Working in new ways

4 members of ServiceGuelph, wearing masks, in front of the plexiglass at the service desk at City Hall

When COVID-19 forced City administration offices to close and employees started working from home, Guelph learned a lot about the kinds of internal communications systems and technologies employees need to work remotely.

The information technology department worked tirelessly to provide laptops, mobile devices, headsets, new software and training to support hundreds of employees who would normally work in the office. Employees quickly learned how to have meetings online, court proceedings were conducted using Zoom, and Guelph was one of the first city in Ontario conducting digital meetings of City Council. The City’s live stream web page was viewed more than 28,000 times last year, and videos of Council and Committee meetings have been viewed about 93,000 times on Facebook.

Despite all the different systems, tools and technology being used, 92% of tech support calls were resolved within established timelines.

This experience is consistent with finding from Guelph’s employee engagement survey. Fewer than half of employees who responded feel they have the tools and resources they need to do a great job, and just 37% said the work processes in place allow them to be as productive as possible.

Employee engagement results also suggest employees would like to see better working relationships between departments, more support and encouragement for innovation and improved customer focus.

Overall employee engagement increased by 17.9 per cent in 2020; a bit higher than the 13% average increase experienced at other organizations. Research suggests more frequent communication, flexible work options and on-demand training and development resources helped people feel more engaged at work in 2020.

To help ensure Guelph can grow into a thriving, smart, connected community, the City is installing fibre-optic cable throughout the city  over the next five years. Increased connectivity   sets the stage for Guelph to move to data based decision making regarding  things like traffic control and transportation systems.

The City understands how internal communications and collaboration tools help Guelph design, build, and implement new and improved digital services. It’s easier to work together when everyone is using the same technology.

Many of Guelph’s most popular services are already available online, and facility closures required more people to use those services including:

  • Applying for a building permit
  • Buying bus fare
  • Submitting a Bylaw concern

Guelph also implemented new online services last year including:

  • Issuing property tax certificates (first municipality in Ontario)
  • Completing Freedom of Information requests
  • Booking an appointment with a City official.

Digital services not only allowed people to access critical municipal services throughout the pandemic, but also improved services offered by phone. With more people using Guelph’s online services, ServiceGuelph met or exceeded targets for inquiries by telephone; more calls were answered and resolved at first point of contact; and fewer calls were transferred or abandoned.

Digital services helped reduce the time required to complete each transaction, improved people’s satisfaction with services provided in-person, by phone and email, and reduced the cost of paper and printing.

Looking ahead, Guelph will apply the lessons learned last year to continue improving, adding and reporting on the success of digital services as part of the City’s customer service strategy: Service Simplified.

Related resources

Additional 2020 highlights

An office worker comparing a graph on a tablet to a paper report

Building a better budget

In December 2020, the City estimated a $19.5 million revenue shortfall; a $4.8 million increase in costs related to COVID-19.

Building a better budget