HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
by Kelly Blessinger
     Human resource management covers more ground than people might initially imagine. Some may define it as the interactions between employer and employee in the time period between which an employee is hired, until they are terminated. While this is true, human resources management begins even before this, with the policies that are created by the institution, and the laws that govern workplace relations. In an article by L. Dobb and P. Dick, (1993): Human Resource Management is the process of working with people so that they and their organizations reach full potential even when change precipitates the need to acquire new skills, assume new responsibilities, and form new relationships. (p. 1) There are many important issues in human resource management, ranging from communication, to problem behavior, to workplace health. I intend to cover a broad range of these in this chapter.

Laws

To be a proper manager in today’s workplace, one must be aware of the laws that govern the workplace. It is also very important to have written policies and rules in a manual that the employee can refer back to. The manual should be kept up to date, and changes should be made clear to all. Some suggestions for what the manual might include from L. Dobb and P. Dick (1993):

Mission of library; an organization chart; a list of committees and task forces; recruitment and affirmative action policies; types of personnel actions that accompany employment such as classification, promotion and discipline; and other general information about the library and it’s operational environment. (p. 2) It is also a good idea to cover the existing laws that govern workplace relations. D. A. Baldwin (1996) provides a list of employee rights that are protected by today’s laws:


    The following laws regarding Civil Rights were found at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/civil_rights.html (1999). Any quotations refer to the web page.

Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1870

The intention of this act was to give "full and equal benefits of all laws" to all members of the community, regardless of race. This act also includes the right to "make and enforce contracts." This made discrimination in hiring and some professional decisions illegal.
 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This law set into action many new laws regarding discrimination (mostly in regards to race) in the workplace. Since this law was originally passed in 1964, it has been amended several times. From the act, [it is a violation to] "fail or refuse to hire, to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of the individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or to limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants for employment in any way that would deprive, or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect an individuals stature as an employee because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."
 

Civil Rights Act of 1991

This Civil Rights Act made employers legally responsible for discrimination. It states: "anyone claiming to have been the victim of intentional employment discrimination can sue for damages."
 

    The original Civil Rights Laws mainly dealt with race. Later, these laws were amended to include other forms of discrimination, such as gender, age, and disability. The Americans with Disabilities further covers the issue of physical and mental disabilities. Other important Acts that were past were in regards to workplace safety. Prior to the Occupational Safety and Health Act passed in 1970, states enforced their own laws, which varied greatly. From OSHA’s web page, (1999) OSHA’s laws state that employers have a "general duty to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or harm." OSHA has established safety and health standards covering virtually all conditions of the workplace. From Baldwin, (1996) some of those specific standards include:


The Hiring Process

Take care in creating a job ad and description that not only lists the details of the job, but lets the possible employee know the kind of atmosphere they will be working in. Think of the job ad and description as the first impression you will give to the future employee. As an employer, you want to build a healthy work environment from the interview on. Prepare well for the interview, and be careful not to ask illegal questions regarding such matters as religion, marital status, sexual orientation, etc.
 

Orientation

It is very important to plan an orientation for new workers, don’t just throw them into a job. Even if the new employee has 5 doctorate degrees, they still need training regarding the proper procedures for the particular situation. Plan each step of the orientation, don’t try to cram in too much at once. From L. Dobb and P. Dick, (1993) "Some managers feel that an employee’s first day on the job may forever define how he or she feels about working in the library." (p. 3) During orientation, it is good to go over company policies and procedures, give the new employee a tour of the grounds, introduce them to the other employees’, and answer any questions that they may have. Set a meeting a month in advance to answer any questions the new employee may have. Set up goals, and dates to achieve them by. It is also a good idea to have a probationary period in which the employer can observe as to how well the employee is doing their job, and if they would like to keep them on as an employee or not.
 

Communication

Communication is extremely important factor in the workplace. If an employee feels comfortable with their employer, it not only creates a good atmosphere to work in, it facilitates the flow of ideas and information. If an employee is having a problem, a communicative manager is more apt to know about it. Communicating involves listening attentively, and counseling as what the right course of action may be. Communication can come in many forms. Some companies choose to have meetings, and if done right, meetings can be a great place for interoffice communication. Three communication commandments, according to the Career Development Handbook (1997) are:


Problem Behavior

If you get enough different personalities working together, there are bound to be problems. Problem behavior is not just a failure to get along with coworkers though. Problem behavior can range from absenteeism, to substandard work, to workplace crime, and those are just a few examples. It is a good idea to have a written policy regarding problem behavior, and make sure that it is spelled out in the manual the new employee gets when they are hired. Once a manager realizes there is a problem they should schedule a private meeting with the problem employee. A private setting important because a manager should never counsel or scold an employee in front of their peers. From L. Dobb and P. Dick, (1993) During the meeting the manager should: "approach the situation as positively as possible, but know beforehand the facts of the situation, what you wish to accomplish through the counseling session, and how you may structure improvement." (p 4) It is important to go into the meeting with a positive attitude that things can be changed. Termination should never be a surprise to the employee. During the meeting, the manager should listen attentively to the employee to see what their side of the story is, and how the problem can be solved. Repercussions should also be laid out if the employee makes no effort at improvement. Schedule a follow up meeting a few weeks in advance to see if and how the employee has changed.

    As a manager, it is important to document, document, document. It is imperative to have a written record of all dealings with a person who is displaying problem behavior. You will need to document the first time the behavior was noticed, and the details of the meeting you had with the problem employee to help amend the problem. It is so important to document, because if the employee is terminated, they may file a grievance against you. Be sure that discrimination isn’t a factor in their problem, especially if they are a protected party under today’s laws. If termination is inevitable, make sure that it is a private, neutral setting, where both the employer and the ex-employee can leave immediately after. If the manager holds the termination meeting in their office, the ex-employee may not leave when the meeting is over, and more negative behavior has the possibility to arise. It is also a good idea to have another manager present when termination is necessary, just in case things do take a turn for the negative, and as a witness. Keep the termination meeting brief and empathetic, but clear.
 

 Workplace Health

Health is the key factor in an effective worker. It is important to follow all of OSHA’s guidelines for workplace health, and to offer generous benefit packages. D. Baldwin (1996) gives us some reasons for benefit packages:

    It is also very important to provide a comfortable workplace for your employees. Two of the most common physical issues facing those working in libraries today are eyestrain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. From D. L. Lewin (1995), "Employees who use computers extensively should be encouraged to take regular work breaks. You should also make sure that these employees have set their keyboards at the right height for them." (p. 34) It is vital for managers to remember that people are not machines. The article by R. D. Chadborne (1995) lists "six considerations as critical to the electronic workplace: keyboard height, eye-to-screen distance, viewing angle, hand to keyboard distance, seat height, and back support." (p. 25) Spending a little more for adjustable furniture and good lighting will be a good investment in the end.
 

Changes

As the saying goes, nothing is sure but change, and the field of Library and Information Science is no exception. The world of Library and Information Specialists has changed tremendously in the last century. What was once a very low-tech profession has become very technologically advanced. We are now in the "Information Age," and as information specialists, we will have to constantly keep up with the new technology coming our way. From L. Dobb and P. Dick, (1993) "Many libraries now have automated circulation systems, telefacsimile and e-mail for interlibrary loan, CD-ROM and online resources for reference, bibliographic utilities for cataloging and card production, and a host of other automated capabilities." (p. 5) By the time we end our careers, there will no doubt be technology that we can't even fathom now.

    It is good to have a written policy regarding change procedures and policies to minimize confusion and disruption. People react differently to change. Some welcome change as a new challenge, or as a better way to do things, while in some it provokes feelings of alarm, insecurity, and displeasure. It is important to communicate change as far in advance as possible, and always give your employees reasons for the change. From L. Spiegel's article, (1994) "Give users strong leadership and an active role in the project rollout. Solicit user input during the proof-of concept, modifications, acceptance testing, and pilot stages of the project." (p. 50)
 

Training

Training is necessary in the information profession in today’s day and age. Training is not the department to skimp on money resources, because training will pay off in the end with a well-informed staff. It is a great idea to send staff out to seminars and have hands on training when possible. If the library is located near an academic institution, it is also a good investment to keep up to date with the trends in technology by allowing staff to attend classes. There should be money allotted in the budget specifically for training, and sending employees out to conferences related to the profession. From an article by J.A. Fraser, (1993):

It is up to you as a manager to build a different kind of loyalty in your work force, by helping people understand that you’re committed to their future in another important way-by continuously helping them improve their skills, and competence and adaptability. (F 25) Conclusion

As indicated from the variety of topics discussed, Human Resource Management covers a wide range of topics. Today’s special library manager has a lot of jobs to accomplish. As a manager, one must be familiar with the laws regarding today’s work environment, and keep up to date on the new laws that develop. They must also be an effective communicator to able to delegate responsibility, and alleviate conflict. They have to deal with hiring new employees, and terminating bad ones. Effective Human Resource Managers strive to make the work environment a healthy one, in every conceivable way.
 
 

Bibliography

1)      Baldwin, D. (1996). The academic librarian’s human resources handbook. Englewood, CO: Libraries
     Unlimited.

2)      Chadbourne, R. (1995). Ergonomics and the electronic workplace.
     Wilson Library Bulletin, 69, 24-26.

3)      Fraser, J. A. (1993). Managing emotions in the workplace: Advice for managers on dealing with employee anxiety in
     times of change. New York Times, 142, F25.

4)      Lewin, D. (1995). Preventive medicine at work.  Nations Business, 83, 33.

5)      Marmion, D. (1998). Facing the challenge: Technology training in libraries.  Information Technology and Libraries, 17,
      216.

6)       Spiegel, L. (1994). Change management eases complex projects. InfoWorld,16, 50.

7)       Tenopir, C. (1998). Plagued by our own successes.  Library Journal, 123, 39-41.

8)      OSHA Web site. (1999). http://www.osha.gov/comp-links.html

9)      Cornell Web site. (1999). http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/civil_rights.html

10)     Learn 3 Rules for effective communication, 5 traits you’ll need as a manager, 10 motivating factors, and more. (1997).
       Career Development Handbook. Nursing, 27, 58-60.


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