City considers recruitment, retention incentives

The city of Columbus is considering new policies in the hopes of boosting recruitment and retention.

The Columbus City Council has approved the first reading of an ordinance to adopt new personnel policies regarding Faithful Service pay and vacation time.

Ordinances require two readings for full approval. The council’s next meeting is Dec. 6. Assuming the ordinance passes on its second reading, the new policies will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Human resources director Arlette Tinsley said the proposed policies apply to full-time civilian employees, with the exception of elected officials.

Under the updated Faithful Service pay policy, such employees, provided there is not an interruption in their service, will receive a one-time payment in the pay period that includes their work anniversary date on qualifying years. The awards are as follows: $500 for five years, $1,000 for 10 years, $1,500 for 15 years, $2,000 for $20 years and $2,500 for 25 years. Employees who have served the city for 32 years without interruption will be paid an annual additional Faithful Service pay of $1,200.

The city has already budgeted for enhanced Faithful Service pay in 2023, said Tinsley. The ordinance, once approved, will allow the city to pay employees as these anniversaries occur.

Additionally, under the new ordinance, city departments will be able to offer more vacation time starting balance to “newly hired mid-career employees and/or former employees returning to city employment.”

“We benchmarked the state of Indiana,” said Tinsley. “They have decided this year to start offering enhanced vacation, meaning that if you have experience in the private sector or with another government agency and you come in with at least two years of experience, you can start on the vacation schedule at a higher level than just an introductory year. That allows us to try to recruit in a more attractive way with regard to vacation time.”

According to the ordinance, enhanced vacation time will not be automatic; department heads will have discretion over whether or not to initiate an offer. Such offers will also require written approval from human resources and documentation in writing when the employee is hired. The offer cannot be made retroactively after the individual has already begun working for the city.

Furthermore, the city will not award current employees additional vacation time or provide retroactive Faithful Service pay for previous anniversaries, as the new policies are meant to further “forward-looking retention and recruitment.”

“Overall, councilmen, I think most of our employees really want other great employees to join them,” said Tinsley. “So I’m not saying there won’t be some people that complain about their own vacation time, but most people really want us to find great recruits.”

According to the ordinance, Faithful Service Pay and vacation starting balance are important tools for talent attraction.

“In the first quarter of 2022, the City of Columbus, Indiana experienced almost twice the number of employee separations as compared to the last two years in the same period,” city officials wrote, “and the city has been implementing a series of initiatives to encourage retention, including but not limited to implementation of market-based salary study data as part of 2023 salary ordinances and a one-time pay-out to full time and part time employees in 2022, to mitigate inflation.”

The legislation also states that the state of Indiana and other “benchmarked public service employers” in Indiana are reconsidering and revising their Faithful Service pay and starting vacation balance packages.