Attracting the ‘Right People' (Editorial)

Amanagement lesson in Jim Collins’ business classic “Good to Great” has to do with the relationship between compensation and hiring what he calls the “right people.” Money, Collins made clear, doesn’t turn the wrong people into the right people, but money allows a business to attract and keep the right people to begin with.

We’ve been reminded of this lesson by recent events, disturbing and embarrassing, that led to the resignation of a state senator and the lieutenant governor. There is no excuse, particularly not ignorance, for those who sought to be entrusted with the people’s business to abuse those positions for personal gain. More money would not have turned Paul Bookout and Mark Darr into the “right people” for the jobs the voters gave them.

But more money might have improved the pool of applicants for those jobs in the first place.

The lieutenant governor’s position has long since outlived its usefulness as a stand-alone elected office, and it was never more than a part-time job. Like the part-time work of legislators, it was something that only the well-to-do could afford — wealthy landowners, bankers, lawyers and the like. Almost a House of Lords.

Now legislators must meet every year, and the list of committee meetings is endless. This surely discourages a lot of good people who can’t afford that much time away from their real jobs. (Curiously, some legislators have time to attend meetings of committees that they aren’t even members of, but let us not assume that some do so in order to collect the per diem for attendance.)

This is not a new position for Arkansas Business, but it bears reiterating: It’s time to reconsider legislative compensation in Arkansas. We don’t know the perfect formula, but it needs to reward part-time work well enough that the right people can afford to do it.