National Association of
Counties * Washington, D.C.
Vol. 32, No. 4
* March 6, 2000
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The HR ER
An emergency room visit is something almost all of us experience at one
time or another. Something is wrong and we feel seriously ill or the
unexpected accident takes place and we find ourselves in great need of
expert care, advice and intervention.
Where do we turn? Its
obvious we go, or we are taken to the nearest emergency room. This is a
place where experienced, skilled and educated professionals ask a lot of
questions, gather information, develop a diagnosis and help us with the
Every county manager and supervisor also
encounters conditions and symptoms of serious trouble in the organization.
If the symptoms are acute, they need to be treated promptly and
effectively or the consequences will be serious indeed for the manager,
the employees involved and the agency itself. In short, all managers and
all employees need access to a county HR ER.
What kinds of cases
present at the HR ER? They may range from the death or serious injury of
an employee resulting from accident or illness to workplace violence,
criminal misconduct, natural disaster, sexual harassment, an employee
appearing to be impaired because of drugs or alcohol, or some other
totally inappropriate performance or behavior problem. While the workday
for most people may be 85 or 95, the reality is that county government
works 247. HR needs to be ready to contribute to effective operations
whether it is at a convenient time or not. The HR ER represents the
resources and skills for that contribution.
The acute intervention
function of human resources is one which the organization must support and
nurture. The investment made in ensuring that there are policies developed
in advance for intervention in serious problem cases will return benefits
to the organization many times greater than the cost.
Doctor recommends that one or more staff members, depending on the
countys size, be specifically designated, on a rotating basis, to serve
as the HR duty officer, equipped with a cell phone and pager and
available at any time of the day or night, weekend or holiday.
duty officers contact phone numbers should be available to all directors
and others such as dispatch shift commanders, law enforcement watch
commanders, and others.
The staff of the HR ER should be trained
and mentored in responding to the most serious HR issues, based on an
assumption, for planning purposes, that these problems will emerge when
the business office operations are closed for the day. The job of the duty
officer is to thoroughly understand the organizations policies, know who
to contact for immediate response to serious problems, and to do the
necessary follow-up as a guide and counselor for the managers and
The duty officers should be experienced,
journey-level HR professionals, who are mentored by their managers and by
the HR director so that they develop the confidence and the knowledge to
help when that help is needed most.
Part of the advance preparation
for HR ER team members may be to develop a guide book which contains the
agencys policies and protocols for anticipated situations. For example,
what are the names, contact numbers, locations, and procedures for
after-hours drugs or alcohol testing? What are the requirements of the
agencys workplace violence policy? What are the contact phone numbers for
key agency personnel such as directors, the county attorney, sheriff,
watch commanders, the fire rescue chief, and others?
highly competent HR ER requires no bricks and mortar and very little
agency expense. However, the prevention of even one jury verdict in a
sexual harassment case or improper discharge case can save in excess of
$200,000. Of equal importance is the fact that every supervisor needs help
occasionally and the agency has the obligation to be able to provide
professional support and consultation any time there is a problem.
More information about acute intervention in HR is available
through the HR Doctors Web site at http://www.hrdr.net/. Included is the
article published on Aug. 10, 1998, entitled Supervisor Down, Supervisor
By the way, at the HR ER, you are not even
asked to show your health insurance card and should not have to wait in
line to get help. Best wishes!
(If you have questions for the "HR Doctor," e-mail him
Rosenberg is the Human Resources director for Broward County,
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