County Manager Column from Dec. 14, 2021

In October, we launched a preview of the new job classification structure as proposed by Gallagher Benefit Services. This is an important part of the county’s work to modernize job classifications and compensation plans through Talent Attraction, Retention and Promotion. We shared the structure at that time to align with the preview we were providing labor union representatives during ongoing negotiations; it was important to be transparent as an organization and communicate this information with all employees.

At the time the preview launched, we were on track to let all employees know where they’d likely be placed in the new structure by the end of the year. As 2021 comes to a close, we’ve carefully evaluated where we’re at in the project and recognized a successful implementation is going to take more time that we thought.

Before I discuss timing, I want to provide context about what led to this point, because I understand this news is going to come as a disappointment to some, while others may appreciate the additional time to ensure that no one feels like this is being rushed in the midst of ongoing organizational change and a pandemic that is about to enter its third year.

First, bargaining conversations prompted several additional questions that need to be addressed before we can proceed. As you may recall, our current classification system hasn’t had a major overhaul in well over 25 years, and that makes it even more challenging for everyone involved to unweave ourselves from this outdated model. Moving from a complex system of 596 job classifications to a streamlined system of 328 classifications is messy. It’s imperative that we have a comprehensive plan in place to address all factors of the change – such as seniority and competitive compensation while coming out of a pandemic – before we move forward. We also need to evaluate, on the front end, any potential equity impacts of these changes. Classification and compensation systems have the opportunity to eliminate or further entrench inequities within a system, and it is imperative that we use this moment in time to ensure that our system results in equitable approaches for every Ramsey County employee. Put simply, it’s taking longer because we want to get it right.

Second, we’ve had to shift strategic HR resources this fall to focus on rapidly implementing our COVID-19 vaccination/testing and flexible workplace policies. The vaccination/testing policy in particular has been a very heavy lift for our HR team – and it simply had to be the top priority as we continue our commitment to keeping our employees and community safe. Please know that we’re all frustrated by ongoing project delays caused by this pandemic, but we also are being reminded every day that some of the environment around us is beyond our complete control.

So where does this leave us?

The next step in the process is still for HR to complete a final review of classification specification descriptions and employee placements with all department heads. Once this is complete, we anticipate being ready to announce employee placements to all employees at some point in 2022. The new classification and compensation systems still require negotiations with our labor partners, and as such will likely go into effect in or around 2024.

These timelines do not fully align with the initial project milestones and plan that was developed before our world was upended. It’s been a much longer road than we envisioned when we started this project – with a giant pandemic pothole in the middle – but I remain firmly confident that the new, modern structure will better serve all our employees by making it easier to recruit talent, advance equity, enhance career pathways and address business needs.

Let me be clear, though: This revised compensation and classification timeline in no way means that all of Talent Attraction, Retention and Promotion is on hold. You will continue to see improvements and changes in 2022 and 2023 in many other areas where we can move faster and see immediate benefits.

  • HR is currently looking at ways to shift timing on changes to personnel rules, policies and procedures that can be improved before implementing a new system – such as how we set salaries following promotions.
  • The team is also discussing how to advance a comprehensive look at pay equity issues impacting racially and ethnically diverse employees across the organization.
  • A new classification and compensation specialist will start this month to help tackle the complexities of our future move to a new system and to help us better apply our present systems.
  • HR will continue to evolve into a strategic business partner through the recent general services realignment and other initiatives to better meet the needs of employees, departments and Service Teams.
  • We’ll continue to advance our culture and values through performance management to ensure accountability and that all employees are contributing to a welcoming, accessible and inclusive organization.
  • Our Career Pathways program will continue to evolve to ensure we’re attracting and developing talent for long public sector careers.

You’ll also continue to see the spirit of Talent Attraction, Retention and Promotion apply to how we navigate issues and developments – just as we’ve seen it in the response to COVID-19 through Paid Extraordinary Pandemic Event Leave (PEPEL), extending vacation capping, supporting employees with unmet childcare needs and other initiatives.

Thank you all for your patience and for understanding that we can’t implement new systems until we’re confident they’ll be successful and help us achieve our goal of being a public sector employer of choice. Stay tuned to Ramsey News for more information on what’s to come in 2022 with Talent Attraction, Retention and Promotion.