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4 Employee Compensation Guidelines for Transit Providers in Rural and Small Urban Areas Typical Transit Operator There is no typical rural or small urban transit operator. The individual characteristics make There is no "typical each rural or small urban transit system unique; this makes developing compensation strategies transit operator" in for a particular type of organization a challenge. You might ask yourself, is my agency more like the rural and small other transit authorities? Or, more like other systems with over a hundred employees? Section 2 urban arena. will help you make those judgments. Consequently, your employees are less likely to fit into standard molds with regard to job func- tions and your staffing levels may be very different than those at larger/urbanized operators. If you're like many rural and small urban managers, you simply may not have the resources to implement the type of compensation solutions that may have been developed, as well as exten- sively studied and documented, at large urban systems. Compared with transit management in larger transit systems, you are likely to have to perform many roles--operations, planning, mar- keting, risk management, maintenance direction, and sometimes even dispatching or driving. Your system may rely on you, the manager, to perform a wide variety of functions, with little or no specialized staff to help. You may be the Human Resources Department. On the other hand, many rural and small urban managers are more likely to innovate and look for new ways to accomplish unique tasks. This means that some of the more innovative strate- gies for managing compensation packages will be attractive to you. Guidebook Development The primary purpose of the project was to collect and analyze compensation data and develop The primary purpose guidelines for employee compensation so that rural and small urban transit managers have a of the project was meaningful resource to use when making wage and benefit decisions. The audiences for this to collect and ana- Guidebook include local transit agencies, their boards, and local elected officials. The project lyze compensation panel also recognized that transit agencies may be able to use the compensation data to influ- data--addressed in ence contract rates under various human services programs (e.g., Medicaid). Section 2. The secondary project purpose was to provide transit managers with information for use in attract- ing and retaining employees in the unique environment of rural and small urban transit systems. The Guidebook and computer tool were developed based on quantitative and qualitative information gathered from various sources, such as a review of literature and previous research, a survey of transit operators, and one-on-one interviews. The research team focused on (1) obtaining information and data from a geographically diverse sample and (2) including the needs and perspectives of rural and small urban transit systems. Literature and Previous Research The research team conducted a literature review to assess reports, documents, papers, and other published materials relevant to employee recruitment and retention strategies. This was supplemented with "best practices" identified during stakeholder interviews. Research on employee recruitment and retention strategies continued during the survey effort and follow-up calls were made to solicit additional information from survey respondents with best practices in these areas. The primary literature sources for the research team were TCRP publications. The Bibliography lists the key publications reviewed. Panel and Stakeholder Inputs The TCRP project panel held two meetings with the research team that were invaluable to the research process. In addition, the team contacted rural and small urban operators via telephone
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Introduction 5 to review how they currently make compensation decisions and explore how the Guidelines would be useful to them. Collectively, the panel and other stakeholders expressed a desire to make meaningful peer comparisons on wages and benefits based on factors such as type of orga- nization, size of system, size of service area, and geographic area. These potential users of the Guidebook wanted it to include a range of salaries for various key rural and small urban transit agency positions in particular states and regions. The stakeholders also were interested in explor- ing how wages, benefits, and training affect employee retention. Finally, the stakeholders were interested in collecting information on the use of overtime wages among their peers. Job Benchmarking As preparation for the data collection effort and as an important part of the research for the A description of jobs Guidebook, the research team developed consistent job descriptions for typical positions at rural by category (and and small urban transit systems. "Benchmarking" refers to matching an organization's jobs to wages for each) an external job of similar content. Benchmarking is used to help set compensation levels for are presented in organizations and to ensure that you are comparing compensation levels for employees with Section 3. equal responsibilities, training, and skill levels (2). Some organizations hire consultants to perform benchmarking studies; others develop pay structures internally. The benchmarked job descriptions are provided in Section 3 of the Guidebook. Review of National Compensation Data National data on wages were reviewed, primarily from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Compensation Survey and the APTA Wage database. These data are described in Section 2 to help explain regional and state wage variations from the survey data. The research also explored if there is a relationship between the cost of living in a particular state/region and the prevailing wage rates. Unfortunately, few data are available on cost of living specific to rural and small urban areas. Further, cost-of-living data were found only for specific metropolitan areas, not for states as a whole. Thus, rather than building cost-of-living factors into the computer tool, Section 2 of the Guidebook directs users to online cost-of-living tools to allow users to make comparisons specific to their local areas. Survey The primary source of data for the computer tool was the project survey of rural and small urban operators across the country. The research team developed and revised the survey with input from the TCRP Panel. A copy of the survey is included in Appendix A. The survey and survey process were tested in one state before being distributed to all rural and small urban operators nationwide. Distribution Given that, as part of the research project, the team developed a list of email addresses for most of the 1,871 rural and small urban operators to be surveyed, the survey invitation primarily was distributed via email. The remaining 184 operators were sent a survey via U.S. mail.1 Transit operators had two options for completing and returning the survey: (1) complete the web-based survey and submit the survey online or (2) complete a paper copy of the survey and mail or fax it back. 1 The research team developed a database of rural and small urban public transit operators that included agency name, a contact person, address, phone number, and email address (email addresses were identified for over 90% of the operators--all but 163 rural operators and all but 21 small urban operators).
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6 Employee Compensation Guidelines for Transit Providers in Rural and Small Urban Areas Promotion Efforts to encourage operators to complete the survey included notifying national organiza- tions such as the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), Multi-State Tech- nical Assistance Program (MTAP)/American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) about the survey effort and sending each State DOT an announcement that described the project and the survey. Many State Program Managers sent emails to their grantees encouraging them to participate. The project team made presentations at conferences on the project, and distributed blank surveys that generated additional survey responses. Responses Figure 1-1 shows a distribution of the locations of the 360 survey respondents (a 19% to 20% response rate). We obtained data from a good cross section of operators with agencies in 45 states responding. Generally, states with no responses were smaller states with statewide operators/ grantees (e.g., Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). No responses were received from Massachusetts or Hawaii. The transit systems that responded to the survey operate various transit services in various circumstances and all regions of the country. The map also indicates that data were received from a good cross section of agencies representing the nine divisions used in the BLS National Compensation Survey. Figure 1-1. Locations of responders to TCRP F-12 employee compensation study.