is currently acting on this and hiring a temporary planning and development administrative assistant. The municipality is also hiring a manager of finance.

Other key positions identified in the organizational review were for a building code officer and the addition of three new firefighters to address protective services shortages within the MD.

In its 2024 operating budget, the MD allocated $5.94 million to staff salaries and wages, with $800,000 toward filling three positions that were vacant at the time and eight new staffing positions.

Since the budget was approved, the director of corporate and community services position was also vacated. Brenda Hewko formerly held the position as a sub-contractor with the MD from June 2023 to March 2024. Lynda Gale, Bighorn’s former manager of finance, moved into the vacant role in the last month.

Internal succession and succession planning is something the MD is beginning to see more of, said Rosvold.

“We’ve had people step out of senior leadership roles and then some staff move up into those positions and that has trickled down a little bit, so we’ve had quite a few changes in titles and leadership roles at the MD,” she said.

Rosvold credits the addition of a human resources professional to the organization for seeing more applicants putting their names forward for vacant or new positions.

Where less information was available on job postings, there is now a noticeable difference in transparency around salary expectations and responsibilities.

The addition of a human resources coordinator also takes the burden of related responsibilities off the CAO, who was formerly taking on that work, loosely supported by council policy.

“Council should not be in the business of hiring anybody except the CAO of the municipality,” said Rosvold.

“That was one of the first positions hired, knowing that we were going to need to hire a few other positions. It was important for us to onboard that HR position as soon as possible. With that position, comes a wealth of knowledge and experience that we just didn’t have on our staffing complement.”

The MD of Bighorn has been subject to recruitment but also retention issues in recent years, notably with parting ways with former CAO Robert Ellis in October 2022 and two councillors leaving before the end of the current council term, along with several other changes to administration staff.

“Staff recruitment and retention issues are significant and concerning; there needs to be collaboration between senior management and the council to address the challenges faced,” stated the organizational review.

Creating a human resources coordinator role was identified as a key factor in addressing staff retention.

Additionally, a communications coordinator is a position Rosvold has been advocating for since she became a councillor almost seven years ago.

“It’s so important from council’s perspective to be able to share what is happening and what some of the decisions have been in council chambers, and making sure people are aware of what we’re up to,” she said.

“That is something that has really been on the side of many people’s desks for many years and everybody, including council and administration, is very excited to have that communications position available to support every department at the MD.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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