The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

New city job to open after human resources report

City hall is behind the eight ball in how it handles employment issues


Source: City of Valdez

This graphic of the HR report by Baker Tilly gives the city a 1.75 rating out of a possible five for its maturity rating. This scale rates how well the city's HR department is developed.

The Valdez City Council is looking to implement a three-year action plan in its human resources department which will include the hiring of a human resources position.

The move comes on the heels of a review of the findings in a report the council commissioned by the accounting and advisory firm Baker Tilly.

Council held a work session before its Monday night meeting with representatives of the firm to give insight into the 59 page report.

The report's findings said that the city's approach to human resources was found lacking.

"You are using your personnel regs as your hr professional," a representative of Baker Tilly told council.

This has sometimes led to different supervisors coming to different conclusions in the interpretation of regulations, leading to uneven treatment of employees in all areas of human resources.

That has also led to a lack of trust for some city employees.

"In general, we found that the City is currently struggling to overcome a lack of trust in the HR function and challenges relating to the overall approach to human capital management," the executive summary of the report stated. "Additionally, a lack of resources dedicated to HR and insufficiently clear policies and processes related to HR has led to difficulties in delivering the basics of human resources to employees of the City."

In compiling data for the report, representatives of Baker Tilly said current and past employees were interviewed and that over 50 percent of the surveys sent to current employees were returned – what the firm considers a high number.

"We feel that anyone who wanted to participate in this process was able to do so," a company representative told council.

On a scale of 1-5, the city's HR practices rated as low as zero, and as high as 2.75.

The number one recommendation – and first issue on its three plan recommendation – is the hiring of a dedicated human resources professional.

In all, Baker Tilly identified 23 areas that would improve the city's HR functions, which the firm recommended the city phase in over a period of three years.

Source: City of Valdez

The majority of city employees that responded to the survey said that they have positive interactions with the city's HR department (57 percent) and that they have, for the most part, good access to HR representatives (56 percent). Baker Tilly says this indicates that although survey respondents lack confidence in HR functions overall, the HR representatives understand the importance of customer service to their role.

In addition to hiring a human resources specialist, the firm also recommended better staff development, for ground floor employees and supervisors, managers and administrators.

It also recommended annual reviews of the personnel regulations and offering a simpler handbook of the regulations for everyday reference.

More complicated HR matters are to be referred to the HR Dept. under the Baker Tilly plan.

The report - and the firm's representatives – avoided pointing fingers for the city personnel issues, but rather blamed the system for the inadequacies.

Interim city manager Robert Jean said he will bring a proposal to council at its next meeting to begin the process of hiring an HR professional, which will not be an executive position, but a management position.


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