Each year the ACSA Member Assistance & Legal Support Team, under the direction of Member Services Sr. Director Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, works with 750-800 individual members with issues and questions related to administrator rights and other concerns. Additionally, the team has assisted over 16,500 members since the year 2000. The seven Advocates on this team (John Almond, Sharon Dezutti, Janet Morey, Joe Jones, Gary Rutherford, Bill Tschida and Lloyd Wamhof) also make presentations at all of the ACSA Personnel Academies and have had an opportunity to interact with many outstanding California Human Resource Administrators.
In this article, the team, in collaboration with ACSA’s Human Resources Council, shares 10 HR Best Practices they have identified over their many years of service. While every administrator has his/her own style of leadership, there are many attributes, characteristics, and practices that great human resource administrators have in common.
Become familiar with the district’s culture before making major decisions in the area of personnel. Building trust and establishing positive relationships is crucial to ensuring your success. In particular, building positive relationships must include union leaders.
Whenever possible, deal with sensitive issues by meeting face to face with the personnel that will be affected. In conducting such meetings, always remember to treat others as you would want to be treated. A lack of compassion and sensitivity will eventually damage your effectiveness and your reputation. When applicable, in problem solving matters, try to reach consensus. It’s very important that stakeholders help define the problem and help determine the solution.
Be an “active listener” by paying close attention to the emotions being expressed by the employee to whom you are delivering a perceived negative message. Provide “active listening” feedback that you have actually heard the employee. Regardless of the situation, make every effort to preserve the dignity of the individual(s) involved.
Never attempt to solve a serious or complex issue with an email. Emails are not confidential and can even be subject to a subpoena and/or the Public Information Act. In addition, what you put in print will be shared with others and can be interpreted far differently than you intended.
Build a TEAM within your department, and don’t forget to share the credit for accomplishments. Collaboration works.
Keep other administrators in the district abreast of personnel decisions, especially principals. These administrators can be very helpful in terms of determining goals, solving problems, and especially controlling the rumor mill.
Don’t paint yourself into a corner by being overly rigid in your thinking. Being open minded and flexible in your thinking can often lead to compromise and consensus building and can often help to resolve serious personnel issues.
Be patient and transparent with staff who are under investigation and placed on paid administrative leave. Reach out to them on an ongoing basis to let them know the status of their situation. They are most often feeling very isolated and fearful that their career may be coming to a halt. Always remember, placing an employee on paid administrative leave is designed to protect affected individuals from interfering with an investigation. It is not a disciplinary action.
“Shooting from the hip” is ok for politicians but not for HR administrators. To help avoid such situations, build a professional resource network and take advantage of attorneys that are well versed in the legal issues surrounding Human Resources. Develop a file of the most often referenced Education Codes and case law. As an HR administrator, you are the guardian of the rules, policies, codes, state and federal laws, and district contracts pertaining to employment. Work diligently to continue to grow your knowledge in these areas, and be consistent in your treatment of everyone.
Remember the “human” side of Human resources. It’s not good enough to just follow education codes, board policies, and procedures. The most successful Human Resource administrators take into consideration the human side of their job. Whatever the situation, remember the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As an HR administrator, establish the norm in your department that all employees are to be treated with dignity and respect.