County should use merit-based system when awarding raises

Bartholomew County officials are beginning discussions about next year’s budget, and one proposal being considered is awarding 3 percent salary raises to more than 400 county employees.

That’s sure to bring a degree of happiness to the employees, but possibly not all.

Compensating all employees evenly regardless of their performance is a flawed system. It offers no motivation for workers to give their best effort. And, compensating substandard employees the same as good ones is bad for morale.

It’s time for the county to embrace and switch to a merit-based system to determine pay and raises. We support the idea of larger raises to high performers or those who take on more work. Such a system, used commonly used in the business world, has benefits. The main one is it motivates employees to do their best so they can be rewarded in a commensurate manner.

That is a mutually beneficial relationship: the employer rewards talent and accomplishment, and the employee sees high performance as a way for financial advancement. As a result, customers receive a high level of service and are happy with those who provided it, and are apt to come back for more assistance.

Bartholomew County officials should want their employees to be motivated to do a great job, and should be willing to reward high-performing employees.

A 3 percent pay increase, if one is approved during the formal budget-setting process, will be higher than county workers have seen recently.

The Bartholomew County Council approved 2 percent pay increases for county government workers in 2017, after county employees went a year without a pay increase because of budget constraints. City employees got a 1.5 percent cost-of-living pay increase for this year, approved by the Columbus City Council.

While a solid pay-for-performance system can’t be created in a matter of weeks, Bartholomew County officials should begin thinking about crafting criteria for a merit-based pay and raise system. Elected officials should aspire for county residents to receive the high level of service they expect and deserve, and rewarding the best pay increases to the best employees is one way to do that.

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