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Achieving a Holistic View of Employee Information: Digital Employee Forms and Workflows

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Improving student learning outcomes consistently tops the priority list for K-12 districts especially as policy changes, like those enacted by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (2015), have linked school accountability to public funding and student achievement. The obvious strategy used by districts striving to meet this goal is to invest in the professional growth of classroom teachers, who are in direct contact with students, and who through effective instructional practices can increase learning.

Though it may be less evident, a strategy targeting the holistic management of human capital, or the “knowledge, skills, abilities, and other talents” (Boon, Eckardt, Lepak, & Boselie, 2018, p. 34) that workers possess, may also yield strong positive effects. Adopting a strategic human capital management (HCM) approach in which districts identify the human capital resources needed to meet their goals and then work to attract, acquire, grow, and retain them may add even greater value and lead to positive outcomes like increased learning gains.

The School Leader’s Role in Strategic Talent Management

A strategic talent management approach begins with school leaders. While superintendents and school principals have long functioned as instructional leaders, the success of a strategic HCM approach depends on school leaders expanding their focus to include tasks related to strategically managing their district’s talent. This includes establishing school instructional improvement strategies, identifying the competencies needed to enact them, and measuring student learning outcomes related to them.

For instance, while instructional leaders develop and articulate a shared instructional improvement vision, strategic talent managers go a step further by recruiting and selecting staff who share the vision (Kimball, 2011). Districts that acknowledge the added value that people provide for them and invest in those assets through engagement, retention, and growth programs will impact their performance and competitiveness within the job market (Hossain, 2016).

What School Leaders Can Do: Focus on the Vision

  • Establish a clear vision for district-wide instructional improvement,
  • Align decisions related to resource allocations, professional development, and curriculum and instructional design to it,
  • Recruit workers who share it through explicit messaging,
  • Automate onboarding to seamlessly provide new hires with the knowledge and capabilities needed to implement it,
  • Assign professional learning opportunities to support the growth of targeted knowledge and competencies,
  • Provide feedback on performance targeting it,
  • Enable staff to access and manage their own HR related forms with a digital document management system.
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The Human Resource Practitioner’s Role in Strategic Talent Management

District human resource practitioners are the next essential layer to executing strategic talent management at the school and district level. Rather than viewing the job as a set of isolated technical processes, like completing, filing, and submitting paperwork, strategic talent managers focus on the full lifecycle of the employee experience, placing it at the center of their talent management strategy. In addition to their many important but often tedious responsibilities, like maintaining compliance paperwork for hundreds of employees, strategic talent managers:

  • collaborate with school leaders to develop district goals,
  • devise actionable plans to achieve those goals,
  • assess the needs of current and prospective employees,
  • identify their knowledge, talents, skills, and goals, and;
  • place employees within the organization leveraging their strengths to meet organizational and individual goals.
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This method of talent management has been found to be more effective than traditional HR management practices that focus on technical aspects alone. Organizations that employ a strategic approach have exhibited gains in employee well-being, retention, and performance (Huselid, Jackson, & Schuler, 1998; Peccei, Van De Voorde, & Van Veldhoven, 2013). Successfully implementing strategic talent management requires savvy HR managers to learn their districts’ employees. This approach places the employee experience at the center of talent management and

“…treats work not as mere employment, but as a life journey, with the employee as the hero. The employee journey has many milestones and interactions (or touchpoints), and the quality of employee experiences has a direct influence on employee satisfaction, engagement, commitment, and in the end performance…Rather than the traditional ‘transactional’ [human resources] strategy, the organization must more deeply understand, the needs, wants, fears and emotions of each employee.” (Plaskoff, 2017, p. 137)

Talent Management Approach

However, strategic talent management cannot be accomplished if HR practitioners are overburdened with personnel management tasks, such as clerical, administrative, and compliance job functions. An analysis of 57 job postings for HR professionals in K-12 school districts found that 94.5% of essential job functions listed could be classified as personnel management and only 2.7% could be classified as strategic talent management (Tran, 2015).

The average district serves nearly 4,000 students but employs less than two HR management practitioners, and because personnel management tasks can quickly snowball, it is likely that HR practitioners in many districts lack the time to focus on strategic talent management tasks that aim to grow human capital such as developing training curricula, conducting training sessions, needs assessment, and strategic planning. See the table below for duties listed in job postings for HR practitioners. The duties are classified as technical or strategic.

HR Duties Listed in Job Postings Classified as Technical or Strategic

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  • Assure compliance with a variety of state and federal laws, district policies [and] board directives.
  • Assist in arranging classified staff development in compliance with required safety/health training.
  • Track employee compliance with TB [tuberculosis], CPR, sexual harassment training and other compliance requirements as assigned.
  • Manage compliance with collective bargaining agreement.
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  • Strategize, develop, implement, and direct a variety of innovative support programs, projects and activities related to the overall functioning and management of human resources.
  • Direct the implementation of new programs and systems designed to achieve district goals and to test promising new ideas.
  • Partner with management team on leadership development and training strategy for managers, coach and train managers in collaboration with area Superintendent as appropriate.
  • Conduct needs assessments, develop training curriculum, and conduct training sessions on various HR topics in coordination with school’s strategic plan.

Data from the Frontline Research and Learning Institute also illustrates the sheer volume of technical tasks that often characterize the K-12 HR role.

HR Forms Completed Per District Avg.

3,000 HR-related forms are completed per average school district per school year

That equates to 16 forms per day on average

But schools that use software to manage technical tasks save time with 21% of the more common forms completed solely by the employees

An analysis of forms related to benefits, contracts, discipline, leaves of absence, onboarding, payroll, policies, and work-related injury completed by HR practitioners and employees in nearly 1,000 districts nationwide reveals that about 3,000 forms are completed per district on average per school year. This equates to about 16 forms per day on average. However, the work doesn’t end at the completion of an HR form. Many are archived for audits, sent to departments of interest to trigger additional actions like activating a new hire’s district email account, checked for errors, revised, and acted upon in other ways by HR practitioners. While important, each of these technical practices takes time away from other, more strategic initiatives.

Software can shoulder some of the technical burden, allowing employees to initiate the completion of a variety of HR documents, like those related to onboarding, as soon as they are hired so that they can migrate into their new district’s system without delay. Further analysis of data from The Institute shows that in districts that utilize a software to manage employee-related forms and information, nearly 21% of the more common form types like payroll, benefits, and those classified as other were initiated and completed solely by the employees, taking burden off of the HR practitioners.

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Developing, implementing, and assessing the efficacy of a strategic plan to recruit, hire, train, evaluate, and retain highly effective teachers is challenging and time-consuming work. While districts that do not have HR departments may be unable to do this work, even those that do could be too bogged down by technical HR practices, like manually completing paperwork, running files from one department to another, or sorting through thousands of paper documents in jam-packed filing cabinets.

Let Technology Perform Technical HR Tasks so HR Practitioners can Perform Strategic HR Tasks

Instead, automating some of these tasks by adopting an online employee management system specifically for K-12 could free up HR practitioners to do the work that leads to actual gains. Maintaining all internal employee-related paperwork needed in the district using an online repository streamlines the HR experience by making all employee information accessible with just a few clicks. With a secure log in, HR practitioners and employees can access records related to hiring, onboarding, absence management, time tracking, employee records, professional development, and employee evaluations.

With the click of a button, HR practitioners can assign forms to employees and map workflows indicating next steps within the larger process. Without leaving their classrooms or offices, employees can update personal information like payroll and benefit information, changes of address, and emergency contacts. Rather than spending time creating new hire records, a connected system can auto populate them from application materials and integrate worker profiles across other HR solutions like absence and time.

Employee Records Meeting-min Comic

"Before automating our processes, I felt like I had to become a coder to build forms and it would take me a week just to create a single one. Now, I can whip out a form in eight seconds."

- Bruce Chaffin, Human Resources Director, Livingston Parish Public Schools

“The time saving, the paper, I know our paper budget went way down in the eight years I’ve been over here because we really, truly are paperless.”

- Ruth Massey, HR Supervisor, Franklin Township Public Schools

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