Marion County Surveyors Employee Retention Program

In 2017, then newly elected Marion County Surveyor Debbie Jenkins inherited an office with extremely high turnover and tanking morale. Workers were leaving public service for higher wages only to find that the tradeoff was at the expense of unpredictable work hours, smaller benefit packages and no pension options. Surveyor Jenkins, like many other local and state office holders struggled to retain those looking for greener pastures. One employee shared "I don't really want to leave but I don't see a future here."

In the summer of 2021, still reeling from the impact of the pandemic on her workforce; Jenkins approached the leaders in local government and AFSCME Local 827 to work a process that would give that path of growth her workers sought, and built-in stability the Marion County Surveyors Office needed to thrive. She needed help.

The H.E.L.P. acronym stands for Higher Education and Longevity Program. Jenkins partnered with Vincennes University to develop a hybrid program to equip workers for critical certifications. This created a path for workers to higher level positions with potential inroads into leadership in their field. The Course, offered to workers, and takes 6 to 8 years to complete only requiring 1 classroom session per month with the rest of the coursework online at the employee’s convenience. 

Jenkins avers that a built-in bonus is that staying long enough to earn the certification gets the worker 80% vested in the defined benefit pension program that the County offers. In essence her investment in these employees results in a strong investment in their long-term prospects as well. Other benefits that she sees from the program are increased morale, and a sense of pride and gratitude. This spirit is manifest in increased teamwork as her team is taking on new challenges and fostering a mentoring process that lifts the entire team. Her hope is that word of mouth will spread the newfound energy and in turn translate to eager applicants seeking to be part of the team.

Local 827 President George Farley entered this MOU with Surveyor Jenkins office to incorporate this process into their agreement. This is a shining example of the value of an effective labor management partnership as a means to enhance and benefit membership.