After reaching out to ratepayers of Columbia River People's Utility District, the PUD also used a survey to get the pulse of employees at the district.
Last month, Acti-Dyne survey research company conducted an anonymous survey of the PUD's 48 employees, with the exception of General Manager John Nguyen. In all, 45 employees responded, according to Acti-Dyne.
The survey sought input on topics like job satisfaction, work environment, communication and compensation by asking participants to rate 30 statements about the PUD using a scale of 0 to 10. Employees scored the district the highest for its compensation, at an overall score of 8.98, down slightly from 2016's 9.2 rating.
When it comes to job satisfaction and communication, employees rated the district at 8.15 and 8.14 respectively, which is also a minor decrease from 2016's employee survey, which ranked the PUD 8.5 and 8.2 in those areas.
The survey results, compiled by Acti-Dyne, note, 33 percent of employees who participated rated at least one statement in the survey a '4' or lower, compared to 27 percent in the previous year.
Despite the minor decreases in overall satisfaction, the survey results show less than 10 percent of the publicly owned utility's workforce, which includes line crews represented by a union, responded negatively to the survey.
The lowest marks came when employees were asked to rate the communication between peers, and whether there was a "strong feeling of teamwork and cooperation across the organization."
PUD officials say the survey was initiated in 2016 "in response to questions that had been raised about employee morale," Libby Calnon, the PUD's communications and public relations supervisor, stated.
"When we conducted the 2016 survey, we made a commitment to employees to conduct a follow-up survey this year. We did so, and received very similar scores."
The overall average score of 8.25 in employee satisfaction contrasts sentiments conveyed by PUD employees in 2014. At that time, under different management, employees spoke anonymously to the Spotlight about a hostile or "toxic" work environment due to upper management at the district. Within a year, the PUD's general manager resigned and was eventually replaced with Nguyen, who had been fired by that same manager and was later re-hired to take his place. Four other employees were fired in 2015 — all department managers at the time.
PUD directors have identified employee satisfaction as a top priority during board discussions on the topic.
While the PUD touted its overall positive responses, Calnon says the district has identified areas for improvement.
"We are talking with our employees and looking for opportunities to provide training on communication, team building, and leadership to improve in these areas," Calnon stated.
Note: A previous version of this story misstated that the PUD's former general manager was fired. He resigned.