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