Sacramento Housing and Rehabilitation Agency (SHRA) Case Study: “Changing Lives”

Sacramento Housing and Rehabilitation Agency (SHRA) Case Study: “Changing Lives”

Sacramento Housing and Rehabilitation Agency (SHRA)





SHRA was created to ensure affordable housing and community redevelopment in the city and county of Sacramento, California. SHRA’s work falls into four main focus areas:

  • Using a variety of financing tools to expand affordable housing opportunities for underserved community and homeless. These tools include administering housing voucher programs, rehabilitating and preserving older properties, constructing new rental and ownership housing, and offering mortgage  assistance.
  • Providing safe, decent housing for 50,000residents, and administering rental assistance for private housing through 13,200 vouchers funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Collaborating with neighborhoods and their residents to enhance the aesthetics of blighted areas. This stimulates private-sector investment to create new jobs and housing opportunities.
  • Revitalizing low-income communities through programs that create jobs in underserved neighborhoods and revitalize commercial corridors. These programs range from increasing basic core competencies at the elementary school level to offering career readiness programs for adults.

The SHRA employee engagement survey

SHRA decided to conduct an engagement survey largely because it was experiencing high turnover. In particular, employees were leaving for jobs in California state government, in part for more flexible work schedules and arrangements.

Because retention is correlated with engagement, SHRA decided to conduct an engagement survey to better understand the level of engagement in its workforce, and find out what factors influence the engagement of SHRA employees.

In August 2020,The CPS HR Consulting Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement conducted the SHRA engagement survey. We achieved a high -- 78% -- response rate.


The survey results themselves were very positive:

  • 47%of SHRA respondents were “fully engaged”
  • 35%were “somewhat engaged” and
  • Only 18% were “not engaged”

As the table below shows, the percentage of SHRA fully engaged employees is also substantially above all the Institute’s national benchmarks, and the not-engaged percentage is below all benchmarks.

This is notable not only because of SHRA’s high scores but also because the survey was conducted months after SHRA shifted 75 percent of its employees to working remotely. Despite this profound workplace change, employee engagement is high.


What drives the engagement of SHRA employees?


The Institute’s statistical analysis of employees’ survey responses revealed that leadership and mission are key drivers of SHRA employee engagement. This includes highly positive responses to the question, “I feel I can make a difference working here.” Other high-scoring questions were:

  • I know how my work supports my organization’s mission
  • My organization’s mission is important to me
  • I feel I personally contribute to the organization’s mission
  • I like the kind of work that I do

How has SHRA achieved high engagement?


SHRA employees are driven by the mission of the Agency, and their contribution and connection to that mission. The Agency’s theme, “Changing Lives,” reflects this mission. SHRA’s leaders, “talkabout it all the time,” including during new employee onboarding.


The agency also aggressively communicates to employees, including about its mission. The CEO works hard to communicate in an informal and approachable way, to all employees. She uses multiple communication strategies, including visits to SHRA-owned housing sites where she speaks with residents as well as employees. She and Agency communication in general continually remind employees that they are important members of an organization dedicated to serving the Sacramento community.  


One important way that SHRA strengthens the employee connection to mission is to hire the residents of the public housing units the Agency owns and operates. In the past, residents applied but were not hired. In response, HR made the hiring process more flexible to allow residents to successfully compete for jobs. SHRA now hires residents as temporary employees and then, if they are successful after six months, hires them into permanent positions.


As residents of SHRA properties, these employees uniquely understand the mission and functions of the Agency. As SHRA puts it, “residents understand what SHRA is trying to do– they live it.”


This hiring strategy has worked. Recently, residents accounted for 75 percent of new SHRA hires. That’s one very practical and tangible way SHRA executes on its” changing lives” motto.


SHRA has also made a strong commitment to employee training and development, including duringCOVID-19. During the pandemic, SHRA provided training through its new learning management system. Employees have completed over 2000 courses ranging from stress management, supervision, workplace safety, Microsoft office, to construction and project management.  


Next steps


Despite the already high level of engagement, SHRA continues to analyze the engagement survey data to identify how to maintain and even improve engagement. For example, employees who have been with the Agency from 3-10 years have a lower level of engagement than other tenure groups. SHRA wants to understand why and what it can do to boost the engagement of this group.


Similarly, the level of engagement varied by department, and the Agency plans wants to understand how it can boost the engagement levels in the lower-scoring units.


To help SHRA collect additional data in these and other areas, the Institute will conduct focus groups to talk with small groups of employees and drill down on the survey results. We will also conduct an action-planning workshop to help SHRA leaders identify specific steps to respond to employee survey feedback.


SHRA also plans to conduct a follow-up survey to see if the needle of engagement is moving in the right direction and whether the actions it takes are making a difference.


And to further nurture the employee connections to the SHRA mission, the Agency is producing ”success stories” about accomplishments. These stories are not only good public relations but also show SHRA employees they are making a difference.



  • Data rules. It’s important to survey employees to understand how engaged the workforce is, and to base actions on the most significant influences on employees’ engagement.
  • Mission matters. Often in government, a key engagement influence is the organization’s mission. That’s why it’s important for leaders to help employees to have a clear line of sight between their work and the organization’s mission and outcomes.
  • Dig deeper. Organizations that survey employees need to drill down on the results to identify areas to improve. This enables the organization to understand not just what employees said in their survey responses, but why – what the root causes are that underly survey responses.
  • Commit long term. Building and maintaining a high-engagement organization is a marathon, not a sprint and requires a long-term commitment to ask employees how they feel, and then take action.