According to Guilford County Manager Mike Halford, Guilford County recently completed a workplace study and found a big complaint among its employees.

“Fifty-nine percent of the employees reported feeling burned out,” Halford told the Board of Commissioners at a meeting last week.

“Twenty-six percent,” he added, “were considering a new organization – and we’ve had 18 percent turnover in 12 months.”

Currently, Guilford County government has about 400 vacancies – many of those in vital positions such as public health, social services and public safety.

Halford told the Board of Commissioners that several items in the new proposed county budget he just unveiled were meant to address employee discontent and turnover.

“Without keeping people on board, we can’t move as fast on your priorities as we could,” Halford said during the late May budget presentation of his proposed budget for fiscal 2022-2023.

He also said that Guilford County continues to lose quality employees across many departments.

In October of last year, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved a mid-budget-year pay increase that provided a 5 percent raise for all county positions.

But Halford says that’s not enough to keep employees and keep them content – so the new budget includes other county perks, such as funding for an average “merit increase” of 3 percent, based on employee performance.

In the official budget message, Halford wrote, that Guilford County, like other local governments and private companies, faces big challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining good employees.

He added that Guilford County was striving, “to cultivate an attractive work culture by implementing new employee appreciation activities, refreshing training programs, adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday, modernizing job descriptions and requirements, building future employee pipelines with our local education partners, and offering incentives and sign-on bonuses for certain emergency services and detention positions.”

Emergency Services and jail guard jobs together currently represent nearly one- fourth of the county’s total vacant positions.

“These efforts are critical,” Halford wrote in his fiscal 2022-2023 budget message. “However, in addition to these efforts we must implement a competitive pay structure that appropriately values the education, knowledge, and skills our staff need to provide an array of increasingly complex public services. The County was unable to make adequate adjustments to its pay structure over the last several years to remain competitive within its labor markets—both public and private.”

Halford’s recommended budget includes $15 million – with $13.4 million in county funds and $1.6 million in projected federal and state reimbursements – to “reset our compensation system to the 50th percentile of the market.”

Halford also sounded certain to bring more pay increase proposals to the board in the future. He wrote that the current effort “to analyze and design an updated pay structure is on-going and the budget allocation represents a placeholder pending completion of the study. Once the analysis is complete, we will continue discussions with the Board to define an appropriate compensation philosophy and framework.”