By: Brian Evans

During last week’s budget session, the Joplin City Council chose to throw out a raise that consisted of a 2% across the board raise and a 2% merit based raise to Joplin City employees, and instead implemented a 4% across the board raise for all employees.

The Joplin Globe wrote, “Joplin city employees except police and firefighters will receive a 4% cost-of-living wage increase for the upcoming budget year.” Sadly, Firefighters still have not received an agreement, and although the Police Department made up some ground in wages with somewhat of a raise, it only made them competitive locally, and not regionally. Therefore, we still have a ways to go for Police and Fire, but we are making progress… slowly!

Meanwhile, city employees are getting a 4% across the board raise, but this method of salary increase is detrimental to the morale and long term retention of city employees, as it distributes the pay equally amongst current employees, regardless of effort or work ethic, but it also gives a boost to new hires, thus taking away any incentive for higher performance by current employees.

There are a number of reasons why employers give raises. Some of those include being a means of valuing the performance of employees, when they exceed expectations. Also, employers want to show gratitude to longer term employees who stay dedicated to their job, and to their employer! Third, there is the desire to reward employee reliability, and their ability to consistently complete assigned tasks, resulting in successes for the employees and for the employer. Fourth, employers sometimes reward departments for the outstanding results of their efforts and hard-work. Finally, employee raises are given to ensure that employees are happy and to promote retention. However, high pay isn’t the only factor, and thus does not always equate to retention of long-term employees, as many will stay with a company or organization that pays a little less, but who shows incredible appreciation for their hard work, and demonstrates long term benefits for their employees, whether it is through pay and financial benefits for the employees, as well as the qulity of life that the business or entity promotes for the workers!

Therefore, what is the message that this type of raise gives to the employees? In reality, the passage of this across the board pay raise by our Joplin City Council gives a message to our city’s high performers to “slow down”, because these employees realize that their above-and-beyond efforts will yield no more pay recognition than those with marginal efforts expended by other, less productive employees! Sadly, this leaves the higher performers with demotivation and resentment of the lower performing employees and employer!

Secondly, the message to the marginal performers is, that they no longer need to try to work any harder, as they will receive no more pay or reward for working any harder than they are already working.

Another major issue with an across the board raise over targeted raises is, high paying jobs will get the bulk of the pay increase, with lower paying heavy labor jobs, which is where we are largely struggling to fill, will see a minimal raise. Sadly, that doesn’t even address the jobs which are being paid above the market average, now getting sometimes more of a pay raise than city jobs that are paid well-below the market average! Sadly, that will also lead to job losses for the city, and thus poorer services at a higher costs for the taxpayers!

Finally, this across the board raise will promote mediocrity within Joplin City Government, and also lead to employee turnover, thus causing a deflating effect of high performers, and reinforcing the moderate performers! Sadly, the irony of this system is that the additional funds will cost the taxpayers dearly in the long run, with a negative effect on employee morale, performance, and ultimately the city will be in worse shape in regards to job vacancies, and budgeting, than they already are!