Marion Co. employees unhappy, study shows

Marion County employees are not happy with their jobs, according to a recent study.

Dianne Novak, chair of the Marion County Commission, questions the validity of the study, something that cost the county $17,997 to put together.

The county commission contracted an Illinois-based consulting company, McGrath Human Resources Group, to conduct a workplace study earlier this year. Malayna Halvorson Maes of McGrath Human Resources Group presented the results to the commission during a special meeting last Wednesday.

What the study found is that the county’s pay and employee morale are both low.

Novak said the methodology of the study was questionable.

She said the study “had no figures and no answers as to where we will be financially.”

“It was not what I expected,” Novak said.

According to the study, many county employees say their pay is too low. The study found that half of the county’s employees are paid within 10 percent of the average market rate, while close to one-fourth are paid more than 20 percent less than their counterparts across the country. Employees receive annual cost-of-living raises.

Marion County has a young employee base. Close to 40 percent of the county’s employees are under the age of 39 and have worked with the county less than four years on average. The study showed that the base will continue to get younger, with 21 percent of county employees set to retire in the coming years.

According to the study, this age gap has caused a rift between long-term tenured staff and newer hires. Newly hired staff members say they don’t receive the same treatment or pay as tenured staff.

The study concluded that Marion County should change its pay structure to ensure that employees are paid equitable wages that are competitive to other counties and private entities, while providing incentives for performance and productivity that are not based on longevity.

Novak said she is hesitant to change the county’s pay plan and commit to the findings of the “incomplete” study.

“I’m simply looking for a plan that is fair for the work performed,” Novak said. “Until I see some numbers I cannot fully commit.”

In addition to the low pay and lack of incentives, the study showed that employees are experiencing low workplace morale.

Maes said employees feel disrespected by the county commission and are skeptical that conditions will improve in the near future.

Novak said she was disappointed with the study.

“It was a waste of time and money,” Novak said. “We (the county) could have done it ourselves.”

She said she felt “pressured” by county employees who attended the special meeting when the study’s results were presented.

“It appears to me to be an intimidation tactic, which I believe is very inappropriate,” Novak said.

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