The conclusion reached by author Nona Tobin in her article titled “Can Technology Ease the Pain of Salary Surveys” published in the March 2002 issue of Public Personnel Management is:
Since the cost of not having accurate and easily accessible compensation data can be very costly for any employer, it would be in most public jurisdictions’ self-interest to support joining a public sector coalition and utilizing the Internet for this purpose.
The recent scandal in the City of Bell not only supports the validity of Tobin’s arguments but also highlights the need for increased transparency in the public sector. According to the California Special District Association (CSDA), “since the scandal in Bell, many local governments have been asking for salary information.”
Since 2002, several Special Districts have handled requests for their compensation data by referring the requestors to the website www.classandcomp.com. Classandcomp.com is a centralized database containing compensation data of public sector agencies. The website also has a tool that analyzes the actual costs of many key benefits. The human resources managers in these forward-looking Special Districts recognized several years ago the need for transparency, not only for other human resources staff, but also, and even more importantly for the residents they serve.
What do a public agency’s employee benefits really cost and how do those costs compare to others? (Is one agency’s manager receiving far more compensation than a near-by similar agency?) These are only a few of the questions that can be answered by an easy-to-access centralized database of public sector compensation data. How are various jobs similar and how does that impact the compensation? Are the citizens getting their money’s worth? More questions answered by a centralized database of public sector compensation data.
The forward-looking thinking of that group of Special Districts is shared by a group of California County human resources professionals. In 2004 the County Personnel Administrators Association of California (CPAAC) was searching for a way their members could save time in accessing each other’s compensation data. That contract was eventually awarded to L.B. Hayhurst & Associates, Inc. and since then a number of northern and central California County Human Resources Directors and their staff have been taking advantage of the website www.classandcomp.com. What better and more open way to share information with your citizens than to give them access to not only your agency’s compensation data, but also that of your neighbors?
Tobin further concluded: “…the full potential of the Internet technology for sharing public sector compensation information will only be realized if there is significant cooperation between jurisdictions…” We believe the cooperation must also be significant between the public agencies and those providing the means to access their compensation data, be it in-house or contracted. In order to be credible the compensation information must be accurate. We believe there should be free access to the public sector compensation database and the compensation analyzer tool to any user, but that it is appropriate to charge a reasonable annual fee to agencies that post their information. This helps ensure the cooperation between the public agency and the provider of the service. Both have a vested interest in the accuracy of data.
Full transparency of public agency compensation data is here to stay. Proactive online sharing of the information, and displaying the costs of benefits is one way for your citizens to feel confident that their money is being spent wisely.
Please don’t hesitate to call on us for help with any human resources issue, including transparency of compensation data.
L.B. Hayhurst & Associates, Inc. is a human resources consulting firm providing services in California and Oregon in the areas of classification, compensation and management studies, and recruitment and selection. The firm also provides the compensation website service, www.classandcomp.com.
We bring real-world experience to employer issues.
L.B. Hayhurst & Associates, Inc. can be reached at (415) 884-0544 or www.human-resource.com or www.classandcomp.com