Building the perfect perks: legislatures need to emphasize fair, competitive pay plans and strong benefits to attract and retain good employees.

Author:Weberg, Brian
Position:TOOLS OF THE TRADE

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Most people drawn to legislative work are motivated by a desire for public service. The opportunity to participate in the policymaking process and the chance for a meaningful career go beyond earning a paycheck. That's why most legislatures have a dedicated and loyal workforce.

But times are changing. Generation X and Y employees often are focused on balancing work with life, and more likely to make many career changes.

So legislatures are beginning to provide incentives to attract and retain the 21st century professional. They also are exploring ways to retain retirement-ready baby boomers for their expertise and to mentor the next generation.

According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, public employees ranked the top job satisfaction factors as:

* Benefits

* Work/life balance

* Compensation

* Job security

* Good communication between employee and supervisor.

An NCSL survey found a slightly different mix, suggesting legislative employees may view traditional pay and benefits ahead of other forms of compensation and reward. Nonmonetary rewards do have an important place in the package, but fair, competitive pay plans and strong benefits packages will attract and retain the best employees.

MONETARY COMPENSATION

1

BONUSES

Cash bonuses can be awarded when hiring a top-notch person or to keep one. Merit bonuses are rare in legislatures, but some do offer them.

In Florida, the Legislature can grant a one-time lump sum bonus to a salaried employee. The policy establishes qualifications, which must be approved by the presiding officers and cannot exceed 10 percent of the employee's annual base rate of pay.

Some worry that bonuses can be politically difficult and expose the legislature to negative publicity. Lump-sum payments to public employees sometimes find detractors. But the practice, if carefully applied, may actually save money in the long run. It's common with many employers that legislatures compete with for talent.

2

LONGEVITY BONUS PAY

Longevity pay can be an effective incentive to retain talented employees. As with all lump-sum payments, however, legislatures need to design them carefully so that they have the intended effect at a reasonable cost.

Legislative staff in Nevada who have worked eight years or more receive longevity checks totaling $150 annually. Those who have worked 30 years or more receive $2,350.

3

EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE

Many employer--legislatures include--subsidize some or...

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