COLUMBIA An amusement park outing, barbecue lunches and director dunking booths are among the ways that South Carolina state agencies showed appreciation for their employees.
All state agencies were encouraged to do something May 9 for State Employee Recognition Day an annual event proclaimed this year by Gov. Nikki Haley, held during national recognition week.
The states economic development agency treated 69 employees to an afternoon at Frankies Fun Park in Columbia. The $2,280 trip included lunch and remarks by Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, who considers employee morale and teamwork essential to an agencys success.
The small investment is worthwhile, said Commerce spokeswoman Amy Love, as a way for Commerce employees to get to know each other, enjoy time together and hear from the head of the agency in a face-to-face setting.
Asked what she thought of the outing, Haley said she didnt know anything about it. As for how the Republican governor recognized her staff on her proclaimed day, she said only half-jokingly that they dont have time to be appreciated.
The executive director of the South Carolina State Employees Association said private-sector companies recognize their employees, and state agencies should do the same. Carlton Washington specifically praised the work of Commerce under Hitt, a former BMW executive.
It would be ridiculous to not recognize them and demonstrate an appreciation for the very good job theyre doing, Washington said. For any employer, whether theyre state employees, or at Amazon or BMW, recognition is important.
A survey Friday of all agencies that report to the governor showed no-cost recognitions included a thank-you e-mail from the top boss at the State Law Enforcement Division, benefits counseling sessions at the Transportation Department and a manager-funded cookout at the states alcohol and drug abuse treatment agency.
For the second year, the states unemployment agency held a picnic at a park across from headquarters for several hundred employees. The catered barbecue lunch cost about $6,800, with Hudsons of Lexington winning the low-cost bid, said Adrienne Fairwell, spokeswoman for the Department of Employment and Workforce.
Its the pat on the back state employees get for doing their jobs and going the extra mile, which they often do, she said.
The Insurance Department spread out the recognition, with pizza provided one day, a luncheon another costing less than $1,000 total and employees allowed to wear jeans that Friday, said spokeswoman Ann Roberson.
The Department of Social Services also held a barbecue luncheon and awards ceremony in Columbia, with $5,700 spent total on more than 3,000 employees statewide, spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said.
Officials note such appreciation hasnt come in the form of pay. State employees havent gotten a raise in four years, while furloughs due to recession-era budget cuts meant take-home pay shrank, at a time when layoffs increased work loads.
But with revenues back on the rise, the proposed budget for 2012-13 will provide state employees a raise, though the House and Senate versions differ on how much. Legislators plan to wrap up budget negotiations in the coming weeks, in time for the fiscal years July 1 start.
The states Medicaid agency will wait until June 22 to hold its employee recognition event. At Columbia headquarters, that means pre-packaged lunches, deputy directors in dunking booths, and an awards ceremony for employees hitting service benchmarks. County offices will supply pizza. The total cost is $16,800, or $14 per employee, said Jeff Stensland, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.
We think its an important morale booster, he said.
Other Cabinet-level agencies found unique ways to fund employee events.
The Department of Public Safety held an awards luncheon, complete with karaoke, paid for with fundraising sales the week before. Similarly, the Department of Motor Vehicles provided a catered barbecue lunch paid for by bake and hot dog sales, as well as employees paying for the ability to dress down for an entire week. The agency continued recognition to that Friday, with donated drinks and snacks and a dancing video game set up during lunch.
You cant spend state money, but you want to do something because employees deserve it, said DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks.