From the first day we opened the virtual Suggestion Box on my web page, your thoughtful and insightful comments poured in. Now it’s time to see how we can implement some of your changes or explain why we can’t. Check back here often for new responses and please, keep the suggestions coming!
Many of the suggestions we have received pertain to specific departments. While respecting anonymity, the County Manager has shared those suggestions with department directors. Department directors will provide responses and follow-up actions as appropriate.
SUGGESTION BOX RESPONSES
Employee Classification & Compensation
I have received several inquiries regarding employees' job classification and compensation. These are very specific to each individuals' situation and often require more information and discussions to determine an appropriate response. I want to strongly encourage you to share your questions and concerns with your direct supervisor. You may also contact Human Resources via 2-myHR for information about the appropriate process and/or additional guidance as needed.
Employee Recognition and Service Awards
I have received several suggestions regarding how employees are rewarded and recognized for their hard work. The County just launched a new employee appreciation program called “Above & Beyond @ Work” to recognize exceptional employees nominated by their peers. Winners receive a $500 cash award, an engraved award, and recognition at a Board of County Commissioners meeting. Additionally, department directors currently have the option of providing one-time cash awards to recognize outstanding performance.
I will continue to evaluate other options for rewarding and recognizing employees over the course of FY15, including the full reinstatement of the County’s service award program, the offering of additional vacation days and a more formalized approach to the use of cash awards by departments. Lapel pins are currently available for “milestone” (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc.) service anniversaries. The Human Resources department oversees disbursement of lapel pins. Please contact the Employee Services Center (2-myHR) if you have not received your pin.
Teleworking and Flexible Work Schedules
There have been multiple suggestions/questions submitted regarding the County's teleworking and/or flexible work schedule policies. Any requests for teleworking and/or a modified work week, including a compressed schedule, must be approved by your Department Director or designee. Normal County business hours tend to run 8:00-5:00pm (for most departments) and it is my expectation that Directors make staffing decisions based on providing the highest level of customer service during business hours. As business needs and workload permits Directors to offer flexibility, I encourage them to do so in an equitable and consistent manner.
Additionally, please understand that recently the County had to restrict teleworking to North Carolina to ensure compliance with all applicable tax laws. This decision was not made without thorough research and careful consideration.
You may review the County's HR policies on work schedules by clicking here
Suggestion: Would it be possible to implement an online employee store where we would be able to replace our worn shirts, ID clips, etc.? Thanks!
Response: I think this is a great idea and I will be studying to determine how the organization can implement this.
Suggestion: An employee reports having strong reactions to the fragrances worn by coworkers and customers. The employee requests that the County consider adopting a Fragrance Free Policy for County facilities.
Response: I sympathize with the employee's sensitivity to fragrances. While a Fragrance Free Policy may not be feasible, I encourage all managers and supervisors to be responsive to employees' health concerns and to work with employees to find solutions on a case-by-case basis.
Suggestion: An employee wants the County to make Purchasing Power available to staff.
Response: “Purchasing Power” is a program that allows employees to make online purchases and then make payments on those purchases through the use of a payroll deduction. In recent years, the County has made a business decision to streamline as many processes as possible, including payroll. As you will recall, we recently combined charitable giving campaigns which allowed us to manage contributions through one payroll deduction, versus many separate ones. In addition, the County makes every effort to ensure equity when selecting vendors that will have access via payroll deduction. There are many other companies in the community that have solicited the County and it is difficult to add one without adding another. Due to these reasons, this is not a program that the County will pursue in the immediate future.
Suggestion: Why did the County eliminate the retiree medical benefit for employees hired after July 1, 2010?
Response: Removing retiree medical insurance eligibility for employees hired after July 1, 2010 was a difficult decision to make, and one that was ultimately approved by the Board of County Commissioners. The County did not believe that it was financially feasible or sustainable to continue providing this benefit in the future. Many other local government entities, including the City of Charlotte, have made similar decisions. Human Resources staff are looking into ways to provide staff who are not eligible for retiree medical with other options to save for and purchase plans in the future.
Suggestion: I would join a county fitness center but they are all far from the office and my home. Any chance we c ould get a fitness center closer to Social Services/Behavioral Health/Watkins Center?
There are no county sponsored fitness centers in that area and unfortunately, there are no plans to build one at this time. However, our Park and Recreation department
does offer discounts to County employees and their family members at the following facilities:
- Mecklenburg Aquatic Center
- Ray's Splash Planet
- Mallard Creek Recreation Center Fitness Center
- Southview Recreation Center Fitness Center
- Tuckaseegee Recreation Center Fitness Center
- West Charlotte Recreation Center Fitness Center
- Bette Rae Thomas Recreation Center Fitness Center
- Revolution Park Sports Academy
The payroll deduction form with rates for the above facilities can be found by clicking here
Facilities and Security
We have received several employee suggestions about building maintenance, space, and security in buildings and parking lots.
The County has recently engaged a consultant to do a government facilities master plan. The results of this study will most likely affect the County’s long term plan for multiple facilities.
Suggestion: We should have access through the County’s insurance plan to prescription medications to help quit smoking.
Thank you for this great suggestion. We have good news!
Effective January 1, 2015, we have added Chantix and other smoking cessation drugs to the drug formulary. We will have the details available during Open Enrollment starting in November 2014.
Some employee suggestions submitted pertain to concerns about employee interactions with and treatment by their supervisors. As County Manager, I expect all managers, supervisors and employees to follow the County’s HR policies and procedures. The Employee Relations section of the Mecklenburg County Human Resources Policy and Procedure Manual describes County expectations for employee performance, conduct and attendance, as well as prohibited practices. These policies and procedures are intended to protect both front line employees and management because we all want to work in a safe and fair environment.
Specifically the manual includes the following statements:
The County is strongly and actively committed to equal opportunity employment in the workplace. As such, harassment on the job because of sex, race, religion, age, national origin, disability or sexual orientation will not be tolerated.
It is unlawful for an employer to take retaliatory action against any individual who opposes employment practices that are prohibited by law and County policy.
If employees have concerns, I encourage them to discuss those concerns with their supervisors. I understand that this can sometimes be uncomfortable, so employees may confidentially contact the Human Resources department to discuss options and approaches to resolving their concerns. This can be done by calling the Employee Services Center at (704) 432-6947 or via email to myHR@mecklenburgcountync.gov
Suggestion: The County should offer stress management classes like yoga or Thai Chi and offer discounts at YMCA.
Unfortunately, the YMCA does not offer discounts unless a payroll deduction system is set up with an organization. However, our Park and Recreation department does offer discounts to County employees and their family members at certain facilities around the county. Click here for more information and a list of participating Park and Rec facilities. Several Park and Rec locations have offered yoga and Thai Chi classes periodically. For a list of Park and Rec programs, please check out the Get Going Guide which is published quarterly.
In addition, Cigna members can take advantage of discounts for fitness activities, products, and other health-related perks. To access this information, simply log on to your Cigna account and type in “Healthy Rewards” in the search box. The County offers onsite stress management classes periodically through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Employees and their household members can access assistance in managing stress through our EAP at 800-327-2251 or www.bhsonline.com
Lastly, for County Cigna members, the county now offers a comprehensive, self-paced stress management program through the Cigna Lifestyle Management Program. This program is free for any Cigna member on the county plan over the age of 18. For more information, call 855-246-1873 or log onto your Cigna account at www.myCigna.com
Suggestion: Open a County-operated daycare facility for employees’ children.
Response: Although a worthy idea for consideration, after review it was determined that it is not financially feasible for the County to offer the benefit of a day care facility. The County’s Employee Assistance Program can help employees explore child care options through its referral services. The EAP Program may help with the following issues:
- Before and after school programs
- Day care
- Emergency and back-up care
- Special needs
- Summer camp
Also, Child Care Resources Inc. is a local agency that provides information regarding day care facilities and finding quality child care in Mecklenburg County.
Suggestion: Remove automatic computer locking.
Response: Business driven exceptions to the County policy are addressed by department directors contacting the Chief Technology Officer. An example of an exception is extended time for Health Department dental clinicians. Ask your department director to make the request.
Suggestion: Wearing jeans on Friday is a great boost to the morale for all employees. Can all employees wear jeans on Fridays?
Response: I understand how wearing jeans to work is comfortable -- and certainly, some jeans are very stylish.
In many cases, jeans on Friday is perfectly acceptable. In other cases, such as in my office where we frequently meet with elected officials, it is just not appropriate. Department directors are allowed to set department-specific dress codes based on the business needs of their department. Please ask your supervisor to find out more about the options for your department.
Thanks again for the suggestion.
Suggestion: Instead of the Employee Appreciation Day event, find alternatives for recognizing employees such as extra vacation days or gift cards.
Response: The Employee Appreciation Day event has been a very popular event over the past few years. Still, I am constantly looking for innovative approaches to rewarding and recognizing employees. Gift cards are viewed by the IRS as taxable income, so unfortunately, that is not a viable option. However, many other options (including offering additional vacation days) will be reviewed and assessed.
We just launched a new employee appreciation program called “Above & Beyond @ Work” to recognize exceptional employees nominated by their peers. Winners receive a $500 cash award, an engraved award, and recognition at a Board of County Commissioners meeting. You can read more about this program here.
Suggestion: Recycling and promoting other sustainable practices is very important. Can the County install water bottle refill stations and recycling containers in all County buildings, parks, recreation centers, etc.?
Response: At this time, there are no plans to install water bottle refill stations or permanent recycling amenities in public park facilities due to prohibitive cost, but we do plan to continue providing temporary recycling collection facilities during large events such as Festival in the Park, and the Bark in the Park Top Dog Festival.
Mecklenburg County is putting an Environmental Sustainability Plan in place across all County departments. In this plan, a goal for waste minimization and recycling is included.
Through this plan, we have identified the following activities to help us reach our internal goals:
- A County Waste Reduction and Recycling Policy and Program has been drafted by a team of representatives from various departments across the County, and is in the process of gaining approval.
- This policy and program would also seek to identify additional materials for recycling.
- We are "standardizing" the internal recycling containers and information provided throughout County facilities to minimize any confusion regarding the materials that can be accepted.
During last fiscal year (FY13), the County accomplished 21.2% recycling of our total waste stream (or, everything that is thrown away during the course of business), and we have a goal this year to reach 22% recycling of our total waste stream. In other words, almost a quarter of what we throw away is being diverted for recycling.
Response: Maintaining the highest ethical standards for all County employees is of utmost importance to me. The County has an anti-fraud policy and Code of Ethics to inform employees of its zero tolerance for fraud and other unethical behaviors.
The County has a secure, completely anonymous hotline (The Report Line) that employees can call or email to report their concerns of potential fraud. A link that tells employees more about the hotline and how to make a report is on the main page of the County's intranet. These reports are taken by a third-party vendor and sent to the Department of Internal Audit for review to decide next steps. Unless a name is provided to the third-party vendor, Internal Audit does not know the identity of the caller.
If the initial investigation results in a full investigation, the results of that investigation result in a report with recommendations to prevent the same or similar activity in the future. The investigation reports are placed on the Department of Internal Audit's external website, along with internal audit reports, for any citizen to read.
Further, Internal Audit developed a fraud awareness training that was first presented in 2014 to teach employees about the signs of fraud, their responsibility to report fraud, and the means by which they can do so. This training reemphasized the existence and purpose of the hotline, as well as how employees could report any concerns of fraud.
Internal Audit is currently working with Public Information to carry out a second marketing phase on the hotline to strengthen employees’ awareness and use of the hotline.
Lastly, Internal Audit is working with Human Resources to develop a more robust Ethics Program that includes a required annual ethics training for employees that we hope to roll out later this year or early next year.