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Who are the 23%?

Women play a vital role in the workplace.  But did you know that Women only make up 23 percent of government roles at the state and local level“?   Through an ongoing series of podcasts, Governing reporter Mattie Quinn takes on this important task of finding out who these women are, what leadership means to them, and the difference they are making in their communities.

In 1887, Susanna Medora Salter becomes the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.  This “Famous First” was a major milestone for women in government and paved the way for many women thereafter.  In Quinn’s first podcast, she interviews Mayor Freeman-Wilson of Gary, IN who actually prefers to go by the name “Mayor Karen”.

Just by listening to the podcast, I had the sense this Mayor is the kind of woman that people really admire.  What drives her is the desire to bring in support and funding to build programs that help all citizens of Gary.  She goes on to talk about an initiative to tie public safety and light illumination efforts together for community restoration.  “When we  pay particular attention to the environment then it changes the incidents of crime because people feel better about where they live.”

As the interview wraps up, the topic turns towards why the need for more women in government.  Freeman-Wilson talks candidly about the natural skills and strengths women possess like being problem solvers, ability to multi-task, and always looking for the “win-win”.  “It’s not about who I am, but it’s really about how do I contribute… how do I help… how can I improve my community.”

As young women begin thinking about their careers, it’s important to know that a role in government, regardless of the level, is a viable option.  Making a difference in your community is one of them most rewarding jobs you can do.

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of the Perfect Paycheck

The same scenario plays out every week.  Employees do their job and employers pay them for that job.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, sometimes processes break-down and that paycheck is impacted.  Have you ever had a paycheck that was inaccurate, late, or worse didn’t come at all?  Suddenly, the employee and employer have an issue at hand that has more than just monetary implications.

According to a new survey from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated an estimated 82 million1 Americans – more than half of the U.S. workforce – have experienced a problem with their paycheck during their career.  The results of the survey go on to say that more than a quarter (26 percent) of hourly workers have been paid too little, while 15 percent say they’ve been paid late. For the salaried worker, 15 percent say they’ve been shortchanged in their check and 16 percent report being paid late.

On the flip side of things, there’s also the issue of paying employees too much.  Calculations errors aren’t uncommon when time & attendance is tracked on paper.  The survey found, on average, American workers say they must likely be overpaid a staggering $463 before alerting their employer to the mistake.

Public sector employers have an additional risk to adverse side effects from an incorrect paycheck.  Regardless of underpayment or overpayment, the threat of the media putting a spotlight on perceived wasteful spending is real.  It signifies a weakness that the organization isn’t in complete control over their payroll processes.

The truth is, Payroll employees are often over-burdened by illegible hand-writing, late or incomplete time sheets, and the sheer volume of paper that comes in.  With this environment comes the potential for errors. Looking for areas of efficiency can lead to better accuracy and even cost savings.

Footnote 1: Calculation based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report from January 2017 that estimates there are 152.08 million employed people in the U.S.: 152.08M x 54% = 82.12 million.

FLSA – What does the future hold?

Still confused about the status of the proposed overtime regulations?  Well, you are not alone.  Since the preliminary injunction on Nov 22nd, 2016, many employers are left wondering if they will ever need to implement the courses of action they had ready for December 1st.   And this is one scenario where being prepared ahead of time was a disadvantage.  In a recent SHRM article, What’s Next for Employers Under the FLSA Overtime Rule?, we learn more than half of the audience at a conference on employment law already moved forward with reclassification changes.

In the same SHRM article, Tammy McCutchen, former administrator of the DOL’s wage and hour division under President George W. Bush and a principal with Littler in Washington, D.C, talks about what she sees as the future of the regulation.  She encourages the Department of Labor (DOL) to consider a “restart and redo”.  This would include proposing a new rule with the opportunity for another comment period before the final ruling.

There are some general thoughts that the threshold was set too high, especially for parts of the country where cost of living is lower.  More than doubling the existing threshold ($23,660 t0 $47,476) can put a drain on employers.  McCutchen goes on to say in the article that she thinks a threshold of $35,000 is a better place to start.  Most people agree an increase is needed, but a smaller step should be taken.

Unfortunately there is still more waiting we must do until we know which direction this regulation will take.  In the meantime, keep those plans ready because you never know what will happen next.

 

 

Are You Turning to Your Employees for Advice?

Employees are the most valuable assets of an organization.  Government entities rely on them to deliver services to the community and often times they go above and beyond what is within their job description when resources are tight.  Yet when looking for areas of efficiency and ways to save money, they aren’t always the first to be asked.

Historically, employees on the front lines have been overlooked as idea generators.  In 1911, Frederick Taylor published “The Principles of Scientific Management” to address the relationship between managers and those employees who are on the front lines.  His theory that managers were the planners and the employees were there to perform the tasks was well received during his time. But over time, employers have evolved to recognize someone performing “tasks” may have more insight on how to create efficiency or come up with a new process than someone who sits at a distance.

Many states are looking within for innovative ways to improve services and save money. Pennsylvania, launched a website so employees can submit cost saving ideas to help balance the budget.  California has something similar called the Employee Suggestion Program.  In a 2014 interview with Kari Ehrman, Merit Award Program Manager, she was asked what makes this program so successful; she responded, “The main reason was because it received top management support”.

Programs like this help drive employee engagement.  Many take pride in what they do.  If they find a way to make something more efficient, cost effective, or safer, their ideas should be heard.  More collaboration between employees and leaders can result in a more productive workforce.

Head, heart, or gut: What kind of decision maker are you?

Delynn Copley from the Copley group said it best, “Everyone has a set of gifts and talents, and they are often directly related to how we get in our own way.  The overuse of any strength can easily turn into a weakness.”  We all like to think our strengths are our biggest assets, but if not applied in the correct manner, they simply can turn against us. For example, your attention to detail is remarkable, but your team is always waiting on you to make a decision.  Is it better to let it go to meet a deadline, or push a deadline to create perfection?

I like to think that most of my decisions come from my head.  I look at the situation, analyze, and then make a calculated decision.  But after I read Here’s How Your Personality Type Affects Your Decision Making At Work, written by Erik Larson, Forbes Magazine Contributor, I realized instead of fitting into one personality type, I fit into certain traits that fall in different categories.  And chances are many around us in the workplace do, too. Maybe you’re instinctive (gut) and enthusiastic (head).  Or you like to help others (heart), but still have a strong desire to be in control (gut).

Regardless of your type(s), it’s important to learn how to use them as strengths and apply them to effective decision making.  Reflect on how your decisions impact your organization. Your team is counting on you.

 

 

 

The Year of Retention

Retention seems to be a popular word this year.  HR leaders across all levels of government are in a state of worry.  Attract and retain…  Attract and retain…  This is the mantra by which public sector employers are living and breathing.  So what’s all the fuss about?

As more employees are reaching retirement age, they know a plethora of knowledge will be walking out the door with each employee.  So governments are deep in succession planning and strategizing to address this.  But it’s also made many acutely aware that they need to figure out ways to retain this new generation of employees who are filling in these gaps.  With pensions in the condition they are and pay often lower than the private sector, what’s the draw to make them want to stay?

Regardless of the generation, people still believe in making a difference.  Whether it’s for their community or to make a difference in peoples lives, public service tends to draw people in.  But it doesn’t necessarily make them want to stay.  Employees want to be recognized for a job well done and offered opportunities to advance their careers.  They want to be part of decision making and know their voice is being heard.

According to an article written by Neil Reichenburg of IPMA-HR, Getting the Right People, employee engagement matters. “Engaged employees are five times more likely to be very satisfied, five times more likely to recommend their place of employment to others, and four times less likely to leave.

Engagement is not a one-size fits all; we are all individuals.  What motivates one person, might not motivate the next.  As managers and leaders address the reality of what retention means to their organization, they will discover there are multiple paths to create an environment employees can thrive in. And maybe, the employees who came into the public sector for the right reasons will want to stay a little while longer.

 

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