- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A new study has found marked improvement in morale among employees of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission since a previous study about 18 months ago that found employees perceived an atmosphere of harassment, intimidation and bullying by upper management.

A report released in July 2012 by Responsive Management Inc., a public opinion polling and survey research company that the commission hired to survey employee morale, found that overall employee satisfaction was 15 percent at the agency that oversees conservation and management of the state’s fish and wildlife and their habitats.

The latest survey found overall satisfaction now at 68 percent, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1i14IXJ ) Sunday.

The report was presented to commissioners during their February meeting by Responsive Management President Mark Damian Duda.

“The employee ratings increased, often dramatically, in every category and across each division,” according to the executive summary of the study.

Commission employees in 2012 harshly criticized then-Director Loren Hitchcock and then-Commissioner Rick Watkins. Hitchcock has since been replaced by Mike Knoedl and Watkins has resigned.

Knoedl, who began his career as a wildlife officer, said he’s worked to open lines of communication with employees and to develop a plan for the agency’s future.

“When I became director, we had no clear direction of where we were headed, and I could see that in the employees’ eyes,” Knoedl said. “They were at a point where they felt like their goal was to get to work and survive until 4:30. I challenged them to be looking five years out.”

Knoedl credited the commission for creating conditions that allow employees to be effective.

“Right now, we have as good a commission as we’ve ever had,” Knoedl said.

“I don’t want to slight any past commission or commissioners, but these guys get it. When I was a young wildlife officer, commissioners were like sasquatches. You heard about them and knew they were out there, but you never had any interaction with them. Now, the commissioners are very engaged with the employees.”

Gov. Mike Beebe, who appoints members to the seven-person commission, said he is pleased with the turnaround.

“Obviously it makes me feel good,” Beebe said. “It’s an important agency that touches the lives of so many people. When you see some degree of success from folks you put your trust in, it makes you feel good to have some progress.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com


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