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Orange County Head Start, Inc.

Retaining top talent with data-driven insights

new and improved compensation plan

In a strategic move to level the playing field with public schools, Orange County Head Start (OCHS) tapped Wipfli to perform a compensation analysis. Wipfli’s data-driven insights helped the agency identify solutions to bolster staff retention, enhance recruitment and offer more competitive wages — all of which will allow OCHS to improve enrollment and its ability to serve more children.

The Challenge

Competition for early childhood education teachers is strong, and wage pressures are coming from previously unlikely sources. As a federally funded organization, OCHS needed to attract, motivate and retain talented and passionate individuals, as well as prepare for potential compliance changes coming from November 2023’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Impressed by the compensation analysis services Wipfli provided at his previous organization, OCHS’s new executive director, Michael Patterson, brought the firm in to help.

The Solution

Wipfli provided OCHS with a comprehensive compensation analysis. The team:

  • Conducted an external market analysis.
  • Updated OCHS’s base compensation structure.
  • Evaluated current pay practices and performed a robust financial impact analysis.
  • Identified employees falling outside newly updated pay ranges and advised on solutions.
  • Shared pay administration guidelines and discussed strategies for prioritizing available funds.
  • Modeled the financial impact of the NPRM to help OCHS project required funding over the next seven years.
Wipfli’s deep understanding of our unique needs and their data-driven approach resulted in a study that was not just informative but also tailored with clear and actionable insights. Now we can make informed decisions about our compensation strategy.
Michael Patterson, Executive Director at OCHS

The results

With a much clearer understanding of how its wages compare locally, OCHS is developing a more competitive compensation and benefits package to improve employee engagement, reduce turnover, bolster talent acquisition efforts and increase program enrollment. OCHS will also use the robust data and deliverables to strengthen grant applications and increase funding. The agency is empowered to confidently approach the Office of Head Start with data-driven numbers and advocate for the financial support necessary to sustain competitive wages through 2031, a key component of the NPRM.

living wage for Orange County, California — one of the highest in the nation
The average recommended market adjustment, enabling OCHS employees to pay for:
months of housing
months of food
months of childcare for one child