During the recent Jackson County Personnel and Bargaining Committee meeting, a large discussion was had about the current pay for performance plan that the county installed in 2013.
The current pay plan brings employees in at a salary range below the midpoint pay for the position. Within about five years and good reviews, the employee would eventually reach the midpoint. After the employee reaches the midpoint, the pay raises are limited if at all, but employees may get bonuses.
The limitation of pay raises beyond the midpoint has caused some managers to get pushback from their employees.
“The staff is feeling like no matter what, the midpoint is really the endpoint because you really can’t go beyond that unless there are extemporaneous circumstances,” Christine Hovell said, the director for the Jackson County Department of Health and Human Services.
This has caused a problem once people go beyond the midpoint.
“In some departments, we are losing people over that midpoint. We are having a problem with retention,” said Diane Peterson, who is the personnel director for the county.
This problem with retention is why the committee is considering a change in their pay plan. Peterson stated that counties are going to several different options, moving away from a straight pay for performance wage system.
She says that some counties are using a straight step system like Trempeauleau County, which has a set increase for a position for every year through 20 years. Others are using a matrix system, which provides set pay raises based on the performance review and position on the pay scale. Other counties, such as Barron County, are going to a hybrid of these pay scales, using one method to get employees to the midpoint and then switching once someone gets beyond the midpoint.
These differences in the pay systems counties use has left Jackson County behind.
“This is our neighboring county and this is what we are competing with. We keep wanting to compete with the market, but the reality is that our social workers are not going to the school districts or high schools, they are going to Western Wisconsin Cares or Trempealeau or La Crosse or Eau Claire,” Peterson said.
Beyond the midpoint, Peterson says these other counties are compensating better than Jackson County, causing many to go elsewhere because they know that after 10 years they will be able to move up in the pay scale quicker, unlike in Jackson County.
To remedy this issue, Peterson and the committee are working to find a solution that meets the needs of the county, while also making fixes in the current system. One of those fixes is looking at changing the current employee evaluation scale.
Currently, when employees are evaluated, they are evaluated based on a one to three scale. This has caused wages to increase at a faster rate because employees are getting an exceptional rating more often.
“This year we have more exceptional employees, but I can tell you I don’t think they really rise to that level because all of our employees are exceptional and compared to each other there are not that many that rise above the other,” Peterson said explaining that because managers feel like employees performed better than a two rating, they will give them a three. Contrasting this with a five number scale, the employee would maybe get a four instead.
This then gets employees to the midpoint faster, which then compounds the problems with pay beyond the midpoint.
Currently the committee is only considering proposals to change the pay structure for Jackson County. They do not have any specific plans to actually change the pay scales and no timetable for implementation.