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Albemarle having employee recruitment, retention issues

Albemarle County government is seeing “widespread recruitment and retention issues” among its local government staff.

Currently, 7% of Albemarle’s positions are unfilled, but county staff did not specify a number. Typically, in the middle of the year, approximately 3% to 5% of positions are vacant.

“We’re seeing that these recruitment and retention issues right now are more widespread — there’s not one department I can point to and say we could address a particular issue there and then all of our recruitment challenges would be solved,” Andy Bowman, the county’s chief of the budget division, said during a budget work session this week.

Local and state governments across the country, and even businesses in the private sector, are experiencing labor shortages, as the economy recovers from its COVID-19 pandemic slump.

Bowman said the county has had 22 employees retire so far this fiscal year, and nine additional retirements have been announced.

“This is borderline crisis mode,” Supervisor Ned Gallaway said. “We better be talking about this with the urgency and concern that it deserves as we continue through this budget.”

Mia Coltrane, Director of Human Resources, said a new HR recruiter is starting on Monday, and one of their tasks is “getting a good pulse” on every department to see where their energy needs to be focused.

“We know public safety is one, but as we’ve mentioned it’s not just public safety — we’re seeing it across the board, even within HR, with the competition being where it is,” she said. “So having a person specifically assigned to help with these challenges and having support staff is going to be very beneficial for us.”

She said the county is seeing challenges hiring and keeping employees in technical fields and those that require higher levels of certifications.

“We’re being countered in those areas or other areas — we make the offers … organizations are countering with something higher and giving more based on certain skills that individuals have,” Coltrane said.

In December, the board approved a mid-year budget adjustment which included $150,000 for a compensation study to review county government employees who are on the government’s classified pay scale.

At that time, American Rescue Plan Act money was also approved to fund $3,000 bonuses for sworn and uniformed Sheriff’s Office, police and fire rescue employees already on the payroll, as well as new sworn and uniformed police and fire rescue recruits who are hired in 2022.

Employees were given 6% raises in the mid-year adjustment. Additional 4% raises, totalling $2.8 million, are included in the FY23 recommended budget.

The upcoming recommended budget also includes $1.65 million in a salary and benefits reserve: with $150,000 as a general reserve for salaries and benefits; $500,000 for implementation of the salary study; and $1,000,000 in one-time funding from the county’s fiscal year 2021 surplus for “workforce stabilization efforts.”

“The intent of this funding at this time is not to say specifically what will happen, but to position the board and the organization to be able to move forward, whatever that right time might be,” Bowman said. “That funding is right now a blend of on-going and one time money.”

The HR department will begin the salary study this year.

Gallaway asked if the 6% and 4% raises will help put the county where salaries should be relative to inflation.

“It honestly is hard to say, when you look at what our competition is doing around us, especially in some of our similar situated localities, where departments are offering entry level bonuses and stipends … It’s hard to say how that’s going to have us fare right now,” Coltrane said.

She said the study will create a baseline for the county, and they can move forward with changes after.


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