Dealing with Personnel Issues: You Don't Have to Go It Alone

By Barry Cox

Whether you work for a county, municipality, school or other local governmental agency, your supervisory job likely finds you confronted with the sometimes difficult task of managing people.

Hiring, Handbooks and Handling Discipline
Hiring people is often considered one of the more pleasant tasks of a manager. But even that task can be like walking through a mine field. Consider the following questions before your next hiring process begins:

  • Are you sure your interview questions are not discriminatory?
  • Do you trust that the chosen candidates actually have all of the education and experience that they claim on their completed job applications?
  • What are you going to tell the other candidates that you did not select?

The real fun begins after the employee is hired. See if you are able to answer these questions in a positive manner:

  • Is your Employee Handbook up to date?
  • Does the job description actually capture all of the expectations for the position?
  • How do you handle maternity, medical and military leaves?
  • When will you complete the employee's performance evaluation?

Then there is perhaps the most difficult task of administering employee discipline. Even if discipline is handled correctly, it may undermine employee morale or generate union grievances. When the discipline leads to discharge, the tasks become even more difficult. Here is a brief checklist to reference before attempting to deal with disciplinary action:

  • Do you have sufficient evidence in the personnel file to justify discharge?
  • Have you followed progressive discipline in this case?
  • How do you protect yourself against a wrongful discharge suit?

Resources to Resolve Human Resource Issues
At LGC, our Personnel Services team can help you deal with everything from providing sample job descriptions to resolving a union grievance. Almost daily, we answer myriad member questions on human resource issues, including these common queries:

  • How do you administer the Family and Medical Leave Act?
  • How can I determine if a position is exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act?
  • How can I apply a provision in a union contract?
  • How can I better manage our personnel files?

Our objective is to help local government agencies understand the numerous components of human resource management and to ensure compliance with various federal and state statutory and regulatory requirements.

The LGC's Personnel Services also provides interim human resource management on an as-needed basis, either in the absence of a human resources director or to handle specific personnel problems. Other services regularly provided by the LGC Personnel Services include the following:

  • Writing job descriptions
  • Developing employee classification systems
  • Analyzing comparative pay and benefit data
  • Creating competitive compensation plans
  • Customizing personnel polices and procedures
  • Designing performance evaluation forms
  • Investigating allegations of employee misconduct
  • Negotiating collective bargaining agreements
  • Guiding employee discipline and discharge

Assistance with Professional Recruitment
Since 1975, the LGC has also operated a Professional Recruitment Service to assist in the selection of highly qualified people to fill administrative, technical and professional vacancies in local government. This service guides government agencies through the legalities of the hiring process, including drafting and placing classified ads, screening resumes, scheduling interviews and conducting reference and background checks. In recent years, our Professional Recruitment Service has conducted searches for the successful hiring of the following positions:

  • 5 Fire Chiefs
  • 13 Town Administrators
  • 4 Town Managers
  • 10 Police Chiefs

Last fall, LGC worked with the Town of Bow's Office of the Selectmen to recruit a new town manager as a replacement for Jim Pitts, who was retiring. The process resulted in the town's Board of Selectmen unanimously selecting a successful candidate. "We reached this result thanks in very large part to your assistance," Harold Judd, the town's select board chair, wrote to LGC later. "Without a doubt it is due to your guidance that our selection process was completed without significant missteps."

And, most recently, LGC has begun collaborating with the New Hampshire School Boards Association on the recruitment of a school superintendent.

Membership in the LGC comes with many benefits; Personnel Services and the Professional Recruitment Service are two to remember when you need assistance in managing personnel. You can access additional information about these services by visiting Personnel Services.

Barry Cox is a personnel services advisor for New Hampshire Local Government Center. To access LGC's Personnel Services or Professional Recruitment Service, contact Barry at 800.852.3358, ext. 124, or by email. You can also contact LGC's Personnel Services Associate Alisa Clary at ext. 143 or by email.

Additional Resources

Below are listings of online trainings and an upcoming workshop aimed at providing LGC members with educational resources related to human resources.

The LGC Academy
Provides a unique combination of hybrid courses, pairing live instruction with e-learning components, and online courses you can access 24/7 on:

  • Enhancing Your Resiliency by Managing Stress
  • Joint Loss Management Committees: Juggling Leadership, Management and Communication
  • Preventing Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
  • Principles of Employment Law
  • Smart Hiring

To download a course syllabus or register, visit LGC Academy.

Collective Bargaining Training
On Tuesday, May 17, the LGC hosts Collective Bargaining: Taking It to the Next Level. This daylong session takes place in Concord and features Mark Broth, an attorney with Devine, Millimet and Branch, P.A., discussing seniority systems; vacation/sick leave accruals; discipline and grievances; work days and shifts; and cash-out plans. School issues like length of day, class size and merit pay will also be addressed. Visit our home page and watch for more training details to be posted soon on our Calendar of Events web section.