Compression is a good thing in car engines, but it’s considered a very bad thing when it comes to corporate and government salaries.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners spent much of their afternoon on Thursday, March 21 at a work session attempting to come up with a solution for the county’s pay compression problems.

Compression is when there isn’t a large enough difference in pay between employees who have differing skill levels and experience.  The situation leads to resentment and discontent among some in the workforce, and retention problems can result.

The presentation on pay compression in Guilford County government was led by Guilford County Human Resources Director Karen Fishel and Mary Mosqueda, a senior vice president with Lockton Companies – a consulting firm hired to help the county address the situation.

At the meeting, Mosqueda presented the commissioners with four options – each costing about $2.5 million in salary increases in the first year.  She said it would be a way for the commissioners to start addressing the problem.  The money would be used for raises that would go to about 1,150 employees to help provide separation between their pay and the workers who are near their salary level.

The plan called for similar moves in the following years until a relatively acceptable situation was achieved.  Mosqueda told the board that doing so would likely increase employee morale even though it would take several years of such raises to adequately address the county’s compression issues.

She said she’d worked with a lot of businesses and governments who benefited just from moving in the right direction.

“You’re telling your employees, ‘Hey listen, hang in there with us and we’ve got a plan.’”

Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue, who served for years as the Guilford County Emergency Services director before becoming a commissioner, said pay compression had been a problem in Guilford County government for at least 35 years.

“For years, we’ve done a Band-Aid, not a plan,” Perdue said, adding that, if the board did take action this time around, he wanted to be certain it was a true plan and not simply another Band-Aid.

The board will likely make the decision as to the first step when it adopts the county’s 2019-2020 budget in June.