May 9, 2023
Update on the Agent Retention Plan
Last month, Extension Board members from across the state met at five locations for our April 11 partnership meeting. The meetings were hosted by Extension Administration Team members, and the meetings were facilitated by agents who participated in our 2022 facilitation training program.
The agent retention plan was developed based on input and feedback from agent exit interviews, and board members at previous Partnership Meetings; and discussions with our State Extension Advisory Council, and the Joint Council of Extension Professionals. The plan addresses co-governance, 4-H, supervisory, and job competitiveness issues.
At the April 11 meeting, we sought input from the participating board members on two aspects of the plan.
The first concerned consistent interpretation of our professional scheduling policy. The issue here is that some local units did not allow for more flexible scheduling even when the workweek had significantly exceeded 40 hours. At the meeting, there was support to allow supervisors more flexible scheduling authority when the hours worked by agents exceeds 40 hours.
Some expressed concern, however, about a few agents taking advantage of the situation. I personally believe that this issue will be rare and can and should be addressed via normal supervisory practices.
A second area of input was incentivizing an agent career ladder. A five-rung agent career ladder and three incentive plans were presented.
One incentive plan -- Plan A -- had a small bonus that would be added to the agent's base each time they achieve a higher rung of the ladder. While the bonus was smaller in comparison, Plan A was significantly more expensive for the system annually as the bonus was added to the agent’s ongoing salary base.
The second incentive plan -- Plan B -- provided a larger one-time bonus each time an agent achieved a higher rung on the ladder. While the one-time bonuses were larger, this incentive option was much less expensive for the system annually.
The third option -- Plan C -- offered no financial incentive for the agent.
There did seem to be consensus for preferring Plan B over Plan A. Plan C was least favorable. There was also a general concern about how well local units with lower budgets could participate in the plan, and who pays what percentage of the incentive plan.
The work on the agent retention plan is not complete. The next step in the process is to work with the Joint Council of Extension Professionals on refining the criteria for an agent career ladder for promotion. That meeting will occur this summer.
Agent retention is very important for our system from programmatic, expense and collegial perspectives. This plan will help increase agent retention. Thanks for your assistance and patience as we further develop this plan.