The Idaho Statesman
Employee turnover costs money. It hurts productivity.
That´s true in the business world and the public sector.
It´s another reason why the Legislature should act now
to find more money for employee pay.
Legislators are fond of talking about running state government
like a business. But the state can´t become a training
ground, where employees get experience before jumping to better
paying jobs. This would make for a crummy business model.
Turnover numbers are mixed, after two years of pay freezes
for most state workers:
For state-employed nurses, a group of about 500 people,
the turnover rate is a troubling 28 percent. Despite a nationwide
nurses´ shortage, some hospitals are managing to operate
with a much lower turnover rate, said Deanna O´Toole,
director of human resources and public relations for the Idaho
The overall state employee turnover numbers are less
conclusive. The number has reached 13 percent, up slightly
from a historical rate of 11 to 12 percent, the Idaho Division
of Human Resources said in a recent report.
But here the report raises a fair point. That 13 percent
turnover occurred during a down economy, when workers usually
are apt to stay put. Rightfully, the human resources division
is worried about what may follow. The state could see
a spike in turnover when the economy turns and the labor markets
loosen, especially if wages are drastically behind market.
Wages are falling behind. Overall pay is 14.6 percent below
market rates; a year ago, the gap was about 11 percent. In
nursing one of the hottest occupations in the
nation for the foreseeable future, according to the
division´s report the pay gap is a whopping 22.3
percent and growing. The state isn´t going to cut into
its turnover rate if it continues to pay registered nurses
$7.50 an hour less than they can get elsewhere.
But there also is no way the state can afford the $85 million
it would take to erase all the salary gaps.
One of the human resources division´s recommendations
is using $10 million of one-time money to add 2 percent to
the pay pool.
There are pros and cons to this. The disadvantage for workers
is that the new money doesn´t get built into their pay
base. This may be the year where the Legislature has to draw
the line, as it did with education a year ago, and commit
to give workers raises, not just bonuses.
The state´s employees are not nameless, faceless bureaucrats.
They´re neighbors who have to pay for mortgages, health
insurance and their kids´ college education. The vast
majority of them have been trying to pull this off with flat
This winter, the Legislature needs to find money in a tight
budget for raises. Lawmakers need to make a wise investment
in keeping a talented, experienced work force.