Good news, bad news in city staff turnover rate

The recent report on the turnover rate of Minot city staff members is – if possible – both alarming and reassuring.

The bad news obviously is that the city spends good money to train people who then leave town or find other employment in the area. It’s a huge expense that the city cannot afford.

Part of what reporter Jill Schramm recently wrote about the issue went like this:

“Significant staff turnover among police officers and firefighters has reduced department experience and raised public safety costs, City Manager Tom Barry told the Minot City Council Monday.

“Overall, employee turnover in the City of Minot spiked toward the end of 2017 to boost the annual turnover rate to 14.87 percent for the year. That compares to 13.5 percent in 2016 and a projected 2017 rate of 10.4 percent. There were 63 departures on the staff of 424 full-time employees, of which eight were retirements.

“Barry highlighted the 14 percent turnover in the police department over the past seven years and the 10 percent turnover in the fire department during that time.”

That is indeed alarming news, both in terms of economics and public safety.

It should be noted that the city is working earnestly on the problem and will continue to do so.

But what will they do; what can they do?

Throw money at the problem? Some Minot residents and presumably city employees would give that thought a big yes.

But that would ignore the fact that many people today aren’t seeking a forever job. They work hard and gain experience and then deliberately move on within a few years. If the city tries to entice those employees to stick around simply by offering them more money we’ll end up paying all workers inflated wages and probably still struggle with departures.

Salaries alone can’t be the entire fix. We’re confident the city will probe deeply into what other factors cause good employees to leave so soon.

So what is the supposed good news in the turnover situation? Only that Minot continues to do a good job at attracting qualified workers and getting them to sign on, which is evident by the very capable police and firefighters currently serving the community. For some reason – or reasons – they chose Minot. Now if we could just get them to set down roots.

It’s going to take some frank and open discussions between employer and employee to learn what it will take to keep these young professionals in Minot. The city council seems to be on it; let’s look for ways to help.