Arkansas Workforce Retention Taskforce Findings & Recommendations

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ASEA privately funded a survey to study workforce retention issues. Over 7,000 employees were surveyed and, along with hosting public forums, the Taskforce has developed recommendations for a more effective and efficient workforce. ASEA has been working closely with the Office of Personnel Management on both these recommendations as well as the overall Pay Plan revamp that is in the works. Highlights of both the survey and the recommendations are below.

Survey and Public Forum Findings

  • 70% responded they would not be interested in changing positions if they earned regular salary increases.
  • 60% of workforce have an Associate’s degree or higher.
  • Turnover is highest in the beginning years of employment.
  • Agency and Position “hopping” is used as a way to get a raise when there is no other path to a COLA or merit raise.
  • Layers of restrictive policies deter motivation and hinder management.
  • Employees are experiencing salary compression, which effects morale.

ASEA Taskforce Recommendations for Improving Work-Force Efficiency and Effectiveness

  • Conduct Effective and Efficient Evaluations. Performance evaluations should be conducted fairly, consistently and objectively. The current merit raise policies encourage inflated evaluations and discourage discipline of problem employees. Supervisors should receive training on best practices of giving performance evaluations. When used correctly, evaluations promote staff recognition, improve communication and motivate individuals to do their best for themselves and the state of Arkansas.
  • Develop a Career Pay Plan. This could help ease the cycle of training new employees and “position hopping” by providing a map for employees to see potential advancement if they stay in their positions. An ideal situation would be to allow an employee to move along a pay plan based on their service years and performance evaluations. Employees who consistently meet or exceed expectations should move faster across the pay plan than someone who is just “getting by”. The long-term effect of a clearly defined pay plan is increased institutional knowledge, increased productivity and decreased turnover rates. We also recommend that the pay plan be structured, and that modest pay advancements every three to five years take place, as this is both motivating to employees and practical to the state’s fiscal planning.
  • Removing Restrictive Policies. Policies such as imposing a 10% salary cap increase on all promotions discourage employees from seeking to move up the ladder to new levels of responsibility. These types of policies are counter-productive and should be considered for elimination.
  • Increase Flexibility for Front-Line Managers. Trusting the local supervisors to manage their staff as appropriate, within certain boundaries but without a long, drawn out approval process, would encourage productivity and manager morale. A good example of this is empowering the managers to recommend increases in the career steps as well to authorize appropriate raises for employees who take on more responsibility for empty positions.
  • Combine Job Duties When Possible. Look for opportunities to add job duties to motivated employees, give them a pay increase and reserve the rest as salary savings. The state would also save on FICA, insurance and retirement. Over time the state of Arkansas would have a solid workforce full of motivated and high-performing employees.
  • COLA. We feel that the intention of giving COLAs has been lost. It is now the primary method of receiving a raise. If our idea of a career pay plan were enacted, then COLAs should be reserved for situations such as where state employee insurance premiums rise or there has been some other impactful economic event.
  • Merit-Based Management Promotion. Promotion to management should be based on performance evaluations, agency knowledge and leadership skills, not simply seniority.
  • Training. New managers should be required to take a supervisory course early in their tenure. With available technology, training could be offered at a low cost and more often through online classes.

We feel there is a unique opportunity to not only increase retention levels, but to enliven and invigorate a workforce that has an impact on all Arkansans. Thank you for your time and interest.

For more information, contact:
John Bridges, Assistant Director
Arkansas State Employees Association

Taskforce update

The Arkansas Workforce Retention Task Force has held three public forums with over 250 in attendance. The last forum will take place, date and location pending, in Jonesboro. The next step is to meet with OPM and compile all of our ideas and findings into a package we can present to policy makers. ASEA will set up meetings to present our ideas for a better pay plan and for retaining employees with the Governor’s office, both Senate and House State Agencies Committee, JBC – Personnel Committee, and with other key policy makers.  Lt. Governor Tim Griffin has been presented our ideas and he was impressed with our suggestions. He emailed us later and said he presented our ideas to the Governor.

Our attorney suggested we draft a pay plan/retention bill so that ASEA is doing the brunt of the work and hopefully make it easier to implement. We will work on finding sponsors this summer. Since we were heavily involved and also successful in the Primary elections we feel confident we can find support.

Lastly, it is very apparent through the survey and public forums that many employees would be satisfied to stay in their current positions if they received a way of moving up in salary over time. This would prevent “agency hopping” and improve effectiveness in all areas of job performance. We feel the easiest way and most cost effective is to reinsert Merit Pay to a percentage of salary so that good employees are rewarded better than poor performers.

John Bridges has developed a PowerPoint of our findings. If you would like a copy emailed to you, please contact him at: 501.378.0187.

Arkansas Workforce Retention Taskforce Meeting and State Employee Public Forum Minutes

Thursday, February 25th, 2016 5:00 p.m. at the University of Arkansas Community College, Hemptead Hall in Hope, AR

Meeting called to order by John Bridges, Chairman for Arkansas Workforce Retention Taskforce

John Bridges introduces taskforce members: Ron Stark with ADH, David Flake with Parks and Tourism, Kay Terry with Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Amy Valentine with DF&A.

John Bridges recognized the elected officials that came to meeting: Senator Larry Teague from Nashville, Representative Ken Bragg from Sheridan, and Representative Brent Talley from McCaskill?

Request made to approve the minutes from the last meeting. Motion made to approve and it’s seconded.

Recap of reason for this meeting: Last general session, ASEA lobbied to find a way to reduce turnover amongst state employees. They worked on a bill, it passed, this taskforce was created, and we just finished a survey of 7,000 state employees that was about 70 pages long – and those results are in and the taskforce has their copies. Information is available to the public and is up on ASEA’s website and Facebook page.

So we’re trying to find out why people are leaving; some agencies it’s 16% or so, and we think that’s a big waste of resources and knowledge. If we can get that down and get them to stay longer, we’ll become more efficient.

This is a second of our public forums where we’re coming to your town to listen to your ideas, and we’ll open the mic to anyone who wants to talk.

First, John would like Kay Terry to say a few words about the work she’s been doing.

Kay Terry:

OPM is currently doing a paid plan study. One of the first things Gov. Hutchinson asked after he took office was for us to look at the pay plan because he saw that we had trouble. I suspect many will say that we have not way to go across our grade, and you need a promotion to get a pay increase. To give a little history, we had a much worse pay plan prior to 2009.

At that time we did a compressive pay-plan study, and classification study, where we looked at everyone’s grades and classes and job descriptions. We implemented that pay plan and 2009 was really unusual, because people were getting anywhere form 2-5% increases where a lot of the other state were laying off. It was like we delayed it a couple of years. From 2010 – 2012 employees didn’t receive any kind of increase. So even though we put a new pay plan in, we put our new and old employees at the same pay grade with no wage increase to distinguish between the two. It was great if you were new, but not if you were a long-term employee.

What we’re doing now is, we realize we’ve got some structural issues, we’re looking at how to improve. I’ve got my team, Vicki Mills our State Payroll Systems Manager and Herb Scott the deputy personnel administrator, and we’ve been working pretty much non-stop on this for the last two or three months because we’re trying to have a recommendation for the governor by May. So we can look prior to staring the next biannual budgeting process. The problem is, how to fund the correction to those problems, because every time state employees get a 1% increase, that’s $6.4 Million dollars in general revenue. We have about 28,000 active employees in the payroll system right now, and 1% might not seem like that much to us, but you take 1% times 28,000 and the actual cost is closer to $24 Million but I’m just talking about the general revenue cost, that’s what comes out of the state.

But we do know we have a problem, we are trying to address it, I don’t have the final answer to it yet – but do know you’ve got an administration that’s committed to reviewing this plan and who expects employees to produce and they’re willing to pay for us if we have a good plan. – End

John Bridges suggests everyone gets the dialog started, and asks if anyone would like to come up and speak.

Someone stood up and said thank you for the COLA, as it’s the first one we’ve had since the pay plan was implemented, and she really would like to see that continue, because those merit increases are so varied – and some of our long-term employees aren’t getting to a level where they can stay with us.

Kay answers: I will tell you that the merit increases are lump-sum payments, and one of the first corrections we’re looking at doing is making that merit increase added to your base salary. I think you’re going to see that recommendation.

John: Also, ASEA met with Lt. Governor Tim Griffin last week and that was the first thing he said as well, was returning merit back in to the salary. That’s ASEA’s members’ biggest complaint, so we hear that complaint loud and clear. Would anyone else like to speak? Staff members? Anyone?

Kay offers some statistics: Here are some things you might want to consider when you’re thinking things over. Right now in state government there’s about 28,000 employees and we’re running at about 14% turnover. One of the biggest costs in the personnel world is turnover costs, because you take a trained employee, one that can add to your organization, and not that new ones don’t – but you have to train people and I think DHS may have an even higher turnover rate than that. They may be running at about 20%, but I didn’t check that right before we came.

I don’t like how this pay plan makes you have to get a promotion to get a salary increase. Because you may be really happy in the job you’re in, you may be a technical expert on that job, but you need more money. So that forces you, even though that may not be what your career goal was, to take another job.

One of the things we’re trying to do with this pay plan is look at ways to reward people with technical competence within their field of expertise or within their grade to move them along. We have this guy we’re working with and we were talking with him about the pay plan and he was talking about things structurally and how pay plans should be set up. And ours is probably the opposite of the way it should be. In a real pay plan, what he recommended, and I don’t know if we’re going to go this way – I’m just telling you the things we’re learning so you can understand. So maybe you have a fan of a pay plan so your lower grades down have as wide of a range but your higher grades have a larger range because you want to keep people there.  Because people enter in the lower grades and then promote up to the higher grades, but once you get to the higher grades, you need to have somewhere to go as well.

Someone else speaks up: We’re seeing with our department that most of the turnover we see is in that 1-5 year range. The first 5 years; and I am confident that if we can keep our employees at least five years, our potential for keeping them for 10 years is much greater. Once they’re at 10 years, we could keep them probably to 30. At least that’s what my department is seeing. We have a lot of people that have been around for 25-30 years, a lot of people that have 40 years and there’s a lot of retirees this last couple of years.

It’s a good time to have people coming in and moving up in our department the last few years, but we’re still losing that entry-level or 1-5 year employee, and they need to see their pay move or they’ll start looking – and it’s also been my experience that once an employee starts looking, they’re done. So we’ve got to get them in and keep them in. And it would be great if we could reward them, if they continue their education and maybe even give them some incentives to go to our state schools to get that education.

Maybe we could give them discounted rates or something like that and keep them involved here in the state. The other thing is try and keep Arkansas graduates; we lose so many graduates to other states, and that’s our income tax base. When they graduate college, they’re the ones that are going to be earning money for future years and if they’re moving off to Dallas, or Oklahoma City, or to New Orleans, or Memphis or wherever – then we’re not getting that tax revenue. So, these are concerns that we’ve had, and we’ve been talking about these very things.

And one more thing, a 1% COLA, you mentioned the millions of dollars in general revenue increase, that’s not a one-time hit, that’s 6 ½ million dollars from here on out until those people cycle out and retire. So these are the problems we’re looking at. How can we pay for that? For 10-15 years? The best way I can think of is to keep our tax base growing here in Arkansas, keep our graduates in the state, and then do something for our own employees as far as keeping them incentivized to grown in their job and move up. And we have people in our department that only work seasonally, they only work 9 months a year, and even those people- we’ve got to do the proper things to keep them in place. – End.

Kay: I think David’s right about the entry-level pay plan and the inability, and we feel the entry rate needs to be increased because not only do we have the inability to keep employees, but we also have the inability to attract employees. If we want to get some of these young graduates, well we’re not attracting them with our entry-level salaries. The problem is, from a compensation standpoint, if you put all your money into the entry-level, then you’ve raised all your new employees pay but left your old employees out here – so it’s kind of a constant battle. Because we all know entry-level salaries need to increase and we want to attract new people, but do we do that on the backs of our older employees? These are some of the things we have to think about.

Someone asks: Can you talk about what the next steps are for the pay plan? What can we expect heading into the next general session?

Kay: What we did is we purchased some software that allowed us to go out and match all our state jobs. Because for one thing, it’s one thing to say your jobs are wrong but you need to have some market data to kind of back that up. We are wrapping up that particular process and had a team do the initial match, but I wasn’t comfortable with some of those matches because things were totally out of sync. So my management team has gone back and we’re going to upload all that data into this program we have, and then we’re going to start shooting out some pay plans. When we start shooting out those pay plans we start shooting out cost, so once we get that information, we’ll know a little bit more. My idea is to look at what is, I mean, certainly you’re going to look at what is your most optimistic and your best pay plan but I’m not sure we’ll be able to put that in, that might be too high of an expense – but we hope to move towards that goal.

What we will try to do is have a final pay plan recommendation that the governor has approved and would be willing to endorse for the next biannual budget cycle so when we go in an review, budget requests for agencies (as you know that process begins this July and pretty much lasts till the next July), so we will be doing that hopefully by this summer.

It’s still an ambitious agenda we’re working on now, it’s just not an easy task because we have so many diverse jobs – we’ve got those forestry jobs, etc., and quite frankly I don’t find a whole lot of information and salary data for parks or for forest rangers for those types of jobs. So we’re having to go to additional sources to collect that information, but I do feel like we’ve got some good information, and I think we know what is wrong. Some of our policies and let me just be honest – I’ve worked for the state for over 38 years and so I know a whole lot about the history and we haven’t changed some of our policies for 38 years.

So along with actually looking at a pay plan, it may be time to actually look at the policy that goes a long with that pay plan. So we have a team looking at that so it will be a little more of a comprehensive approach. The new pay plan we put in back in 2009 wasn’t all that bad but our policy which didn’t allow people to move across the grades has effectively killed it. So that’s kind of where we are but hopefully by May we’ll have more definitive information, but I am interested in hearing any issues you all have or any concerns – feel free to ask as many questions as you want.

Person asks: I’d like to know if there are any positions that are going to be cut out?

Kay: You mean classifications that will not continue? We’re not really doing a classification study at this point, I’m not going to say there won’t be any because if your agency management requests it.

The last time we had a lot of levels of jobs that were doing the same things so we did a whole lot of classifications, but we’re not looking at classifications right now, we’re just looking at what does that job pay out in the market. But I’m going to say that won’t happen if the agency comes in and says we don’t need these titles, then we might get rid of some.

In 2009 we did a tremendous amount of job audits, and when you determine classifications, a lot of it depends on the requirements for that particular job and your job description. At some point, how many levels of jobs can you have? What becomes the difference between 4 and 6 years of experience? So we did do a lot of collapsing of classifications because a lot of them weren’t being used and so we eliminated but that’s not really the purpose of what we’re doing right now. What we’re doing right now is truly to look at the compensation.

Person: I work for the OCSE And the legal secretaries got raises even to the point that the child support investigators did.

Kay: Yes, I understand that the legal secretaries are C113 and child support specialties are C113 so I understand that consideration.

When you evaluate jobs there’s different factors that go in; as I mentioned earlier, we look at the market rate, or the prevailing market rate for that position, then you look at the minimum qualifications of that position, then you also look at some other factors – accountability, those types of things. So all of these went into consideration back in 2009. We’re not looking at those right now, we’re just truly looking at compensation right now. We will if an agency asks us to, but that’s not the intent for right now.

Person: I was just wondering because of the people that were left out (inaudible).

Kay: Well I understand people’s frustrations and I think we all have some frustrations which the way pay works. But if Allen, who is the director of child support services, decides that we’ve done some damage there them we’ll certainly be happy to go back and look at that gain.

Person: Have there been some changes or are there going to be some changes to minimum wage next year (inaudible). I have some positions making $9 or so and they’ve already been talking about how they can go elsewhere; is there going to be a compensation increase for those positions because of the minimum wage increase?

Kay: The minimum wage increase is always an initial step in our pay plan and so as the minimum wage increases that will make a difference in the pay plan. Vicki, how many people did we determine? Inaudible. I think we determined it’s about a half a million dollars to raise current employees up to the minimum wage over the last year. What I have seen, and now you may disagree with me, but there’s very little difference between a grade C101 and a C109 and a C112; I think that’s a problem with the pay plan. There needs to be more of a spread, if you will. So yes I think we will be looking at that and I think the minimum wage will be our base because it has to be our base – we have to meet minim wage and we’ve got other considerations as well. You know we’ve got wage an hour considerations from the Federal Department of Labor, we’ve got to make sure we’re in compliance – so that definitely will be taken into consideration.

John Bridges: Anyone else?

Kay: Want to introduce Larry?

John Bridges: Larry Strickland, DHS, the late arrival. He was working hard and working late.

Person: Good evening, I work for DHS, in County Operations, and I’ve been there since 19_inaudible. And one of the programs that we initially worked with was Mainframes? (Inaudible), to determine eligibility. And as you know, (inaudible) the state can’t explain it because of our error rates. And since then we’ve had several programs like ASIS? Answer? and things of that nature. And a lot of money has been spent on those programs and right now we’re going through something called (inaudible) and for a long time Answer, when it was initiated, it was just not the answer. And a lot of people fresh out of college and coming to work for the state say (inaudible) was not worker friendly. They’re leaving. People who have been working for the state as long as I have are leaving. And you were asking for suggestions as far as monies to pay employees. Maybe some of the programs that are provided, that they’re paying all this money for, is not worker friendly to us.

Kay: I understand what you’re saying because I don’t think ASIS is worker friendly and I work with ASIS every day.

Person: So maybe instead of putting all the money to these programs that don’t work, give it to us. Just a suggestion.

Another person: Good evening, I’m (inaudible) with Arkansas State Police and I’m speaking on behalf of someone who doesn’t want to stand up. I’m with company C the CID division; been working for the state for 8 years. Our CID admin assistant has been working for the state for 26 years, C112, and one of the problems she has is she’s not even that comfortable on her current salary structure. Looking at the pay plan, you have entry, base, a mid point and career. So I’m wondering is our pay plan messed up as it is? Or do we just not have a vehicle for department heads to move along?

Kay: I think it’s a combination of both. At first when you have entry and base, the thought was that entry would be kind of like a probationary period before base. That never took effect. Then you’ve got the mid-point. The midpoint was where we actually matched market data to the job in 2009. But we took away the vehicle as you said, to get to mid-point, so you have these long-term employees who aren’t there yet. So we have to address that. Mid-point will probably always be the prevailing market rate. But Arkansas isn’t always at the prevailing market rate in any profession. And in state government generally it is not because of some of the benefits and holiday and leave etc. It’s just that people are saying well that’s not worth staying, so we’ve got to address that particular issue.

Now in the career level, I absolutely detest, I mean people think just because they get to 15 years they’re going to automatically go to that career level – and that is not the case, it’s misleading. So I think the structure of the pay plan desperately needs to change, and I think you’re going to see that, but again as I was talking about policy – it’s going to be about policy that will allow people to move across their grade so she can reach the level that is truly market value for her job.

Person: Those columns that you mentioned, it’s not a move from this to this to this one; there is a continuum. The way I explained it to our new employees and new supervisors is that the one thing to be aware of is that the entry point and the (inaudible) rate for that position. And to explain to their employees in this way – that those columns are benchmarks so just like with me, to see where everyone is on the pay scale and how their moving, but it has nothing to do with moving from one column to the next. But, as they’re getting raises, they’re moving in that continuum from entry point to the next. Since we didn’t have merit increases, we had merit bonus pay, we’re seeing a lot of disgruntled employees of course saying “hey I’m not moving.” And they’re right, they weren’t moving, you know they didn’t get a 1% COLA a couple of times but they really weren’t moving.

But one thing we’re looking at in this new pay plan is to look at a mechanism where maybe you can have step increases.

Kay: Well I like step increases, school districts like step increases, I mean you come in and know you’ve got this many years of experience and this is where you’re going to fall. That is one of the options we’re looking at, we’re not sure that’s actually going to work, we’ve got to consider what is feasible and what addresses our issues. A step pay plan or step increases may be one of the ways to do that.

Person: I was talking to a young man at school and he said I want to become a trooper, how much do they pay? I told him and he said well I could go out to the power plant and make more money.

Kay: And actually I have lately talked with some of the state police, Brass, who think that and were telling me exactly that point and they want to look at redoing your grid – and your grid is one of the better ones in state government. I’m just going to be honest with you, you know.

Person: I appreciate what y’all are doing and I just wanted to tell her side of the story.

Kay: I understand and that’s a perfect example of some of the issues we’ve got and are going up against is the fact that we don’t even have a 26-year employee at the market rate for her position. So that sort of sums up what some of the problems are.

John: Anyone else? Here we go – Bernard?

Bernard: I come from one of the highest turnover positions we have – those RCA’s RCT’s? I’m listening to those suggestions you’re giving but they don’t exist for us. There are no positions to upgrade to. Their pay is stagnant. And right now we’re spreading them thinner and thinner, and we’re jumping through hoops to try and keep them, but when we advertise this is what you make and this is what you do – we may get four applicants. And we’ve got 30 positions to fill. So now we’ve got more turnover because the issue is, the people we have are working harder, they’re having to do more, and no one’s coming in. But I don’t feel any of your suggestions seem to address that.

Kay: What do you think would? I mean I’m open. I’m open to ideas. I think first of all residential care assistants I think their base level pay needs to increase first. Your entry pay has got to increase. We just recently took a tour of the Conway Human Development Center and I was just amazed at some of the work that people were doing there and I think we have to raise the base pay, and accelerate the movement through the pay plan so you can compete with Taco Bell and KFC out here that are almost given the same at your age as you.

Person: The other thing we’re seeing is those minimum qualifications.

Kay: We can work on those all day long. That is something that is an easy fix. And if the qualifications are not working, we can certainly work on that. Doesn’t take a legislative session to go in a review the qualifications. We just need to have the request and the information and feedback from you that this is an issue. Now it has to go through your management. I mean I don’t go tell DHS management how they need to run their agency, I listen to what they request and try to respond to it.

Person:  I’m hearing solutions, but those positions are not the highest turnover.

Kay: You do have a lot of turnover I’ve done a lot of research with your positions and we’ve got some ideas I think of what we looked at for RCA’s because I understand but then again I don’t understand – I mean couldn’t even imagine getting paid for what you do, but I can understand from a conversation level the problems that you’re having. Again, you’re talking about a large volume class, are you in Monticello?

Person: Arkadelphia.

Kay: Ok, you may have different problems than the Jonesboro facility. One of the things I think we miss is maybe we need to look at geographic, we have a geographic differential possibility, but agencies aren’t using it. And it may be that in Arkadelphia you’re having more turnover than those in Jonesboro or Conway or Warren, so we need to decide do we need to accelerate you or do we need to do raises every six months or if you work with the most critically needy patients do you get a differential for that. Things along those lines are what I think we need to do.

But again, I can only do so much and we can recommend but that’s all we…that’s why we always listen to suggestions on what we can do differently. I hear you.

Another person: Just to answer that question that we have, we have a difference situation for those RCA’s. It is different in each city and the turnover is great in those positions and there are some avenues to that and sometimes people don’t use all those avenues available to them – but still, I think that would help somewhat but it’s not going to solve the problem because the salary is too low. We did get approved for us a 6-month interim for most of our RCA’s to RCT’s, and we should be using that. Because it is an avenue for us to move them up and then the turnover is so great so you can’t feed those other positions like RCS’s – you can’t feed them because you don’t have the people to do that. So I don’t feel it’s so much about what the minimum qualifications are, but more the pay to keep those people on long enough to get the extra experience to move up and there are some things that they have to decide to use. But we have to report to OPM every month when we move from those RCA’s to RCT’s and that’s a pretty easy process, am I right Kay?

Kay: All you’re doing is self-promoting, I mean it all goes to the personnel committee. I mean, inform the personnel committee.

Another person: Something else that might help, if you’re finding a lot of people applying aren’t qualified, (interrupted by someone else to correct him).

Kay: We may have the qualification too high at the higher levels.

Person: I was just saying if you’re having trouble finding qualified applications for RCA’s maybe there’s some sort of training…

Kay: DDS has some really specific training and it’s the number of hours they have to take and all that, which kind of works against them and they’ve been that way for a long time. And maybe it’s time we look at that and see if that’s the right kind of combination.

The other thing we’ve worked out is, I know overtime has been a major issue for a lot of workers, so we’re looking at paying out overtime when it’s earned vs banking it. Because you keep banking it but can never take it because you’re working all the time. So I know that’s one issue currently understudied right now.

John: Anyone else? Comments? Suggestions?

Ok, well if no one else has anything else to say, I’d like to thank everyone for coming. Continue to watch the ASEA newsletter, website and Facebook page for updates on the taskforce. We’ve already presented some information from the survey, and the survey is online. How many people here took that survey? (Hands go up)

John: Quite a few people. I tell you one big thing that stuck out to me on that survey was that in 70 pages of questions and answers, everyone said they would stay in their job if they could find a way to move up in salary – and quit moving around from this position to this one. I think that speaks volumes.

If you have any more suggestions or if you think of anything else, our website right on the front says “Do you have an idea?” Ok, email us, we listen to your ideas.

We appreciate you coming, and if there are not more questions, this meeting is adjourned.

December 2015 Task Force Minutes

Workforce Retention Task force Committee Meeting

December 8, 2015

Meeting called to order by Cozetta Jones, Chair.

Minutes from previous meeting are approved.

Survey wrap up and next steps were discussed.

  • The results are out of 14,260 employees 7,379 finished survey, which is a 51% response rate. 37% DHS – a few more paper ones are left to be entered. DFA 66%, ADH 78%, and Parks and Tourism 63%.

In interviewing some of the directors, it’s apparent they’re really passionate about their employees.

  • They are concerned about state employees and they do want to see them recognized and paid appropriately.
  • We are happy to see that the directors care about the state employees.
  • One issue they’re concerned about is compression – both state and counties said they’re experiencing the same issues as others.
  • Other public employers and other counties interviewing will be completed – so far Pulaski County only one to respond.
  • Salary and health insurance are top concerns. Within the last two years, the county paid 100% of the employee coverage.
    • They do have a stepped pay plan in place within Pulaski County.

Waiting on reply from Craighead County to the question: “What are the barriers to retaining employees and what are they doing about it?”

Need to decide on an analysis type of all the data gathered.

  • Question was posed if OPM could handle analysis.
  • Taskforce desires to give the legislature some good recommendations.
  • OPM representative said they could analyze the data; then, the task force would give recommendations.

Question asked about what the surveys were showing, and most of what the respondents wanted to learn was computer skills and how to be promoted.

Setting other meeting dates/locations.

  • Southwest part, DeGray? Visitor’s center? Helena/West Helena, Arkadelphia, Springdale/NW? Fayetteville?
  • The desire and intent is to hit all four areas of the state.

Motion to let ASEA pick locations for next task force meeting. 2nd made. Motion passed.

Task force meeting adjourned and open to public forum. (For the audio files on what was discussed during public forum, please contact Shauna Carpenter at ASEA: 501-378-0187).

November 2015 Task Force Minutes

Workforce Retention Taskforce Committee Meeting

November 3, 2015

Cozetta Jones, Chair, called the meeting to order.

Amy Valentine is introduced as a new taskforce member. She is a human resources manager for DFA. She will be replacing Carla Wooley-Haugen for the duration of the taskforce.

Minutes are reviewed. In the fourth paragraph, DHS needs to be changed to ADH. Minutes are amended. Survey questions were not individually listed but copies are available for review. David moves to accept the minutes after corrections are made. Larry seconded. Minutes are accepted as corrected and seconded.

Sample response rate for the survey is reviewed. As of November 3rd, each agency is listed. DHS does not include paper copies distributed to HDC’s and Parks & Tourism. Those will not be picked up until after the survey is complete.

Cozetta asks if the survey should be extended. Members agree not to extend the deadline. Cozetta asks if we should extend the survey to other agencies? Is there a list of smaller agencies we would like to be included in the survey? Kay said no but she could get us a list. Cozetta has had emails and phone calls especially from Emergency Management about including them in the survey. Kay said there was no rigid definition of smaller agencies. She said any agency with less than 50 employees fits the definition.

Cozetta asks if we do include other agencies, how do we reach out to them? Kay suggested something that ASEA post to announce the survey is available to any state employee wanting to participate. David said as long as the deadline is met he did not have a problem including other agencies.

Cozetta will interview agency directors to see how they see things vs. state employee’s views. Directors to be interviewed are John Selig, Richard Weiss, Dr. Nate Smith, and Larry Walker.

Other public employers (mayors, county officials, etc.) need to be interviewed as well to see how they match up with state employees in terms of retaining employees. Kay suggests we need a mixture of rural vs. city. Some suggestions for places to go include Russellville (Logan County), Bentonville or Rogers (Benton County), Desha County, Hot Spring County, Phillips County, Monticello, and Camden. We need to survey more county than city because in some rural areas it may be more difficult to get a good sample size. Kay suggested leaving the selected counties up to Cozetta.

Preliminary results from the survey were reviewed. Majority of the responses are full time. David mentions most responses have 5 or more years from retirement. Kay is surprised that there are more responses from field employees.

David discusses question 21 responses – 60% agree but question 40 have the oppose response. It seems that employees are satisfied but have low morale.

Kay – Questions 24, 25, and 31 – those questions are something they are working on with the pay plan study. 79% of employees said agree about question 24. It’s true because employees cannot stay in their position because there isn’t enough compensation. That is something they will be looking at with the pay plan study.

OPM Classification and Compensation Manager, Mike Bonds speaks about the pay plan study annual meeting held in West Virginia. He says there are 3 big influences in compensation with different states.

Budget position of state. By law, Arkansas does not run budget deficits. This isn’t true of many other states. They have deficit financing in their budget.

Influence of unions. Union states see more pay plan movement and budget increases than non-union states.

Geography. States tend to do things like states in their surrounding region. One thing that can take away from the pay plan is head count. Arkansas has 27,000 employees classified as professional and that seems to be typical for our region. Mid-western states tend to have fewer employees on average than southeastern states.

Minimum pay vs. maximum pay in career service plan in Arkansas is fairly typical – $15,000 to $200,000. Things do change from state to state. For example, the highest paid employee in New Mexico is about $340,000 but the bandwidth for Arkansas is typical.

Pay structure or adjustments is a change in the pay grade themselves. Depending on how it is done it could impact people’s salaries some or very minimally. Arkansas’s pay grading system has an entry number and maximum number. If you add 3% at the end of the fiscal year, it hardly affects anyone but if you add it to the beginning it will affect a lot of the people making the least amount of money. Arkansas did not increase their pay structure and most of the states in our region did not, which seems to be typical. The states we look at include Tennessee, Missouri, and Mississippi because they have similar numbers in their workforce as Arkansas. Texas, Georgia, and Florida have a much higher number of state employees.

COLA increases. Arkansas did receive 1% and we were fortunate because most of the states in our region did not get one. Typical percent does seem to be 1-2% Montana and West Virginia did have lump sum increases. Most states do not have step increases. The ones that do still have it are the union states – Iowa, Kansas, and Hawaii. Some states have step increases for a specific type of employee, like Georgia has one for teachers.

Merit pay. Arkansas 3% for exceeds standards was on the higher end of the scale. Many southern states did not get merit pay. The highest rate Mike saw in the study was 4.5% in Iowa. Other states that gave 3% merit pay included Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Longevity pay or career service recognition pay. Arkansas does participate in this and falls into the typical column on how it is paid as a lump sum. Iowa, Montana, and other union states add it to the employee’s salary. Eligibility does seem to start earlier in other states than in Arkansas. Ours begin at 10 years but 5 to 7 years is the median. Oklahoma starts at 2 years and West Virginia begins at 3 years.

Shift differentials (night shift, on call, weekend, and hazardous duty pay). Our differentials are typical especially when it comes to shift. Some of our differentials are competitive. Shift differential at 6% is strong. On call pay has potential for up to 20% which is also very strong. Overall, Arkansas is typical on the rate of differential pay.

Bonus programs. Arkansas does not have a lot of bonus programs in place. Very few programs for retention.

Pay for performance. A lot of talk but not a lot definition to it. Arkansas merit pay has some performance based system. Other states have more unit based, where a metric is set for a department and depending on how well that department or unit performs, the employees have the potential for bonuses based on the department or unit perform as a whole. These systems vary widely and are more typical in big companies. Arkansas doesn’t have a formal pay for performance. Most southern states don’t have systems like this system that are robust but they do have some form of it.

Special adjustment. Arkansas’s list is too long to list for different classifications. Arkansas reported our statewide grids. Tennessee submitted an exhaustive list and since it is a close state, we might look into whether we should establish labor market rates that might not equate to them but look closer into areas where the labor market may be more competitive.

Overtime pay for Arkansas is typical. Relatively uniformity because it is governed in part by federal law. Arkansas has a statute for a preference for compensatory time but it is not required. The General Assembly has made it clear that compensatory time be compensated as comp time. Sick time is not included in overtime.

Keeping pay ranges competitive with the market. The chief issue in Arkansas is funding and we look at other states as well to determine if we are competitive. The number one item is funding though.

Basis of salary adjustment in our state. The primary sources for Arkansas for in position adjustments right now are labor market adjustment and COLA. Other states have step increases. Longevity for very few states – mostly in the northwest. Some fiscal year adjustments based on how much money agencies may have when the fiscal year begins. Anniversary date adjustment which works like longevity pay in other states. Not a lot of movement across the states for a variety of reasons whether its budgetary issues improving or political will. Arkansas compensation’s environment is competitive when looking at states in our area. The question is not if we have a broken system, but rather, how can we make our system better?

He pointed out that in the task force survey, 80% of employees said they would stay in their position if they were paid more. That’s a huge response. It tells us people like their job and would be willing to keep doing it if they were paid more. It also tells us that 80% of people don’t really want to move. Supervisors who don’t want to do the work but need the pay. Other than personal reasons, no one is better off.

Questions for Mike: What states are able to move employees along the pay plan? Union states?

Not all 50 states participated in the compensation survey. States that tend to be the most unionized – Iowa, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Percentages are around 4%, which is fairly typical. Kay added some of these states maybe unionized in particular classifications only. Such as in West Virginia with transportation, Iowa has a heavy public state employees group but only have 3 CPA’s that cover most of their employees, and the next big group is law enforcement.

Larry asks which states had the pay plan that moves people across and which states had a technical pay plan? Mike didn’t recall every one that do but several states do such as Tennessee, Alabama, and possibly Louisiana. Kay assures that is one of the things that is being looked into maybe not at this particular conference but they have done some research. Because you do see various pay tables set up by groups of employees such as information technology being the largest, medical/health related (nurses and doctors), and law enforcement. Sometimes those groups are pulled out from the general pay plan established from the rest of state employees and that is being looked at.

Mike refers back to Larry’s question about states that did have pay structure adjustments. States that listed pay structure adjustments, not necessarily salary adjustments, were Colorado changed by 3%; Hawaii, 3.1%; Iowa, 2.5%; Montana, 3%; Nebraska, 2.25%; North Dakota, 3%; South Dakota had various rate changes, Utah, 3.65%; Virginia, 2%; and Washington, 3%.

David asked Mike if he found any correlation between those states that are highly unionized and the states that run budgets deficits?  He thinks there is some correlation but is hesitant to say there is definitely a correlation. Mike said outside of what information he happens to know, that’s something that hasn’t been researched but he can find out. Most of those states you don’t hear about having severe financial problems but he doesn’t know their exact money position.

Cozetta asks about the step plans. Did Arkansans have one at one time? Why did we move from that to the current pay plan? Kay said Arkansas had a step plan until the mid-80s. In part what occurred was an employee would receive a 5% step after 1 year of employment and move forward in the grade. Then it was reduced to 2.5% due to budgeting concerns. The state had 3 or 4 different tables and it had become difficult to administer. So a decision was made to give percentages as a pay range instead. She wasn’t sure when the percentages began but knows it has been a while ago. Most school districts have a step plan. She thinks even within federal government there are step programs so it is something that should be studied.

Cozetta asked what is the overall feeling when it comes to step plans? Are people, especially the legislature, open to it? Kay said yes, the Executive and Legislative branch have charged OPM with coming up with some sort of pay plan development. Step plans may be overplayed. What is recognized is employees need some sort of increase to stay. Not necessarily in the form of a step but maybe a percentage retention, just something for them to move across their pay grade. The biggest complaint is employees cannot move. We need to find a way to move them along. Commitment to do that but also a commitment to do it within the resources that we have.

Cozetta asked because we have the Revenue Stabilization Act, how can it work together to move employees along the pay pan? Kay – It’s as simple as there may be a year where you won’t lose employees and that does not mesh with the RSA and she thinks that is what we have seen over the years. Particularly in 2009 when the new plan was implemented, we were probably the only state in the union to give increases that ranged from 1.5 – 5% but since that time we have many years there hasn’t been a COLA increase. A 1% COLA increase for Arkansas equates to 6.4 million dollars in revenue. In the leaner years, instead of giving a COLA, merit increases were awarded because they were in the form of a bonus payment and not a continuing application on the part of the state.

Mike answers David’s earlier question. Iowa does have a small budget debt.

Audience testimony. Joe Winford, HR manager for DDS. He states a major issue is retention. We are able to recruit but not retain. The majority of why employees left was due to pay. A couple of people that left said the responsibility of the job still wasn’t enough for the pay they received. If they could pay more, they could attract a higher pool of applicants. Merit bonuses do help boost morale.

Thomas Shephard, works at the DHS processing center in Batesville. A summary of his presentation was handed out to the taskforce members.

– Problem with retention

– Compensation issues

– State employees are paying higher taxes because they are not receiving any raises

– Job competitors in Batesville include Pepsi, banks, Bad Boy motors, hospitals, etc.

– Health insurance increase

– Flex schedules

– Task force meeting need to be held around the state in a public forum


Ricky Smith, program eligibility coordinator in Phillips County.

– Constant turnover

– Compensation

– Benefits are more expensive

– Need to hold local meetings

David brought up low graduation rates for Arkansas colleges. Less than 50% of people who start college fail to graduate. If we are expecting to hire college graduates we need to focus on keeping them here and grow here so we have a bigger pool to choose from. Some jobs that are offered are asking for a college degree but don’t really require one. It would allow a larger pool to choose from if we didn’t require that.

Cozetta asks Kay when it comes to requirements for a position, do you have audits for that position? Yes, the majority of job descriptions were written in 2009. OPM can look at option at that point referring to college degrees and revise minimum qualifications if they are not meeting the needs. Agencies will have to make the request to OPM to revise the description. There is a qualifications review process but agencies vary on submitting those. Different agencies take different approaches on substituting requirements for positions. Larry says it’s not about getting college grads to apply, it’s about keeping them. DHS’s highest job competitor is Enterprise Rent-A-Car because they pay more than the state. David says if we can get people to stay for 5 years they are more likely to stay for their career. 5 years is critical to getting people to stay. Sheila says teachers are wanting less stress and less obligation for the pay they receive. Biggest issue from teachers is more about stress than money.

The next meeting will be held December 8th at 5-7 p.m. in Batesville.

Meeting adjourned.