Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Penny for Your Thoughts; Five Grand for Your Suggestions

Had Larry Bomke really wanted to do something nice for state workers, he would have seen that word of the checks that were divvied out by the State Employees Suggestion Award Board be kept under wraps. As it stands after today’s front page article in the SJ-R, the general public has brand new material to work with in their continuous effort to decry, belie, and satirize our loyal state servants.

The story focused on a Berwyn resident who was surprised with checks of $2,000 and $5,000 for two money-raising ideas she floated several years back but had since forgotten about. Although I don’t begrudge her her good fortune, it appears she made a good faith effort to eliminate some inefficiencies, there are couple of things about her suggestions that probably aren’t sitting too well with others both in and out of state government.

First of all, her ideas remain just that, ideas. They haven’t been implemented and it appears that they have failed to receive the legislative approval that they require. So while theoretically the state may realize some extra cash from them someday, right now they’re in the hole for seven grand.

The second problem is that she suggested something that the state has already shown a strong proclivity to pursue without any prompting from frontline employees – extracting dollars from the citizenry. This is like an assistant on the Oprah show getting a raise for suggesting that her boss do a show on the triumph of the human spirit over personal adversity that tests the bounds of sentimentality. In both cases, it’s their raison d'etre.

Similarly, the guy who received 500 bones for his idea to make a day care report available online isn’t exactly breaking new ground. The state has thousands of forms and reports and someday they will all be available online. It won’t require that thousands of employees, at $500 a pop, individually suggest that each one get the Java treatment. Technology is leading the charge here and the mass migration to electronic documents is already well under way.

I’m not opposed in principle to a little financial incentive to stir the pot a bit. The problem here is that I know that there have been other state employees who have thought up and implemented real cost saving or revenue enhancing ideas in the course of doing their jobs, but didn’t get a visit from the bright-idea fairy.

And some in the general public, already inclined to think the worse about those in the state’s employ, will now labor under the assumption that state workers can only be induced to jump through the hoop of initiative by rewarding them with some kibble should they make it to the other side.

I don't happen to share the belief that state workers are a lazy and unproductive lot. Most that I worked with were the very opposite. But they do have a perception problem and today's news isn't going to help. I could be wrong, but I suspect that it will create a good deal of jealousy within state ranks and contribute to the resentment from without.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post. I've got an idea that any State worker can borrow and submit to save the State money: How about we do away with the State Employees Suggestion Award Board ?

I'm not a legislator but giving an employee a bonus for thinking outside of the box should come in the form of raises, promotions, etc. shouldn't it?

Isn't part of any employees job to better their work environment, be more productive, etc.? So, now they need to be handed out bonuses for this? These "ideas" are pretty lame and it's pathetic knowing that most won't be implemented anyway.

Regarding publicizing the bonuses. . . thanks to our 1st ammendment, every nickel spent by the state is by nature public. You can't fault Bomke for that. So, contempt is already high within the ranks. The State employees know what "the other guy" makes. In every job I've held knowing what other people made always created problems.

Springfield Business Blogger said...

Great post. I've got an idea that any State worker can borrow and submit to save the State money: How about we do away with the State Employees Suggestion Award Board ?

I'm not a legislator but giving an employee a bonus for thinking outside of the box should come in the form of raises, promotions, etc. shouldn't it?

Isn't part of any employees job to better their work environment, be more productive, etc.? So, now they need to be handed out bonuses for this? These "ideas" are pretty lame and it's pathetic knowing that most won't be implemented anyway.

Regarding publicizing the bonuses. . . thanks to our 1st ammendment, every nickel spent by the state is by nature public. You can't fault Bomke for that. So, contempt is already high within the ranks. The State employees know what "the other guy" makes. In every job I've held knowing what other people made always created problems.