El Cerrito Hiring Challenges…and solutions

The City of El Cerrito is conducting a classification and compensation study. Presumably, the study is commissioned to support their assertion that they can’t fill their positions because the salaries are too low. The premise of wages as the sole reason for the City’s inability to attract talent is not only erroneous, but it also focuses on a factor that does not require them to make any changes in how they manage the city assets: operations, finances, and people.

Digging just a bit deeper, they will find many more factors to consider attracting qualified candidates. Many studies, including SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and the federal government equal opportunity commission, have concluded that salary is not the number one selling point for professionals. Candidates care about company culture, leadership and stability and their priorities typically look like this:

  1. Appreciation for their work
  2. Good relationships with colleagues
  3. Good work-life balance
  4. Good relationships with superiors
  5. Company’s financial stability
  6. Learning and career development
  7. Trust
  8. Attractive fixed salary
  9. Interesting job content
  10. Alignment with Company Values

The reader may ask why the author references SHRM or the Federal Government. El Cerrito is a lovely bedroom community and does not fit that model. The writer is glad they asked. El Cerrito remains a bedroom community and behaves like a “small town.”  Conversely, El Cerrito spends money like a metropolitan city. In other words, City (over) spending does not reflect a bedroom community’s “Mayberry RFD” persona nor the City’s revenue base.

Because of this misalignment, the City has difficulty attracting qualified candidates because candidates in 2023 seek many attributes that the City does not consistently offer:


A paycheck is nice, but that goes straight to the bank. On the other hand, they carry appreciation in their soul every day. This appreciation can be communicated through respect or an old-fashioned “thank you.” Employees who feel valued are their best advertisements in recruitment.

Good Relationships with Colleagues

Given that they will spend much of their day at work, be sure they enjoy the people around them. It is comforting to know that they support them, they trust them, cheer for them, and work together as a team.

Balance to Life

Work is not so bad when they love it. But suppose they cannot explore other endeavors (play/hobbies/family) because of work-related demands. In that case, it is unhealthy for their soul, life, or body. Find a job that allows them to enjoy their life outside of work.

Good Relationship with Superiors

The most important part of a boss-employee relationship is trust. Employees seek a manager who will ALWAYS be honest with their employees and never twist their words. Always tell the truth. Employees require managers to be more transparent when they approach them.   However, the City is not known for transparency or complete honesty. The City paid over $500,000 to address a sexual harassment claim in the police department in 2021. Yet, the City has not released a statement about the sexual harassment claim itself, nor has it adopted any policies or practices to prevent future occurrences.

Financial Stability

City leadership behaves as if the financial challenges are over.   Yet the State Auditor says otherwise in a recently released evaluation. The City is not only running at a deficit, but they should prepare for an appeal for more taxes. The Council approved a  request to increase the Professional Services expenditure budget by $60,000 for costs associated with services related to exploring a ballot measure. El Cerrito already among the highest sales tax rates in the State and takes a portion of each home sold in El Cerrito through the Real Estate Transfer Tax: which is  $1.10/per $1,000 property value (comprised of City Rate: $0.55/per $1,000 property value plus County Rate: $0.55/per $1,000 property value).

Learning and Career Development

Candidates are looking for a job that will make them better and allow them to accomplish something meaningful. Whether through challenging assignments, educational opportunities, demanding excellence, or informal mentors, a job that requires employees to grow beyond their current skill set will make them a better person and company.

Choose a job that adds value to our world, leaves it better than it found, and genuinely helps others. As many know, the City is woefully inadequate In service delivery.


It’s nice to know that somebody isn’t always looking over their shoulder. And when given a task, they are given the freedom to complete it. They aren’t encouraged to “hush-hush” existing or looming issues but are free to address them.

Attractive fixed salary

Salary is generally NOT the number one currency for professionals seeking employment. No one works for “free”-otherwise, it’s a volunteer role.   But there are so many factors necessary to job seekers, yet El Cerrito focuses only on dollars.

Interesting Job Content

The adage is true: “Find a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Candidates are looking for a job that keeps them motivated by its nature, not solely by the paycheck – because that wears off quickly.

Anyone who has ever taken a personality test knows we all have unique personalities that thrive in certain environments. Some enjoy working with people; others enjoy completing tasks. Some like making the decisions, while others don’t. Looking back at their day, year, or life with satisfaction is more valuable than any number of digits in the bank.

The company’s values align with the Candidate.

At the end of the day, integrity is what matters most. Candidates won’t compromise their integrity when they walk into the when workplace. If they are at a job that requires them to suspend their personal convictions, they don’t need to be there—nor should they be. The City will continue to have difficulty finding qualified candidates until they acknowledge their operational and financial challenges AND subsequently outline a plan to address these issues.

A flexible, results-oriented culture

A culture of flexibility suggests a results-driven focus—one that is more interested in completing their job with excellence than clocking in a set amount of work hours during a specified time of the day.

The City has and continues to focus on compensation as a pivotal factor necessary to attract and retain qualified and committed employees.   But several factors are essential to current seekers. The City has so much more work to do; the first step is acknowledging its shortcomings. The City must make consistent and continuous strides toward attributes important to qualified candidates if they want to attract and retain employees.

6 minutes

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