Take This Job and Love It

Take This Job and Love It

tia oneal lake business magazine akers media group

An otherwise competent employee seems complacent and unwilling to grow. Do you replace or retain?

The best solution is… hire the best people and retain them. That’s the view of Town of Lady Lake Human Resources Director Tia O’Neal, who has 14 years experience in the HR field.

Of course, that’s the simple answer. Finding top-notch employees, keeping them happy and making sure they make you happy, is tricky business.

Here, O’Neal discusses the intricacies of hiring, firing and training.

Q: Is it more beneficial to retain or hire new employees?

TO: “As an employer, our main goal is to attract and retain quality employees. Many people don’t realize how expensive it is to rehire employees. You have to factor in the cost of training, the time spent interviewing candidates and advertising costs. Also, depending on the situation, the productivity level of the department may temporarily decrease.”

Q: In what other ways can rehiring employees have a negative effect?

TO: “There are some things you cannot really put numbers on. If department heads or supervisors interview candidates for two days, those are two days where they could be more productive in their own duties.”

Q: Do you have a high turnover rate?

TO: Fortunately, we do not. In the past few years, most of our employees who leave us do so because they’re retiring. We have longevity here. Our public works supervisor has been with us for 30 years, while our accountant has been with us for 20 years. Our town manager has also been employed with the town for 20 years and has held the position of town manager for the past six years.”

Q: How is the Town of Lady Lake so successful in retaining employees?

TO: “For starters, we offer a great benefits package. We offer a 4/10 work week and we pay 100 percent of the health insurance. When we attract people, I tell them that it’s not all about the paycheck. Where else are you going to go and find such great benefits?” 

Q: What else makes the Town of Lady Lake such a great place to work?

TO: “Like I mentioned before, many of our employees have been with us for a long time. Throughout the years, we’ve developed wonderful working relationships. When you have people who have worked together for so long, things run like a well-oiled machine.”

Q: What other kind of incentives do you offer?

TO: “We also have a wellness program where participants can earn up to two days off a year. When people are happy to come to work, people don’t call in sick as much, nor do you have a high turnover rate. This helps us do our jobs more proficiently and economically. That’s extremely important because we’re spending taxpayers’ money and they entrust us to do our jobs as well as possible. The bottom line is happy employees help businesses thrive.”

Q: As human resource director, what is your philosophy?

TO: “When you have 100 people and different personalities, conflict is sometimes unavoidable. However, we deal with it proactively instead of reactively. I tell employees all the time that if they have a problem to come and talk with me. I maintain an open-door policy because I want employees to have a safe, positive working environment.”

Q: Are there ever any instances when hiring a new employee is more beneficial than retaining an employee?

TO: “There are times when a position comes open and we cannot hire from within. We have to look elsewhere, and sometimes you need that. It can be a very positive thing when you hire people with different work experiences and different life experiences. Your work population becomes more diverse, and they bring in fresh, new perspectives. That can make the workplace interesting and fun, and employees can learn from them. Sometimes you have to rehire to find those kinds of people.”