County News logo
National Association of Counties * Washington, D.C.           Vol. 31, No. 13 * July 5, 1999

Previous story | Table of Contents | Next story

A Weapon of Mass Construction

HR Doctor columns in the past have highlighted the many liabilities faced by local governments – and, indeed, all employers – when proactive issues of human resource management are ignored.

When employers lack policy, training and follow-through actions in modern HR, the result can be low morale, high legal costs and liabilities, public service failures, loss of funds, as well as time and productivity, poor employee relations and much more. Poor HR management leads to a form of self-imposed decay, waste and in effect, organizational self-destruction.

It is also critically important for managers to understand that "proaction" in HR management also brings with it opportunities to build a better organization and more successful public service. HR can be a positive force in "mass construction" if certain basic principles are followed by organizational leaders:

  • Recognize HR management as a strategic player, part of the top management decision-making team and an aide in helping the elected officials and county manager chart the future course of the organization.
  • For HR to be strategic in nature, the HR director and staff have to be forward thinking and looking for ways for the organization to improve. HR does not exist as a department or office only to provide full employment to the HR staff.

Quite the contrary, HR in the 21st century has to be responsive, innovative and timely so that the fire chief will recognize that her own agency’s success will not be achieved without involving Human Resources. The public works director, the county attorney, the human services director, and every other manager in the organization needs to know that HR is "on station" and ready to help them identify, stop and correct potential liabilities.

A reactive, understaffed and unaccountable HR office will not be able to perform this key part of its basic reason for existence.

County governments are complicated agencies, often with literally scores of services provided by its departments, divisions, offices, bureaus and sections. HR is one of the few agencies in a county that is in a position to observe and participate in over-arching organization-wide trends. The others, of course, include the budget office, the county attorney’s office and the office of the county manager or county administrator. HR’s perspective, knowledge of the law and practice in a fast-changing environment should make it a very valuable counselor, mentor and advisor to every agency in the government.

None of this will happen if the HR staff is not trained, motivated and challenged – not to mention recognized. The kind of HR management described above turns HR into a potent force in the organization for positive change. In this case, HR itself should be thought of as an agency’s "weapon" of mass construction.

Best wishes and don’t hesitate to contact the HR Doctor with your comments or questions as you enhance public service to the people of your county.

Best Wishes,
The HR Doctor
e-mail at

(If you have questions for the "HR Doctor," e-mail him at Rosenberg is the Human Resources director for Broward County, Fla.)


Previous story | Table of Contents | Next story