Innovative ideas could mean bonus pay for city employees

March 7, 2012

City employees will have the opportunity to make a few extra bucks in the form on a one-time performance bonus this year.

The Employee Relations Committee last week supported a pilot program that encourages departments to come up with projects that make city operations more efficient, reduces the use of resources or enhances overall performance, said Anthony Brown, assistant to the city administrator.

An internal panel of city supervisors would approve projects and determine if the results warrant a pay reward. Tying the pay-off to an actual project provides a connection and impact to the city's performance, administrators said.

City Administrator James Archambo wants to get the process up and running within the next six weeks.

Some past projects that could've met the criteria include self-checkout stations at the library that reduced personnel; the wellness program that has led to lower healthcare costs; and automated timekeeping software that eliminated processing paper timecards.

The city has $58,000 to reward, which comes to $290 per person if all 200 applicable employees step up and earn a performance bonus, Brown said. Police and Fire employees aren't included because their contract already includes a pay increase.

Committee members didn't want to micromanage the program, they said. However they did voice concerns about the process being cumbersome and the reward lacking creativity.

Alderman Peter Donegan, committee chairman, warned against putting too much emphasis on fairness. Typically, the top 25 to 30 percent of performers get rewarded in an organization.

"We're looking for our employees to step up and do something a little exceptional," he said. "Don't try to get 200 people paid. I would have in mind at the end of the day bigger percentages for the winners."

Alderman Brian Ewerdt agreed that it would likely take more to motivate employees.

"I still have my apprehensions," he said. "For $290, at the end of the day, that seems like a lot of hoops to jump through."

Perhaps looking beyond a cash payout would help, Ewerdt suggested. His employer rewards top sellers by giving iPads that can be used on the job to further performance or travel vouchers so employees can take some time off to rejuvenate and come back ready to work.

"You've got to people excited and chatting around the water cooler," he said.

Human Resources Director Beth Aldana said she liked those ideas. However, an employee survey showed interested for pay bonuses, specifically for money because many workers have taken pay cuts to pay more toward benefits this year, she said.


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