Mapleton council endorses report on employee attraction, retention

Township losing employees to other municipalities: CAO

MAPLETON – Council here has endorsed a staff report recommending the township develop an “updated work culture,” by enhancing benefits and working conditions, to attract and retain employees.

Mapleton CAO Manny Baron told council the township has seen employees leave for jobs with other municipalities in recent months.

“We can’t afford to lose any more staff,” Baron stated at the Oct. 11 council meeting.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that Mapleton, where we’re located geographically, is in, lately, intense conversations for staffing.”

Baron added, “There’s something that’s going on in the last year or so that every business, from coffee shops to restaurants, to big industries, to municipalities, all seem to be fighting for the same positions. And we’re not immune to that.”

Baron centred out the township’s building department as one area of concern.

“Obviously what we’ve gone through with the building department, we can’t seem to attract building officials,” said Baron.

In July, Mapleton entered an agreement to share a chief building official (CBO) with Guelph/Eramosa, following the departure of former CBO Patty Wright.

“We do have amazing staff and we want to make sure that we keep them … and keep them happy, because … when we do hire, we hire the right people and it’s a shame to see them move on to bigger centres,” Baron explained.

“But we’ve been faced with positions that are similar in nature in surrounding municipalities that are paying anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 more for the same position and actually same or lesser position.”

He noted “more money” was among the reasons former public works director Sam Mattina recently left the township.

Baron said although the current council is in a “lame duck” position in relation to the upcoming municipal election, “I felt it’s important to share with the council what we’ve dealt with for the last four years here.”

A staff report points out labour shortages have had “real consequences for service delivery” in the township and recent challenges include:

  • loss of local employees to competitors with higher compensation bands;
  • loss of employees to competitors offering less responsibility for higher compensation;
  • challenges in recruiting for select professional occupations such as building officials and bylaw enforcement; and
  • neighbouring municipalities aggressively recruiting local staff “as Mapleton is surrounded by much bigger municipalities such as Kitchener, Waterloo,  Guelph and Dufferin.”

“Recent local and global trends demonstrate that employers must adapt to an employee’s market,” the report states.

“Employees are looking for workplaces that offer more competitive compensation and more flexibility in work arrangements, such as working from home.”

Suggestions contained in the report include:

  • review of vacation entitlements;
  • increase the number of personal days;
  • allow staff to have time off between Christmas and the new year;
  • allow staff members that can work from home the opportunity to do so once per week;
  • reduce the probationary period from six months to three;
  • review the township’s benefit provider to seek increased levels of monetary benefits; and
  • increase targeted percentile from 50th to 60th when doing remuneration reviews.

Councillor Dennis Craven said the report contained some good suggestions.

“Obviously it’s not going to work to just throw more money at them,” he observed.

Councillor Michael Martin said other municipalities face the same challenges as Mapleton.

“Everybody’s got these challenges, right? The Region of Waterloo has this exact issue with recruitment at the moment,” Martin stated.

“I think it’s probably over-simplistic to say that people left because of money, right? There’s lots of different reasons why we have vacancies.”

Martin suggested the cycle will simply continue if every municipality pushes up wages and benefits in response to competition.

“We’re also looking at a CPI (Consumer Price Index) of a minimum of seven per cent coming up. I think all these things need to be spoken about in a context that incorporates all of that,” said Martin.

“To approve this report and push it forward as a motion for the next council to have to kind of deal with at their first meeting, I would prefer myself to defer it and let that council look at it, and maybe look at it in … a budgeting type of context.”

“We’re very diligent in doing our exit interviews with the staff that that do leave and the last few that left, out of the three, two were (due to) nothing except for money,” Baron pointed out.

Councillor Paul Douglas favoured endorsing the report for the next council’s consideration.

“I think it’s important to get this moving now … I don’t think there’s any harm in moving forward with the report and letting the next council choose what to do with it,” said Douglas.

“But at least they have the recommendations in a more-timely fashion.”

Mayor Gregg Davidson agreed the problem goes beyond the township’s situation.

“I know that Mr. Baron has been in discussions with Wellington North and Minto and Centre Wellington … because they’re all looking at the same thing – what do we do and is there an opportunity for us to work collectively as municipalities as well?” said the mayor.

“Minto raises their rates, and then Wellington North beats them, and then Centre Wellington beat them and then, of course, everyone’s trying to beat each other. And that’s not good either, for any of us.”

Davidson said the next council will need to deal with the issue promptly.

“The next council will certainly have to discuss, even further, what are we … not just capable of but, tax wise, comfortable with doing, because it’s certainly a very difficult decision,” he stated.

“Because we know that as soon as we make some of these decisions, that goes in the newspaper and then people are all over us for raising the rates.”

Baron said staff realize the municipality does not have unlimited resources.

“One thing that we are very clear about and realize is it’s something that we cannot spend our way out of,” said Baron.

“There is no way we can allocate the kind of money that other municipalities do … So really, staff kind of came together and tried to come up with creative ways, I guess, rather than financial ways.”

“It is clear, with the recent departures, that Mapleton needs to look for strategies to adapt and move forward in creating an updated work culture to ensure we continue to provide and increase the service levels our residents are accustomed to,” the staff report states.

In addition to receiving the report for information, council voted in favour of endorsing the report and directing staff to introduce it to the newly elected council at its Nov. 22 meeting for approval.

Davidson, Douglas, Craven and councillor Marlene Ottens voted in favour of the motion, while Martin was opposed.