NewsPolk County


Winter Haven will give some employees bonuses in exchange for 'big ideas'

It's one of the new job perks the city is offering to improve recruitment and retention
Winter Haven fire Chad Mills WFTS3.png
Posted at 7:41 AM, Mar 07, 2022

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Standing poolside at Winter Haven’s palatial recreation fieldhouse on Cypress Gardens Boulevard brings back memories for Scott Eilers.

“Being scared to death that first year,” Eilers remembered. “Being scared to death of that first assist or that first rescue.”

He started his career with the City of Winter Haven as a part-time lifeguard in 1997. Now, he’s an assistant director over the city’s Parks, Recreation & Culture department and helps manage the athletics facilities at the AdventHealth Fieldhouse & Conference Center.

Lately, much of his focus has been on a type of a pool different from the sparkling, new one at the fieldhouse. Eilers is focused on the labor pool. His recent challenge has been finding the job candidates to work in his department.

“It’s really just that. It’s a struggle finding people, and I don’t know exactly why the labor pool is so shallow right now — why there’s not more people looking for jobs. There’s more jobs and better-paying jobs within the city than ever before,” he said. “Where we used to advertise and get 30 and 40 applicants, you know, we’re getting two or three now.”

As the city grows at an unprecedented rate, it’s making the need to find more city workers greater and more immediate. City Manager Mike Herr, however, said Winter Haven is answering the challenge.

“We have to compete with other units of local government, and we’ve got to offer what we think that people are going to want to be able to come to work here,” Herr said.

According to a news release, after a recent study, the City of Winter Haven adjusted its salary ranges. The release said it also offers a variety of benefits that makes its careers more attractive to potential hires.

Winter Haven fire Chad Mills WFTS2.png
Winter Haven fire Chad Mills WFTS.png

Soon, the city will also launch two new perks.

One new program will help fast-track effective employees into leadership roles. According to Herr, that initiative should launch in July.

The other new initiative will be launched in April and will seek out employees’ “big ideas.” If an employee produces a cost-saving idea that is adopted by the city, he or she will get a bonus.

“It will largely be tied to the amount of dollars saved, and we’re still working that detail out,” Herr said.

As he watched a group of senior citizens swim laps at the fieldhouse pool Friday, Eilers’ tone was particularly optimistic. He thinks employees will embrace the new initiatives and help the city — and its taxpayers — save money by identifying cost-saving measures.

“I’ve talked to people over the years who have, you know, seen what we do through, you know, different eyes — a different lens — and things that I’ve been blind to — I’ve done it this way over and over and over again, and somebody that just walks in off the street can give you a better idea or a new perspective, and I think that’s awesome that they can be rewarded for that,” he said.

He feels the city’s renewed focus on recruitment and retention will encourage more people, just like himself, to take the plunge and find a career with the City of Winter Haven.

“We’ve got to get people in the door, so they can see how special it is here in the City of Winter Haven,” he said.

The City of Winter Haven will be holding its first career fair on Friday, March 11. It’s scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Winter Haven Recreation & Cultural Center at 801 MLK Boulevard NE, Winter Haven, FL 33881.