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The HR Doctor Is
Survey Shows Top Seven
Human Resource Issues
Recently the NACo human resources affiliate, the National Association
of County Human Resources Administrators (NACHRA) teamed up with NACo to
survey county human resources directors. Directors were asked to name the
human resource issues currently being faced by their counties. The results
are worth sharing because they represent a "pulse taking" that may very
well apply to all of NACo's member counties. More than two dozen widely
varied issues were named. Here are the ones mentioned by respondents most
1. Performance measurement - It is clear counties continue to search
for innovative techniques to answer questions from the public, from other
agencies and from private business about "how well are we doing?"
There is a great danger in trying to answer that question only while
wearing a green eyeshade and holding a calculator. The answer cannot be
presented only through the eyes and the approach of an accountant or
Quality of service issues and staff willingness to innovate and to take
risk are also important criteria which are as much qualitative as they may
be quantitative. The same is true of how rapidly and responsibly policy
decisions can be made or amended as circumstances change.
2. Very high on the "popularity" list, and with good reason, is sexual
harassment prevention and intervention. The HR Doctor has written a
"prescription" in a past article which sets out the fundamentals of what a
strong county policy should have. However, despite all the publicity that
has been devoted to the subject in recent years it is clear that some
people "just don't get it" about how inappropriate, unwelcome comments or
actions can affect an agency's liability, productivity and morale. I will
be pleased to send a copy of the article to any reader who might have
3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues are clearly on the
minds of HR professionals in counties. How do you deal with and respond to
challenges and opportunities in working with this important law with its
many vague phrases. How do you live with it day by day without adding
thousands of attorneys to the staff of every county in the country?
The law is evolving and will continue to do so in the future. On this
and many other issues a county's first line of defense and first line for
pro-active improvement can be the HR staff.
4. Training opportunities have been attracting more interest and
activity on the calendars of HR directors throughout the country. Partly,
that's because there is a need for more skilled and educated workers and
recognition that the best "return on investment" for an agency is to
invest in the development of its existing workforce. However, there is
also a need to keep county employees on top of legal responsibilities
around issues such as ADA, FLSA, and sexual harassment liabilities.
5. Allowing flexible work hours is a policy that helps counties balance
employee family and work pressures, while maintaining consistent or
improved productivity. County HR policies need to be designed to avoid
receiving a thank-you note from some employees for installing the flexible
schedule, while at the same time receiving a subpoena for alleged
violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
6. Work place violence intervention and pro-active prevention programs
remain high on the list of issues for every county in America. Those who
responded to the NACHRA survey clearly understood the importance of this
issue. The HR Doctor will continue to offer help and will urge NACo to
take an active role in this top priority area.
7. Rounding out the top issues is "pay for performance." If you are
able to measure performance what can we do to reward those who contribute
more to the organization success? How can we do this in a framework
dominated by 19th century models of pay for time and not necessarily for
outcome? How can we do this in the face of collective bargaining
obligations, which often have as their centerpiece a desire for "across
the board" pay approaches?
The HR Doctor predicts that as the new millennium arrives the chorus of
county officials calling for major changes in traditional "merit pay" or
civil service pay practices will increase very significantly and changes
These were the "magnificent seven." However other concerns mentioned
included improved recruitment, employee assistance programs,
discrimination, early retirement, downsizing, expending benefits, job
sharing and more. These subjects would help guide the HR Doctor in writing
future columns and NACo in establishing workshops and training
One thing you can do after reading this article is to ask yourself
whether these concerns are a reflection of what's going on in your own
county HR programs. If you don't know, you have an opportunity to change
that by asking for briefings from the HR staff on their projected future
issues and asking what is going on now that would put us in a better
position in the long run to demonstrate program improvement.
These issues are identified as "HR issues," however more and more
managers in every function of county government will come to realize that
it is no longer possible to be a successful engineer, sheriff, tax
collector, accounting director, or social service director without also
being a skilled HR professional. NACo and NACHRA have an expanded future
role in helping counties achieve success in this area. The HR Doctor also
looks forward to helping you understand these issues more clearly.
Very best wishes
The HR Doctor
(The HR Doctor is written by Phil Rosenberg, Broward County Fla.
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