Innovating Human Resource Practices in Sarasota County, Florida


Sarasota County government employs approximately 2,000 people, 38 percent of whom are eligible to retire within the next five years. With the potential for significant future talent gaps and escalating economic pressures, Sue Marcinko, executive director of talent and performance management, developed a program to meet the county’s need for talent within its fiscal constraints.

Under the guidance and leadership of County Administrator Jim Ley, the government set out to make its workforce smaller, higher performing, and competitively paid. The talent and performance management team developed new approaches, which included

  • “broadband” classifications, or reductions in the number of job classifications
  • alternative labor-sourcing arrangements to supplement traditional full-time permanent hiring
  • new reporting relationships
  • employee development opportunities

The employee “footprint,” or economic impact of each employee (i.e., space and its associated costs), were also factored into decision-making processes.

Flexibility in employee recruitment and hiring

Due to budget cuts, the county instituted a hiring freeze in 2007, followed by a reduction in force. Although some additional layoffs have been necessary since then, Sarasota County mitigated the need for mass layoffs by:

  • Reducing bureaucracy and improving responsiveness by changing the county’s organizational structure to five organizational layers.
  • Reducing the number of internal job classifications from 370 to less than 90, increasing flexibility for employees and managers.
  • Offering managers alternative sources for recruitment and hiring, including temporary workers, contractors, interns, etc.
  • Offering staff development opportunities.
  • Hiring regular, full-time staff when appropriate for business imperatives.
  • Preparing for the future by cultivating an intergenerational workforce of all ages and life stages.

Single provider for temps

The government issued an RFP to identify a single provider of temporary staff for all county units, which enabled it to negotiate pricing and streamlined procedures to hire temporary staff. This change should save the county $200,000 to $400,000 in the next five years.

Measuring economic stimulus

The county is also adding a new component to its quarterly workforce analysis reports. Human Resources will partner with the Office of Fiscal Planning to measure the economic stimulus that these jobs create in the region.

According to Marcinko, “In the ‘good times,’ full-time, regular employees were the norm. During times of uncertainty, contingent workforce practices become common. Looking ahead, we see a blend of sourcing options but all focused carefully on alignment to effective, efficient business models. The challenge is helping the community and organization understand these new business models, adapt to contemporary hiring practices, and expedite needed change.”

Nurturing an intergenerational workforce

An added benefit of using a blended sourcing model is the ability to enhance the intergenerational workforce mix. Having student interns, early career workers, established employees, and retirees returning to the workplace work together brings a welcome side effect: the opportunity for employees to learn from one another.

The county is also meeting its evolving demographic and economic challenges by offering part-time and job sharing options.


To retain top talent within the county, the significant drop in the number of job classifications has allowed staff better opportunities to advance within the organization and learn new skills. In turn, this simplification offers managers the ability to place people where they are needed most.

Reducing the economic “footprint”

Sarasota County is also focusing on reducing the economic “footprint” of its workforce. Space consolidation, combined with a comprehensive e-working program, is decreasing some overhead costs. The human resource team is adding e-work requirements on a percentage basis to all position descriptions.

Sue Marcinko
Executive Director of Talent & Performance Management
Sarasota County, Florida
941- 650-3632
[email protected]