County working to address high-turnover in some departments

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 7, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE – As the county works to address a number of important human resources-related topics within their body of employees, new data is shedding light on how the county plans on addressing one of the more challenging issues, turnover. 

During the county’s board of supervisors meeting last week, supervisors received a detailed report from the county’s human resources director Corrie Hunt that provided a look at which county department’s experienced the highest turnover over the last five years. This month’s report comes roughly two months after the county received a number of recommendations from their consultants, Evergreen Solutions regarding the locality’s compensation and classification practices. 

According to county data, of the top six departments with the highest turnover, Prince George Police had the highest of any department with nearly 20 departures during the provided time frame. That total was followed closely by community corrections and then the county’s emergency communications department at 15.

Both the county’s department of social services and utility departments saw just over 10 people leave over the last five years, with the county’s code compliance department seeing the just over 7 people leave during the selected time period. Overall, according to Hunt, “a total of 127 full-time or part-time regular employees have left the county for one reason or another.”

“It is not uncommon to see police at the higher end of numbers like this,” Hunt explained to supervisors as they reviewed the data. “There is high turnover across the Commonwealth in that area, and the same holds true of community corrections.”

Media outlets from across Virginia are peppered with headlines of local police departments seeing historic rates of turnover, while others see are seeing a large exodus of sworn men and women, with many of these departments hearing pay as the chief complaint of those exiting the departments. 

In Prince George, Evergreen’s June 2018 report on county employee pay also came with recommendations to address pay compression within the county’s police department, an issue identified within the department’s pay structure. 

As part of those recommendations, a pay plan for sworn officers was presented, which would provide sought to improve pay “based on continuous years of Prince George County service” as the county police department positions itself to be more competitive in the area of wages following changes in neighboring Petersburg and Hopewell’s officer pay ranges. 

Following its unanimous approval in June, the county scrapped the previous pay plan for officers, which saw only five grades, ranging from police officer and rose through the ranks up to the police chief, for a new structure that rewarded time with Prince George County by creating nine grades, with the police officer grade being further expanded by providing additional grades an officer can reach as their consecutive service with the county continues, meaning a new officer could start as a  police officer on the new pay plan, and rise through the scale based on their tenure to “Police Officer, 1st Class,” which has an average salary of $54,987 according to Evergreen’s data, to “Senior Police Officer,” “Master Police Officer,” and finally “Career Police Officer,” which has an average salary of $69,253, slightly higher than the old scales maximum pay for the overall grade of “Police Officer,” which was $67,676.

In addition to the implementation of the scale, Evergreen recommended “a flat dollar increase based on continuous years of service with Prince George County” to sworn police officers, with those serving up to five years receiving $2,000 to those servicing for 15 years or more getting $8,000.

While data showed the highest county turnover was within the police department, Hunt explained efforts to address this challenge goes beyond just one county department. 

One of the county’s newest and most well-received elements, career development has continued to expand. Starting initially as a police department program and eventually expanding to the county’s fire and EMS departments, Hunt said several more departments, including animal control, the emergency communications center, social services, and code compliance, are all in the later stages of their development plan creation and those career advancement programs are slated for January 2019 start dates.

She added that employees now have 24 hours of training yearly to help increase their skills and knowledge, all geared toward providing them with more ability to advance and grow within the county.

“Employees want to feel challenged by their work and want the opportunity to be part of the future growth,” she said.

In addition, Hunt said efforts to identify people who will likely be long-time employees through the interview process is improving as they strengthened that process to “include behavior-based and scenario-type questions.”

“The county is working to ensure that we are hiring the right people for the right positions,” she said. “Once they are employed, our goal is to retain that top talent,” noting they are also working to enhance the county’s onboarding and orientation processes to ensure new hires are getting a mentor within their department and are receiving adequate training in their position to make sure they are as successful as possible with the county.

At their upcoming meeting on October 9, Hunt is expected to deliver a presentation that will detail the results of a county staff-wide survey that looks at employee engagement.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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