The state of Oklahoma's employee compensation system is “out of whack” with too much money being put into benefits and not enough into salaries, members of a state House committee were told Tuesday.
“Our model is heavy on benefits and light on pay,” Preston Doerflinger, director of the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services, told members of the state House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
State employee salaries trail market salaries by an average of more than 20 percent, consultant Neville Kenning said, providing committee members with an early glimpse at some of the findings of a widely anticipated state employee compensation study due to be released early next month.
The state has good benefits, but they aren't good enough to offset the lower pay, he said.
“Salary matters, and we need to start dispelling the myth we don't need to be competitive on salaries,” Kenning said.
‘More than cushy benefits'
Low salaries are particularly problematic in attracting good, young employees, he indicated, citing survey results that show young employees are much more interested in salaries than benefits.
Doerflinger agreed, saying, “Today's worker wants more than cushy benefits.”
Kenning indicated that state agency directors have increasingly shifted classified employees that fall under the merit protection system to unclassified positions traditionally reserved for executives and highly paid professionals to get around salary limitations.
The numbers of unclassified employees have increased to the point that they now represent 32 percent of the state government workforce, he said.
“To be quite frank, it is out of control in Oklahoma,” Kenning said.