Representatives from Middleton based Carlson Dettman Consulting will soon be getting to work in performing the county’s first ever Employee Classification and Compensation Study.
The measure received unanimous county board approval in February.
As Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz explains, the idea for such a study had been lingering for a few years. But after receiving some rather concerning information, by last fall the time had come for something to be done.
“I’ve struggled over the idea of a wage study for a few years due to budget concerns, strains of 0% levy increases and so on,” Scholz said.
“What ultimately led me to pursue a study was information I received of our overall employee turnover increasing to 80% in 2011-12. A portion of that of that turnover came in the sheriff’s office and pine crest, but we were seeing it in all departments. Upon researching this further, it appeared as if wages and benefits were a key factor.”
Between 2013 and 15, the county saw a 12% turnover due to retirement, according to Scholz. However, in the seven years prior, the average turnover due to retirement was 29%.
“That told us retirement wasn’t an issue and we focused on what we could do to look into any compensation issues. We decided a compensation study would be a good place to start.”
Other information Scholz obtained to further validate a concern over employee compensation was a study performed by Carlson Dettman study in 2013, titled “Northern Wisconsin/Minnesota Custom Based Wage Survey”, initiated by Burnett, Douglas, Oconto, Oneida and Taylor counties.
“The counties included are very similar in size and demographics to ours,” Scholz explains.
“In addition, six cities were included which are very similar to the communities we have here in Lincoln County.”
As Scholz further explains, of the 52 positions comparable positions between those in Lincoln and the counties involved in the study, 42 proved to be below market average in terms of compensation
“The information pointed to a compensation issue and it was definitely a reason for concern for us. In addition, we are the only county of our neighboring counties which hasn’t done a wage study yet,” he adds.
“It all comes down to recruiting and and retaining employees. It doesn’t do us any good to keep going down the path we were on. How can we provide services to the tax payers if we don’t have the bodies to adequately staff our departments? If all we are doing is training and losing people we are essentially doing the tax payers a disservice and throwing money out the window. In that situation it’s impossible to achieve and maintain an acceptable service level.”
As for the study itself, Scholz emphasizes the value the county is placing on keeping employees involved and informed in the process.
“With everything there are risks and benefits. The benefits are finding out where we stand with our compensation compared to our competitors and identifying areas for improvement. But the risk is employees may feel they’re not being treated fairly during the process. Pending on the results of the study, employees may or may not be happy, but we want to assure fair treatment. The county personnel committee feels the same way, therefore they plan to implement an appeals process as part of the study. If there happens to be employees who don’t agree with the results, they will have an avenue to address their concerns.”
“Personally, my door has always been open for employees to come in and discuss any concerns or questions and that certainly will not change. My door will be open during the wage study as it always has been.”
The Lincoln County Personnel Committee will meet Thursday to discuss guidelines and the procedure for the study, which Scholz estimates to begin within the next week or two.
As part of its February meeting, the county board allocated $60,000 for the study. However Scholz indicates the accepted bid amount was well under that, with a price tag of $56,600.
Deadline for completion of the study is August 1 of this year.