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Have you thanked a public servant this week?

What a week!  We are celebrating teachers, public safety, and public servants.  I can’t think of a group of individuals more deserving of a “pat on the back” than these employees.  I hope everyone takes a moment to give thanks not just for the roles they perform that we deem as important, but for the little things they do that make a big impact on our lives.  Sometimes you don’t even realize it…

Ever wonder who picked up that dead squirrel you saw on the road on your way to work?  Thank a highway department employee for that!

Does the person at City Hall remember your dog’s name every year when you go in to renew their license?  Thank them for making it a personal experience!

Did a fire fighter help you set up your car seat as a new parent?  Thank them for helping you keep your child safe!

Wasn’t that light display in the town center beautiful?  Thank your public works department for making your holidays a little brighter!

Remember that time the school called because your child got sick?  Who cleaned that up?  That’s right, thank your school custodian for that!

It’s easy to take for granted the people that make our life run easier, especially when the media generally only picks up on the negative events.  Truth is, there are so many people who are truly passionate about their role in serving the public.  It’s those people that I want to salute.  It’s those people I consider the heroes!

Happy Public Service Recognition Week!

Here’s a video to pay tribute to those who make a difference: https://youtu.be/eFMHCeWuwJE

Outlook into 2016

I recently attended Governing’s Outlook in the States & Localities Conference in D.C. to continue my own education on the public workforce and how it’s impacted by current events.  I would equate the abundance of info to watching the news of the past year in fast-forward.  It is quite overwhelming. But every year I come back to this event because its where you’ll find the best info.

I was disheartened, but not shocked, to hear 2016 will even further stretch resources including the work done by our public servants as in years past.  As the topic of labor was danced around, but not quite addressed, the mere mention of rising costs of healthcare (2016 HHS spend in state & local government to increase 5-6%) and pensions (currently a $1T shortfall in state & local government) will no doubt keep hiring at low levels.  And by low levels, they mean from as far back as 2009.  According to Governing, local governments have fared the worst with this steady decline in employment.

A shortage of employees at any organization hurts.  Yet in government it has an added sting, because the people who really suffer are those who need it most.  As long as programs can’t be run due to a lack of resources, and there are citizens who rely on these services, it will continue to create a negative effect on society. Scrutiny around operational inefficiencies within government will continue to grow and could even cause some distrust.

Let’s make 2016 the year we take a deeper look at costs, including labor, and find ways to bring some of our programs back.

 

Workplace Culture: Embrace Your Family

Regardless of what industry you are in, employees want to work for an organization that truly cares about them.  I’m fortunate to work in that kind of environment.  Check out this YouTube Video for a sneak peek into my world.

Your Employees are about to #StartTheConvo: Are you ready?

Today’s guest blogger, Morgan Gregory, Public Sector Field Marketing Manager at Kronos, focuses on employees and their treatment in the workplace. 

As I was scrolling through my twitter feed, I noticed that some social media manager was definitely doing their job today because it was impossible to miss what’s happening in Washington this week.

The US Department of Labor has started a social media campaign to encourage employees to engage in conversation with each other about how they are treated in the workplace in preparation for the White House Summit on Worker Voice this Wednesday, October 7.

Twitter has been flooded with stories of workers who chose to start the “convo” in their workplace, resulting in wins for their workforce. While higher pay and paid leave are great wins for the employee, the implications of these initiatives on the employers have been absent from the conversation.

Even though federal government is focusing on the employee conversation, the changes that they’re encouraging will have a huge impact on the employer, and it’s important for you, as an employer, to know what to keep an eye on as their employees #StartTheConvo.

Below are some questions to consider as you follow #WorkerVoice

  • What rights do my employees currently have?
  • What am I doing to keep record of their sick time?
  • Am I in compliance with current labor laws?
  • What changes in tracking would have to be made if these become national requirements?
  • What is the cost of absence?
  • Do my employees feel safe at work?

From a state as covered in collective bargaining agreements as California to the union-limited state of Wisconsin, when these issues come from a national level, it will almost always require some change to come of the employer, whether that be what they’re offering or how they’re keeping record.

Most importantly, as an employer, it will be most important to be a part of the conversation. By managing proactively, you will you create a more collaborative, inviting, and fair work environment.

You can follow along with the summit starting at 10:30 am ET.

Is Paid Sick Time the New Norm?

Today’s guest blogger, Morgan Gregory, Public Sector Field Marketing Manager at Kronos, touches on a topic that, although impacts states in a variety of  different ways, is becoming a trend that seems to be heading towards a “new norm”. 

There was a stomach bug going around the office recently which got me thinking about the last time I was sick.

It was Thanksgiving week, and I was an hourly worker in Georgia. The week was already going to be a short one due to the holiday, so I wanted to try and fit as many hours in as possible to ease the hit on my paycheck. But then I got the flu, and my entire week was completely shot, because Georgia, like most parts of the US, does not require employers to provide earned paid sick time.

Four states and 19 localities, however, now have required paid sick leave for all workers, and, while the names vary from Healthy Workplace/Healthy Family Act in California to simply Paid Sick Time Law in Massachusetts, most of these jurisdictions are following a very similar model to how employees earn their time and how employers must track that time.

Additionally, there are active campaigns happening in 22 other states, making the employer implications of this law foreseeably relevant to over half of our country. Visit paidsickdays.org for more information.

Employers in highly unionized states like California are already generally covered by respective collective bargaining agreements, however, there are certain aspects of reporting leave that are new and essential to understand in order to be fully compliant.

Let’s continue to use California as an example.

CA Employees, including part-time and temporary employees, who work for 30 or more days within a year will earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. This accrual begins on the first day of employment or July 1, 2015, whichever is later, and the employee may begin using his or her earned paid time off after the 90th day of employment.

The law states that California employers may limit the amount of paid sick leave an employee can use in one year to 24 hours, or three days, and, instead of tracking earned time off, employers may offer this minimum amount in full up front.

In order to not risk facing the consequences of noncompliance, it is essential that every employer has proof of its commitment to adhere to the Healthy Workplace/Healthy Family Act of 2014.

The law requires records showing both earned and used paid time off be kept for three years.

Paid Sick Days Poster  must be displayed where employees can read it easily; we recommend in a break room where any free food goes. In addition, new hires must receive written notice. The notice for your particular state can be found in the site of your Attorney General.

I can imagine this will put a strain on human resource and payroll departments who will likely pick up this extra task. We are talking about a sub-set of employees who, until recently, were not eligible for this benefit. The additional workload, however, really depends on how sophisticated existing leave tracking systems are.

For more a more detailed explanation of the California Healthy Workplace/Healthy Family Act of 2014 including examples and a Q&A with Alberto Torrico, labor attorney and former Majority Leader of the California State Assembly, watch an instant replay of Understanding the CA Paid Sick Leave Law Webinar.

Emergency Preparedness: It’s Not Just for First Responders

Last year we had 45 ‘Major Disaster Declarations’ in the U.S. according to FEMA. Sure the number fluctuates each year, but the reality is you can’t predict when or where an emergency is going to hit a community. And it doesn’t matter which part of the country you live in. Maybe you don’t live in a region where you’ll ever experience a hurricane or a tornado, but flooding is the #1 natural disaster in the U.S and all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods according to Floodsmart.gov.

With this information alone, it makes sense for states, cities, and counties to have a plan should a disaster strike, right? Many government organizations do have a plan that includes addressing the safety of the public and responding to the immediate need. All things that are extremely important when confronted with an emergency. But what about the after-math? What about the months or years of recovering and rebuilding? Or the resources and manpower to make all this happen? And the budget; how do you allocate funds to cover costs? Being prepared isn’t just about the initial response to an emergency, but should include what it takes to track the recovery efforts and maximize reimbursements from funding agencies.

Labor costs are a large operational expense for any government budget, but throw in an emergency and now these costs grow exponentially. Once an emergency moves to a FEMA declared disaster, now the pressure is on to track every penny of what is spent on clean-up and recovery efforts. FEMA has some pretty strict requirements for labor costs associated with emergency work under Recover Policy 9525.7. What if government agencies accounted for this level of tracking ahead of a disaster by identifying efficient labor tracking methods in their emergency preparedness documents?

Take what the City of Houston did for example. The city put together a Finance Disaster Recover Manual back in 2013. So when the floods hit Houston back in May and Harris County was FEMA approved for Federal Disaster relief funding, you can bet they pulled up their recovery manual and began tracking according to their pre-laid plans. All duties associated with recovery will be coded and tracked to get as much funding from various agencies as possible.

Although a municipality may never recoup all money spent, there is no excuse for leaving money “on the table”. Tracking with paper or spreadsheets leaves governments open to a loss of funds due to inadequate tracking, miscalculations, and delays in report gathering. Prepare your organization to not only recover safely through an emergency, but also financially.

Is having a ‘Smart City’ important?

To me, the term “Smart City” always felt like a fictitious phrase made up by someone in marketing.  I’m probably more cynical than most since I come from the marketing world, but I wondered how you could debate a city was smart or not.  And does that mean the other cities are dumb?  No, of course not, but as I’ve researched this topic I have noticed that some cities do exemplify the definition of Smart Cities.  Yes, there is a Wikipedia page devoted to this.  In short, the term refers to the creation of knowledge infrastructure through technology and data.

Last month I attended the Smart Cities & Counties Summit put on by the Public Technology Institute (PTI).  They put on a great conference and gathered some outstanding cities and counties to come together for best practice sharing.  At that point, I got to really understand why the term “smart” was used.  Topics included 311, GIS, fiber optic broadband, transportation, etc…  But from the topics were overlying themes of efficiency, collaboration, and an overall goal of wanting to build a better community.  So for a city to be “smart” it doesn’t just adopt new technology and say “we are cutting edge”, it uses technology alongside people to look for ways to grow.  Here are just a few of the cities that presented on their initiatives at the summit:

  • City of Minneapolis is using analytics and data to make better decisions across departments and better coordination of city operations.
  • City of Charlotte is building solutions to connect the city and it’s citizens with sites like Open Charlotte and the Code for Charlotte Brigade complete with it’s own hack-a-thon.
  • City of Columbus is working with academia and businesses to conduct research on sustainability and economic development.

Workforce development was another element of Smart Cities that found its way into the conversations.  After all, what is a city without its employees delivering services and its citizens being part of a workforce to stimulate the economy?  Smart cities (or any city for that matter) are seeing a new generation come in with different skill sets while an older generation makes plans for retirement.  Workforce development plans proactively look for ways to bridge this gap and transfer knowledge to move forward with succession efforts. Technology can play a role in this by way of educational/training tools, workforce management solutions, and talent acquisition.

So, this brings us back to question, ‘Is having a smart city important?’.  Some will argue that it is subjective so therefore the title is up for grabs for any city who deems themselves worthy.  I say, the smart city title is important, but only if the ultimate goal is bringing government and it’s citizens together.  So far, I like what I see.