Renville County compensation slightly below 'benchmark' neighbors in western and central Minnesota

Oct. 30—OLIVIA — Renville County's compensation schedule for its employees is slightly below the market average of its like-sized neighbors, but definitely in what traditionally has been considered the competitive range with them.

The county may want to adjust its compensation schedule to remain competitive and to guard against falling behind in a tight labor market, according to a study performed by David Drown Associates for the county.

"To me, we're in the game," said Randy Kramer, a member of the Renville County Board of Commissioners, after he and board members heard a report on the study on Oct. 24. The county is currently in negotiations with employees, and the commissioner suggested the board will likely move the pay scale in response to the study and the negotiations.

Renville County uses a range for its pay scale in place of a step system that is more commonly used, according to Tessa Melvin, who completed the study for David Drown and Associates with help from colleague Kelly Jones. The Renville County range includes a minimum, mid-level and maximum compensation for each job.

The county has been providing lump sum payments to experienced employees who have reached the maximum pay level. Melvin recommended doing away with the practice and increasing the maximum compensation on the schedule instead.

The study found that Renville County is 4 percent under the market minimum rate average and 3 percent under the market maximum rate average, according to Melvin.

Two years ago, falling within 5 percent of the market would have been sufficient. To be competitive today, Melvin recommended adjusting the minimum rate by 7 percent and the maximum rate by 9 percent.

She emphasized that adjusting the rates does not translate into a 9 percent raise for all of the county's 200-plus full and part time employees. Only employees receiving the maximum rate on the compensation scale would see that level of increase should her recommendations be adopted.

The study is based on analyzing the county's pay schedule against those of what are termed its "benchmark" counties. They include Meeker, McLeod, Sibley, Brown, Redwood, Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Pope and Swift.

The analysis also looked at the county's compensation in comparison to its more populated neighbor to the north, Kandiyohi County. Termed a "spotlight" county for the analysis, the study found Renville County is about 10 percent under the minimum and 14 percent under the maximum rates of Kandiyohi County.

Overall, she noted that Renville County has a 39 percent spread of its compensation, as compared to an average spread of 38 percent among counties.

The analysis is important for counties interested in both recruiting and retaining employees, according to Melvin. It's also required to assure compliance with equity pay laws, she noted.

She emphasized the importance of employee retention.

"By not doing anything, you are going to keep losing money by people leaving," she said.

Losing an employee through turnover costs an average of $30,000, and it's more for employees with regular overtime hours or special licensing and training for their positions, she said.

Her analysis found that Renville County offers more benefits than its benchmark counties. The list of benefits includes a range from dental insurance to compensation for working during adverse weather conditions.

She pointed out that the county is "in the same boat as everyone else is" in terms of employee recruitment and retention in today's market, but also in a better position in some respects.