Hiring, Employee Retention, Wage and Hour Issues - Oh My!

Hiring Practices

Hiring and retaining the best employees can be one of the most important tasks that a city can undertake.  Employees can be the heart and soul of a successful city.  Therefore, it is essential that cities hire the best employees and work to retain them. 

Another reason to do this right the first time has to do with the costs of hiring and training new employees, not to mention the time that this takes.  The costs to publish an advertisement, background checks, drug tests, as well as the time it takes to sort through applications and the interview process can be detrimental to the city budget.  In addition, there are the costs associated with and time it takes to train a new employee and it can also place added pressure on the remaining employees that must take on additional tasks.  To avoid these issues make sure you make every effort to hire right the first time.

Some of the ways to hire the best employees start with a current and accurate job description.  When creating the advertisement for the position, having a current job description is crucial.  The advertisement should be based on the essential functions of the job.  What must the potential employee have in order to qualify to do this position?  By identifying these requirements prospective candidates know whether or not they have the skills, education, training and background to do the job, and it enables the city to weed out those who do not.

The next step is the application and the interview process.  Be certain that both the employment application and the city interview process do not contain any questions that may violate state, federal or local law.  Don’t ask any questions that may be related to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, age or their status as a smoker or nonsmoker (only in Kentucky). 

Interview questions should be prepared in advance and should be based entirely on the ability of the candidate to do the job for which they are applying.  Make sure that the interviewers know what questions are completely off limits. 

Once the interviews are complete, have a process in place to guide the decision makers to identify the best potential employee.  Also, be aware of any required pre-employment testing or background checks that the city may have to do once an offer is made.  Ascertain ahead of time what can and cannot be done as well as what information should be gathered from the testing and used in the final decisions.

After the employee has been hired, have an onboarding process that assimilates the employee into the city work environment.  Don’t give him or her a stack of papers and leave them alone.  Make this an interactive process where they are immediately made to feel like part of a team.  Make sure that the new employee understands the personnel policies, the city ethics ordinance, and how the city’s form of government works. 

One of the most important things that a city can do to retain good employees is to make sure that anyone in a supervisory position has management skills training.  Do they know their roles and responsibilities?  Do they have effective communication skills?  Do they know how to effectively delegate job assignments?  Can they provide effective performance reviews?  This information is crucial to a successful supervisor and for happy employees.

Other important issues to consider are wage and hour laws and the misclassification of employees.  What is required in regards to meal and rest breaks?  What is considered a full-time employee?  How do you determine if the employee is entitled to overtime? What about compensatory time? Are you ready for the new overtime laws? What is considered the city’s workweek?  Do we have to pay for travel time?  (As well as hundreds of other laws!)  Failing to follow the state and federal laws, as well as the city policy, or the misclassification of city employees can cost the city in back wages, court fees, fines and penalties.  Knowing what is required of you as a city official is your responsibility.

All of these things combined put your city in the best possible position to hire and retain the best employees and to limit your liability exposure.  Being proactive on the front end will make your job as a city official a little easier, as the best employees will have to be disciplined less and the city can avoid hiring for the same positions over and over. 

If you want more information on these topics, KLC will be providing an all-day training June 1 that will offer in depth discussions of each of these topics as well as provide sample forms.  Information and registration for Part I of this training can be found on the KLC website.

For questions on this or any other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, KLC personnel services specialist. 

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