Kent May Adjust HR Department

August 23, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — By no means is this a major overhaul of Kent County’s Human Resources Department. That was done about eight years ago.

Nonetheless, County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio feels the restructuring plan he is offering is as important for the county’s future as were the changes commissioners made in 1996.

Members of the Legislative and Human Resources Committee will vote on the plan tomorrow, Aug. 24, the first step in making his departmental adjustments official. If the committee approves the plan, the full board of commissioners will decide its fate soon.

The highlight of Delabbio’s plan is to create the position of deputy director of human resources by reclassifying the human resources manager of recruitment and training into that post.

Three of the four other human resource department directors at the county would report to the new deputy director, while the new deputy director would continue to oversee recruitment and training. Only the equal employment opportunity manager would continue to report to the human resources manager, a post that has been vacant since March.

Gail Glocheski holds down the recruitment and training manager spot and would become the deputy director if the plan gets approved. Glocheski is also serving as the interim human resources director and will do so until a new HR director is named. The county recently has interviewed candidates to direct its human resources division.

Delabbio feels changes are needed because employment at the county has grown and employment issues have grown more complex over the years.

Kent County has gone from a six-person personnel office in the early 1990s to a full-service human resources department with five sections and 22 employees today. The last time the county adopted an administrative change was in 1996. Delabbio, who became the county’s top administrator shortly after that restructuring, favored the changes but felt the effort fell a bit short.

“What they didn’t include, though, in their recommendation was a deputy director,” he said.

Instead, the consultant the county hired had department managers for recruitment and training, labor relations, and benefits and compensation report to the HR director. Then the county added two positions to direct the equal opportunity and pensions sections and both also reported to the HR director.

That left the human resources director bogged down by the daily operations of five sections and with little time for planning. It also left Kent without a deputy director that could oversee most of those daily duties and free up the HR director for planning.

Delabbio told the Business Journal last week that his staff’s role is to assist departments in carrying out their duties and his department evaluates how they are doing that each year. Over time, he said, the reports have brought out some contradictions.

“One of the things that has intrigued me over the last couple of years is there seemed to be inconsistent messages depending on which manager they went to, if the director wasn’t around,” said Delabbio.

“The major remedy suggested is to create the position of deputy director.”

Delabbio feels if the post is created it will give Glocheski more flexibility to perform her daily duties and the incoming HR director more time to concentrate on strategic planning.

The plan will also reclassify a recruitment specialist into a senior specialist that will work in other areas besides recruitment. It will also turn another vacant full-time specialist post into a part-time legal analyst.

Delabbio doesn’t believe that adding a deputy director reduces the power of the human resources director.

“I’m looking to the human resources director to be the czar. But the person who is going to manage most of the operations will be the deputy director and this will enable the human resources director to look at things in a strategic way,” he said.

“We’ve interviewed seven candidates for the HR director’s position.”

The plan doesn’t add any personnel to the county’s payroll, meaning no adjustments have to be made to the annual budget. In fact, Delabbio said the changes would save Kent $1,700 in wages and benefits next year.

Kent County has about 2,000 employees and labor relations with 13 unions.

Delabbio gave almost all of the credit for the county’s current HR accomplishments to its former director, Frank Klaus. Klaus, who joined the county in 1983, retired in December 2002 but stayed with the position until the following April. Delabbio said Klaus was an advocate for the department to have a deputy director.

“He was the one who oversaw a tremendous amount of change in the department, moving it from a paper-shuffling, processing personnel department into a full-service human resources department,” said Delabbio.

“He did an exceptional job, as the department was literally transformed.”           

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