The Bulletin Board

Amid hiring woes, lawmakers approve state employee retention programs

By: - June 23, 2022 10:12 am

Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Charlie Arlinghaus speaks to members of the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee about a pair of recruitment and retention programs for state employees, Friday, June 17, 2022. (Ethan DeWitt | New Hampshire Bulletin)

State lawmakers have approved a pair of programs that officials say will help them recruit and retain employees during a difficult hiring period.

In a series of votes Friday, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee approved the creation of a referral program to incentivize current state employees to bring on new employees in the next year and a $4.2 million initiative to give bonuses to existing employees working in high-demand fields including medical and mental health care.

Under the first incentive , the Department of Administrative Services – which handles personnel for the state – will set up a program by which state employees who recommend a new hire for a vacancy will receive a bonus if that employee is hired for the job before July 2023: $1000 for a new full-time employee and $500 for a part-time employee. 

The bonus would only apply to employees who work at least three months after being hired. The new employee would also receive that one-time bonus. 

The second program will give one-off bonuses to certain employees already working in the state: $2000 to full-time employees and $500 to part-time employees. It applies to employees working in direct care or working in institutional settings, including the Glencliff Home, New Hampshire Hospital, Sununu Youth Services Center, New Hampshire Veterans Home and the Department of Corrections. 

The programs come at a time of unusual scarcity for state employees, mirroring the difficulty many private industries have had in finding and retaining employees in recent years. In March 2021, 11.6 percent of state employees left within the previous three months, and about 19.5 percent of positions remained open, Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Charlie Arlinghaus wrote in his request to the fiscal committee. 

Arlinghaus said the referral bonus program presented an attractive, low-impact option to state agencies to sweeten their incentives for new employees.

“This is something where we basically turn the entire workforce into recruiters for the state,” Arlinghaus told lawmakers. “…If we don’t get anybody, we don’t spend a dime. And if we end up spending money, it’s because we got employees that weren’t in the system.” 

The two programs will be funded differently. The referral bonus program will utilize state departments’ existing funds. The retention program will be paid for using New Hampshire’s allotment of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, stemming from a Congressional aid package passed last year. 

The programs follow the passage of Senate Bill 226, which authorized the Department of Administrative Services to establish the incentive programs. Gov. Chris Sununu signed the legislation June 7.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.