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From the Desk of County Commissioner
Jim Martin

(3/2014) Will spring be on time? Some are hoping yes (those who shoveled tons of snow) and some are hoping no (those who enjoy tubing and skiing). Our county maintenance crew has mixed feelings – do we look forward to more snow and ice removal, or are we anxious for mowing and trimming? One group of individuals probably looking for relief is our first responders, 911 dispatchers, emergency coordinators, law enforcement, Penn Dot crews, and utility companies’ personnel. The Adams County Commissioners wish to express our highest level of respect and thanks to these many individuals. Their services protected and kept our county operating under continually severe weather conditions. Also a well-deserved thanks goes to the families that sacrificed many hours and days without their family members who were serving for the safety and well-being of our communities.

Within the walls of our county government is a different climate. The County Commissioners are attached to a multitude of issues and concerns and, as a result, people kindly ask with a grin, are you enjoying your job? It approaches enjoyable as we are able to keep ourselves wrapped around the issues rather than the issues wrapped around us. To accomplish this we put issues and concerns in the proper perspective through our senior management meetings. The most recent meeting was a lively roundtable discussion of important aspects related to almost every department.

The discussions that came from this meeting ranged from successful initiatives to plans to implement more effective and efficient operations. One subject that surfaced and touched many departments, and surely falls under the goals of effective and efficient operations, was staff retention. This is one area that is extremely important, but fails to rise to the top when higher profile issues such as new IT projects or proposals for a building project take the spot light.

Staff retention is very relevant when considering the dollar investment for mandated training of new and current employees . The major portion of these training expenses is the responsibility of the county. Therefore, whenever the county is unable to retain staff for a variety of reasons, the training of replacement staff amounts to incurring a new round of expenses plus the impact of losing an experienced employee.

One avenue for improving staff retention is to enhance the level of evaluation for new hires. After sufficient research, the most practical solution was to begin conducting aptitude and suitability testing in departments experiencing higher than acceptable levels of turnover. This was in a sense a calculated experiment, thus it was limited to specific departments to evaluate the effectiveness. The consensus of departments that hired new staff aided by the testing results was that the testing has significantly reduced turnover. Based on these positive results, consideration is being given to the possibility of expanding testing to additional departments. Yes, there is an expense for testing, but the cost of testing is far less than the cost to retrain another individual due to staff turnover.

Maintaining a positive work environment was also seen as an important aspect of staff retention. How can we accomplish this without incurring great expense? The no cost or low cost initiatives that we are focusing on are: good communication, offering opportunities for cross-training, and involving non-management staff in operational discussions. (1) The value of good communication is evident by the positive response and morale generated from the bi-weekly TGIF notebook. This is an email crafted by the Commissioners to inform staff of our current happenings and updates of ongoing projects. (2) Giving staff opportunities for cross-training is seen as a means to create an opportunity for increasing one’s skills and also to provide staff with greater knowledge and confidence to better serve the public. (3) The decision to involve non-management staff in operational issues was seen as an opportunity to show that our hourly employees’ insight and knowledge are truly valued by administration.

The consensus to involve hourly staff came as the Commissioners were looking for a special task force to examine ways to enhance revenues and to reduce county operational costs. To that end, a task force of hourly employees will come together to evaluate expenses from their perspective within their department. We felt that this review team was both an opportunity for individual employees to expand the scope of their job and at the same time to provide direct input of potential cost savings.

To learn more about our ongoing projects and future plans, please check out our "Year in Review" public forum which was filmed by Community Media. Community Media can be found at and on Comcast Channel 12. They serve the community as a PEG station (Public, Educational, Governmental broadcasts). Last week I had the privilege of attending their annual open house. They do operate with limited resources, but are served by an excellent board and staff. Please visit their web site and consider becoming a supporter and member. Thank you.

As always, I look forward to building a better Adams County

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