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Wed, June 19

Human Resources works behind the scenes for county employees

Editor's note:

The Board of Supervisors will receive a report from one non-elected department director during each regular meeting in 2007. The Daily Courier will report on each department before its scheduled meeting with the supervisors. Today's report is about the Yavapai County Human Resources Department.

PRESCOTT ­ The Yavapai County Human Resources Department operates behind the scenes.

Director Julie Ayers said, "Human resources is a service department. The job of human resources is to serve other departments."

When people think about human resources, they think about hiring and firing employees. Ayers said her department is much more than that. The 11 county human resources staff members serve employees through training opportunities, employee relations, benefits, compensation and safety.

Ayers said the county is the largest employer in Yavapai County, with 1,842 employees. The county has 23 elected officials and 20 appointed directors.

The director said of the 1,842 employees, 1,536 are full-time employees budgeted to work 36 hours or more per week. The county has 70 part-time employees budgeted at 35 hours or less per week and 236 temporary employees.

Ayers said employees work throughout Yavapai County's 8,000 square miles. She said 75 percent of the employees are in Prescott, Prescott Valley and Dewey-Humboldt, 22 percent are in the Verde Valley and 2 percent in other locations.

The director said the number of employees in the Verde Valley is increasing. She said the employees in "other" locations are working primarily in the justice courts located in Black Canyon City, Bagdad, Mayer, Seligman and Yarnell.

Ayers said the county received 8,193 job applications in 2006, 77 percent submitted electronically. She said the number of applications submitted electronically continues to grow and anticipates that within two years all applications will be submitted electronically.

Ayers said her staff members work with other department officials when advertising for a county job. She said once the application date closes, human resources may pre-screen the applicants, "but the hiring decision is in the hands of the departments."

Yavapai County has the reputation of being a good employer, but it still experienced a 16.7 percent turnover rate in 2006. Ayers said of the 255 employees terminated, 54 were involuntary and 201 were voluntary.

She said department heads indicate they would welcome back 6.6 percent of the employees that left voluntarily.

Ayers said three staff members are dedicated to dealing with employee relations. She said employee relations are either employee driven or supervisor driven.

Assistant Director Alan Vigneron says the department has an active employee relations function that continues to grow as the county reaches out to provide more services.

Ayers said, "There is still the perception that it's impossible to fire a government employee. They must pass a six-month probation period. Once they pass that, they cannot have their proprietary rights removed without due process."

Classified employees have the right to appeal actions that take away proprietary rights.

Ayers said there is a "very specific process" when an employee wants to appeal a demotion, suspension without pay or termination.

The human resources staff members also manage employee benefits, health insurance and retirement plans.

Ayers said human resources personnel review the job descriptions of the 376 jobs within the county system. The Board of Supervisors then make compensation adjustments, if necessary, based on cost of living, market position and the county's ability to pay.

The human resources department also provides a variety of training and continuing education opportunities to county employees.

Ayers said her department is working on a number of technology-related projects.

The On Base Scanner project will allow the electronic storage of all employment files by the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year.

Vigeron is working on the implementation of Compease Compensation software. The program is an internal tool that uses 10 criteria to look at each county job to ensure compensation consistency in county jobs.

Vigeron said implementation is "labor intensive in the beginning but it will eventually save time. It will be faster to evaluate new jobs and re-evaluate current jobs as they change."

The final project, Ayers said, is helping the finance department switch from paper time cards to a fully automated system.

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com

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