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By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
The city of Salisbury continues to find it difficult to recruit and retain employees in key positions because its current salary structure lags behind other local governments.
Salisbury also has been unable to make significant gains in the hiring of minorities.
That was some of the sobering news to emerge from the City Council’s two-day retreat last week.
The city’s Recruitment and Retention Team, made up of employees from across various departments, gave a report on the makeup of the city workforce and proposed initiatives to step up recruitment.
Karen Ingram, benefits administrator for the human resources department, said low salaries are hurting efforts at hiring and keeping police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, accountants and other positions.
“We’re now near the bottom,” she reported. (See accompanying graph.)
Salisbury also is serving as a training ground for other local governments, which offer higher pay, Ingram said.
From 2005 to 2007, the city lost 576 years of service from non-retirees who left for other jobs.
In exit interviews, 34 percent left over salary, 23 percent for career advancement, 9 percent said they were treated unfairly, 4 percent for retirement and 30 percent for other reasons.
Ingram recommended monetary incentives for career development as a way to keep some employees from leaving.
Other recruiting strategies recommended by the Recruitment and Retention Team include:
– A mobile recruitment unit ó a moving advertisement, in effect ó that the city could send to local high school and college campuses, businesses, neighborhoods and job fairs.
– Signing bonuses.
– An employee referral program.
– Increased department-wide internships.
– A Job shadowing program.
– Billboard and bus advertisements.
Steps the city has taken in the past to retain employees have included increased tuition reimbursements, better 401k employer contributions, employer-paid medical and dental coverage, a wellness program and free health risk appraisals.
Some additions the team recommended include market salary adjustments, paid time for community service, flexible hours, more reimbursement for education and cross-training.
In its current recruitment efforts for minority employees, the city advertises on Time Warner Cable’s ACCESS 16 and minority newspapers and has booths and makes information available at cultural and sporting events, civic and social organizations and churches.
Internships also are used as recruiting tools.
The city has 447 employees, of which 292, or roughly 65 percent, are white males. Sixty-eight employees are white females. The makeup of other employees is 59 black males, 22 black females, two Hispanic males, three Hispanic females, and one American Indian male.
There were 49 new city hires in 2004-2005, of which 72 percent were white, 26 percent black and 2 percent Asian.
Of 48 new hires in 2005-2006, 47 percent were white, 40 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic.
Of 44 new city hires in the last fiscal year, 71 percent were white, 27 percent black and 2 percent Hispanic.
Renay Caldwell, a recruiter for the human resources department, said diversity in a workforce is good business and gives employers a competitive advantage, making them more responsive to today’s challenges and leading to new and improved products and services.
The competition for minority employees is fierce, Caldwell added, because today’s employers are aware of diversity’s importance.
The council could hear more about recruitment and retention initiatives as part of its spring budget discussions.
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Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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