The towns of Oro Valley and Marana are each in the beginning stages of conducting employee market surveys that will compare the compensation of staff to surrounding communities – a process both municipalities hope will help with employee attraction and retention.
That’s not to say retention has been an issue for either government, as both cite minimal employee turnover. In part, that is credited to conducting such surveys on a periodic basis to ensure employee salaries are accurate and competitive in the modern market.
“All indicators suggest that some employers are starting to offer higher starting salaries, which could make it more difficult for the town to recruit and retain high qualified employees,” said Oro Valley Town Manager Greg Caton. “Waiting until there are actual turnover issues before conducting a market survey can result in the loss of valuable staff and increase the difficulty of finding highly-qualified employees.”
The Town of Oro Valley is conducting its first market survey since 2003, though it performed a partial survey in the 2008-2009 year. The town has allotted $30,000 for the process.
While there has been little public outcry regarding the cost of the survey, in a May 1 council meeting, councilman Mike Zinkin did speak against funding it.
“I think in lieu of a market survey, the market will tell us,” he said. “I don’t think we need to pay $30,000 for a market survey when our own movement amongst employees will determine whether or not we need to make changes.”
But to allow such employee movement to occur could prove more expensive than the survey, says Caton.
“This type of compensation analysis allows the organization to reduce turnover, which can be very costly, while at the same time not overpay for what the market dictates,” he said.
Caton added that in some cases the market has determined that a job classification is compensated below average market, but the reverse can also be true. If a particular classification is considered too highly compensated, it could impact future raises for an employee.
Because the survey is in the beginning stages, the town has not yet selected the communities to which it will compare employee compensation, though such examples could include Pima County, Tucson, Sahuarita, and Marana, the latter of which is currently in the process of its first comprehensive employee market survey since September of 2008.
Marana has contracted with Waters Consulting Group out of Texas, and is in the process of collaborating with the firm to conduct the survey to compare employee compensation in various communities, though, as with Oro Valley, those communities have not been selected yet.
Like Caton, Marana’s Human Resources Director, Suzanne Machain, says the survey is not a product of employee turnover, but rather a preventative measure to minimize it.
“From time to time organizations need to look at classification and compensation plans,” she said. “Over time they can get out of balance.”
The Town of Marana will spend $96,300 to conduct the survey. The difference in cost is due to the fact Marana’s survey, in addition to monitoring employee compensation, also reevaluates job classifications and revamps job descriptions.