Employees in the Fulton County Government Center and throughout the county will have new human resources policies that aim to make them happier, so they provide better service. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC File Photo

Fulton County hopes happier workers will better serve residents

An official telecommuting policy. Retention bonuses to keep good people who have other job offers. A pay-for-performance system that rewards workers for doing their jobs well.

In 2017, Fulton County is trying to treat its employees better, in the hopes that human resources changes will trickle down to create more satisfied workers providing better service to residents.

Commissioners approved a slew of changes in October, but delayed their implementation until the new year. There are more than 60 changes in the updated policies.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can end up with engaged people,” said Kenneth Hermon, Fulton’s personnel director. “Happier workforces typically provide better service.”

The goal, County Manager Dick Anderson said, is to become the Chick-fil-A of employers: a place that is consistently renowned for its service.

Some of the changes are minor, and involve updating policies that were still on the books, but were inconsistent with state or federal laws, or the way the county operated. They include allowing workers more time to vote, and letting them keep their county job if they’re running for elected office.

Other changes are more involved.

The county had “no compensation philosophy” other than giving cost-of-living raises and pay increases or decreases when workers were promoted or demoted, Hermon said. So the switch to a pay-for-performance plan is a way to recognize workers who do their jobs well, but are not interested in promotions that could give them larger pay bumps. It will take some time for the proposal to be implemented, but the county is now taking steps to fine-tune the plan. A bonus system is also being considered.

In part, the proposals are intended to be a way to reduce the number of lawsuits. Fulton County has paid more than $20 million to hundreds of employees over more than a decade to settle disputes about pay disparaties.

They’re also meant to attract a younger, more diverse workforce. The average age of a Fulton County worker is now 48 years old.

The county was losing workers because it didn’t allow telecommuting, Hermon said, so managers will now have more flexibility to permit it. A new recognition program will allow for managers to reward workers with an extra vacation day or two.

Managers will also have the flexibility to offer a $2,000 to $3,000 retention bonus to keep people who plan to leave for relatively small salary increases. That bonus will set off a need to reassess succession planning, including possible promotions for the employee who was planning to leave.

“It’s one tool,” Anderson said. “We’ll see if it works.”

And Fulton County will guarantee interviews for veterans who meet the qualifications for a job, knowing that it is sometimes difficult to translate military experience to a resume.

The county is implementing a so-called living wage for workers that make less than $31,000 a year. And any new facilities will have dedicated lactation rooms for new mothers.

“We lose great, talented employees,” Hermon said. “We hope to be a lot more nimble, a lot more flexible.”

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