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Supervisors eye county employee compensation overhaul

After a comprehensive review of how Loudoun County government pays its employees, changes could be coming.

Last week, members the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee were walked through a lengthy list of recommendations by a consultant who warned that Loudoun had not kept up with the lofty compensation market rate it put forth in 1995 and needed to update its pay structure.

The discussion came amid concerns over the number of county employees Loudoun loses to neighboring jurisdictions.

Loudoun currently aims to pay its employees roughly 95 percent the market rate of what neighboring jurisdictions like Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William pay their employees.

But supervisors pointed out that Loudoun has fallen behind and is paying employees just 80 percent of the market share. They said the 2008 great recession had a lot to do with the county’s slip.

Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William all pay their employees either 100 percent of the market share or five percent higher or lower.

“Your structure really doesn’t match the work that’s present anymore,” said Jeffrey Ling, the executive vice president of the Evergreen Solutions, the consultant group hired by the county to conduct the study. “So, if you imagine just how much the county has changed since 1995, many of those structures were put into place when the county was smaller, there were less resources, I would even guesstimate that the demands from citizens were less … and so as a result that structure didn’t grow or change or alter as the jobs change among the employees that are present within the county.”

Ling said the county’s compensation study was dated, no longer competitive and did not align with the market.

A survey conducted by Ling’s firm found that while many county employees were satisfied with working for the county and satisfied in their positions, many were dissatisfied with the pay.

Only 20 percent of employees said they were satisfied by their overall pay plan; 17 percent said they were satisfied by the consistency of raises, and 19 percent said they were satisfied with their most recent pay increase.

Ling recommended Loudoun adopt a new compensation philosophy that would place the county at 5 percent above the market average and expand the number of market comparators to include Montgomery County, Frederick County and Prince George's County.

But Ling’s recommendation split the finance committee.

Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), chairman of the committee, recommended the county instead define the county’s competitive market to include Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William and advance a compensation philosophy in the range of 95 to 105 percent of the average midpoint of the identified competitive market.

Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) agreed with Letourneau.

Loudoun Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said that rationale was illogical.

“The question is not where do Loudoun County residents live. The question is where do Loudoun County residents go work,” Randall said.

She pointed out that 5.9 percent of Loudoun residents work in Washington D.C., 3.5 percent in Montgomery County, 2.9 percent in Prince William and 1.9 percent in Alexandria.

Randall also said the range Letourneau was recommending was not realistic.

“We’re not ever going to get the best and the brightest … if we don’t start off at 100 percent. Why can't the range be 100 to 105 percent versus 95 to 100 percent?” Randall said.

Randall and Supervisor Koran Saines (D-Sterling) opposed the motion, while Letourneau, Buona and Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) voted in favor.

The finance committee also agreed unanimously for staff to choose a vendor to start phase two of the classification and compensation study that will produce a number of results, including a comprehensive benchmark market analysis of all county jobs, a new market competitive pay plan to include an open range pay plan for the general workforce, as well as a “grade and step” pay plan for the county’s public safety positions.

Supervisors may take action on a new compensation plan Wednesday night.


Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.

Comments


Sure, sure how long ago was it that Eric Williams wanted to add a million dollars of unearned vacation to the school system?


You’re a regular Cliff Claven. Yeah, I’m busy, working about 80-90 hours a week and still able to go to my boxing/kickboxing class 7 days a week at Title in Ashburn. Oh, and It’s real INTEL(not the chip), like finding terrorist, keeping USA safe.


@cowbell

Whoa I didn’t know we had the privilege to hear from such an accomplished person who is the CEO of +50 employees can afford the time to comment on the LTM message boards. Sounds like either you’re not busy enough or you’re over compensated for the value you provide your employer/employees.

Maybe it’s time you chatted with some folks over at Intel’s compensation team and see what their annual salary evaluation looks like? Maybe see if they’ve ever hired Aon-Hewitt or Towers-Watson to evaluate their salaries/compensation? I’d bet you be surprised to find out they not only use consultants, but they do MUCH more than send out surveys to employees. Things like area wage changes, costs of labor, costs of living, etc are all variables that analysts use to arrive at a final monetary value.

Based on my direct professional compensation experience, Intel much like LoCo, uses industry standard practices contrary to your opinion “making unsound business decisions.” The only unsound business decision I can see is not exposing/educating employees like you to their evaluation process that ensures their employees are paid fairly and equitably using data and not the whims of a conversation or gut feeling that can’t be quantified.

Thanks again for proving me correct in your lack of information/experience in the compensation evaluation field.


Yeah, Pacer Know it all, spending $250-500K or more on a consultant to send out a survey to county employees to figure out pay is lacking is good business. I’m sure if you go to most businesses and do a survey, pay or benefits would be number 1 problem. I guess county employees never meet with their managers 1 on 1 to discuss an annual review? Besides working a full time job in Intel. I’m a CEO of several businesses with over 50 employees and I meet with each 1 at least once a year(some more) to discuss how they’re doing. Really not that hard.


the chorus of regular commenters (L4T, cowbell, JE) have no idea how compensation works. Robert has at least an idea of how it works. As a former compensation professional, an organization can use a multitude of data to determine how their TOTAL compensation package is determined. Meaning, vacation/sick time, pay, bonus, retirement, maternity/paternity leave etc. All of those items have value. My former employer used area wages to determine compensation, set a baseline, and come up with a final package.

Based on the information in the article, it seems that’s what the committee has elected to do.

p.s.- for cowbell, and all you other know nothing’s in the comment section, it’s cheaper to hire a consultant firm once a decade to evaluate your compensation practices than it is to hire full time staff to do it each year. Some private companies, like my former employer, actually do both. In the compensation world, the latter is a best practice.


Scott York look better after every meeting.


Maybe, just maybe, someone at Loudoun could/should go talk to their equal at Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, etc., and see how and why they do compensation planning. What is their rationale, what is their policy, what are their turn-over rates, what is their employee leakage to neighboring/competition jurisdictions?  What are the costs associated with that turn-over/leakage compared to paying employees so they don’t leave?

This is not an unknown black-hole situation. It most definitely is a policy question - does Loudoun wish to remain the little brother at the kids table, or is it time to step up and sit w/ the adults.


how funny, they have to pay a consultant/firm to figure this out… probably spent $250K+, they give themselves a 62% raise(future BOS) and seem to argue a difference of 5%???? Oh, and give LCPS basically a blank check each year…. And allow developers to build more homes than their original plan…


Let me guess—a 62% raise for all county workers…

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