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Supervisors consider ways to keep more people on RivCo payroll

Riverside County

The Board of Supervisors today unanimously directed the Riverside County Executive Office to proceed with establishing new workforce retention strategies based on concerns that county government is losing too many employees each year to other public sector entities.  

County CEO Jeff Van Wagenen and his staff, in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources, introduced a set of proposed standards for the board to consider as a means of improving "recruitment, hiring and retention."

The tentative framework was fleshed out following requests by Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Karen Spiegel in May for the EO to assess how the county might modify its policies to attract and keep people on the payroll.  

Van Wagenen said a new path forward is needed because the county is hemorrhaging employees, either through retirements, transfers or resignations, at an average rate of 1,800 annually.  

"We need to look at what we're doing in retaining the talent we have,'' he said.

The tentative recommendations submitted by the EO include:
   -- improving benefits packages;
   -- softening requirements for college degrees in some job classifications;
   -- strengthening recruiter communications;
   -- making the job candidate portal more interactive and user-friendly;
   -- raising compensation formulas;
   -- offering enhanced opportunities for continuing education;
   -- doing more ``rapid hiring events''; and
   -- creating greater bonus incentives.

Riverside-area resident David Samak expressed dismay that the board would entertain enlarging pay and benefits packages when county government -- the largest employer in the county -- already provides what he deemed lofty salaries and extras.

"You had 4,000 employees receiving $150,000 in pay and benefits (in 2021),'' Samak told the board, likely citing data published yearly by the California State Controller's Office.

He pointed out that the average private sector worker in Riverside County earns well under half of that sum annually.  

"I encourage you to look into these facts,'' Samak said. ``Look to the person on the street earning minimum wage. The average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in this county is over $1,200."

Jeffries said that the board should be actively involved in keeping a lid on extravagant incentives packages for management.  

"My concern is the entry-level positions, where we're seeing a lot of vacancies," the supervisor said. "Other cities and counties are paying better, offering better benefits with lighter workloads. We have to make adjustments to remain competitive."  

Spiegel's feelings were similar.   

"We spend so much money training folks, getting them into a position, then they go to a different job," she said. "We have vacancies in every department because they're hard to fill."

Jeffries acknowledged Samak's complaints, saying "there is a pricetag to all of this."  

"It's going to cause challenges," he said. "The (local) economy will not sustain having 23,000 to 25,000 employees receiving really good pay (in county government), especially when the economy goes down."

Board Chairman Jeff Hewitt supported the EO's recommendations, but asked for "a little bit of caution."  

"Once hired by the county, it can be very difficult to get rid of somebody who doesn't fit in, or doesn't do their job,'' Hewitt said, pointing to the need for rigorous vetting criteria.

Van Wagenen told the board he would be returning with a formalized recruitment and retention strategy, incorporating the recommendations, for the supervisors to consider before year's end.

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