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If employees do the job, they should get raises, says St. Croix Co. panel

As discussions continued on St. Croix County’s two-year-old pay-for-performance system of giving raises and bonuses, Administration Committee members agreed employees should get an annual raise if they meet job expectations.

After lengthy discussions at a full County Board work session last week Tuesday and by the Administration Committee Wednesday evening, the issue was sent back to a staff advisory committee for continued consideration.

County Administrator Pat Thompson said the Tuesday discussion, which included input from department heads, showed general support for pay for performance with some modifications.

“We basically wanted to send a message that we’re not going to scuttle pay for performance,” said Supervisor Roy Sjoberg, Hudson. But, he said, significant changes must be made.

County Board work groups created a list of possible revisions for the Administration Committee to review, deciding which to support and which to delay.

Those include revising the system to give raises to employees who meet job expectations; allowing employees to opt out of pay for performance while still getting a base increase; providing department head training on what “exceeds” and “substantially exceeds” expectations mean; and limiting pay for performance to managers, supervisors and department heads. Another option suggested was switching to a different compensation system.

Supervisor Jill Berke, town of Troy, said she didn’t see consensus for continuing with the system that’s in place, adding that she doesn’t believe frontline employees are happy with it.

There are significant concerns about the system being an appropriate motivating force for staff, said Supervisor Ron Kiesler, New Richmond. He said pay for performance is not a recommended method for compensating workers unless they are doing rote work.

County government employees do intellectual work, said Kiesler, who is a program manager for Pierce County’s Human Services Department. He said the only thing he can support is considering a different system.

The majority of County Board members agreed they want to keep pay performance but that it needs work, said Supervisor Judy Achterhof, Emerald. Nothing is perfect from the start and this needs work, but the board wants to keep it, she said.

He’s hearing that the current pay for performance isn’t working, said Sjoberg, who suggested looking at what should be changed and working on that.

He heard general support for pay for performance with some modifications, said Thompson, adding that he heard no endorsement for a new system.

“Everyone acknowledged that it is not perfect and that we can certainly make it better,” said Thompson. He suggested the staff advisory group weigh in on these suggestions and report back to the Administration Committee.

On a related matter, Sjoberg reported the staff committee, with help from himself and Achterhof, is working on revisions to the employee handbook.

The intent, he said, is to take back some of the authority that was given to the county administrator and the Human Resources Department, adding more checks and balances.

“We’re working every week to finalize the handbook,” said Sjoberg, but he said it would be a push to finish it in 60 days.

In the meantime, procedures to deal with employee grievances and complaints will be put in place on an interim basis. The grievance policy includes a “just cause” standard for termination, and an employee may appeal a hearing officer’s decision to the County Board.

Under the temporary complaint process, an employee who gets a written or oral warning, may appeal first to his department head, then to the administrator and then to the Administration Committee. This policy will apply to any employee who is suspended, demoted or raises a complaint about workplace safety.

Since Administration Committee meetings, which start at 5 p.m., have been lasting more than five hours, the committee agreed to, at least for the time being, plan two meetings a month, setting a firm ending time of 9 p.m. for each.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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