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
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. (Include link when available next week.)
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.