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Effectively Communicating About HR to the Board of Trustees

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Discussing HR issues is not just for executive session — the board of trustees needs a global view of the HR department, its successes, current HR challenges, and how effectively it's managing employees in the district.

The HR and School Board Relationship

Many school board members feel compelled to understand district HR functions because district employees are one of the largest and most impactful resources in our schools. Additionally, many school board members feel allegiance to those individuals who work in the district because they are also the community members for whom they serve.

When employees bring HR concerns to school board members, board members may not have enough information about the procedures and functions of the HR department to respond appropriately. Lack of information and the inability to respond to concerned employees can stress the relationship between board members and district personnel.

Board members are more apt to support the district HR department and its functions when they understand the systems and procedures used to address the challenges and needs in the district. The more knowledgeable board members are, the more likely they are to ask relevant questions and to provide support to the HR department when needed. District HR departments can strengthen their relationship with board members by promoting the great things they do, while informing the board of the current challenges that must be addressed for campuses and departments to function effectively.

Communication with the Board

Communicating with the board of trustees is largely dependent on organizational culture and the direction of the superintendent. However, the district HR department can advocate for opportunities to communicate with board members about district HR. Carving out time to communicate with the school board about HR department activities and issues will provide a chance for board members to ask questions to help them understand how to assist in creating solution-oriented outcomes for the district.

Relevant information can be delivered through the presentation of timely HR topics at monthly board meetings. Topics can be brainstormed by the department, and the department should also solicit areas of interest from board members. Presentations can then be aligned with scheduled meetings with the expectation that the HR department will present an HR update at each monthly board meeting.

Informational presentations can be powerful when done well. Presentations that are short and succinct are typically well-received. When speakers are knowledgeable and able to answer questions, HR personnel are seen as experts in the district. Effective communication can highlight the positive impact of the HR department, as well as demonstrate how the district is overcoming current HR challenges and supporting employees with the backing of board members.

By creating a practice of presenting an HR update at monthly meetings, district leaders may find genuine interest from board members in wanting to support and assist with HR initiatives. Board members will understand the department’s purpose and they will recognize that the HR department wants the best for all employees.

HR Areas of Interest

Most districts can create a full calendar of presentation topics for their board members throughout the year. However, the following HR topics are a great place to start when providing information to board members.

Compensation

The board of trustees plays a key role in the approval of the compensation plan. Providing market comparisons, proposing salary increases, and helping board members understand the impact of the compensation plan on the budget is a key function of the HR department. The goal is for board members to understand the total rewards offered to employees and how the district proposes to compensate and incentivize employees in relation to available funds.

Performance Pay

Employee performance pay is often discussed in tandem with the compensation plan. Board members often want to know why high-performing employees aren’t paid more. The HR department can provide information on the importance of having a market-competitive base pay structure to support performance pay. They can also present the challenges to performance pay such as defining performance in terms of monetary value and communication to employees.

Staffing

Board members want to understand the philosophy and implementation of district staffing guidelines since staffing has a direct relationship to the amount of budgeted funds available for employee compensation. The HR department can provide data showing enrollment trends, campus staffing profiles, staffing allocations across the district, and benchmark comparisons. Discussion of staffing may help board members and staff create common goals for hiring and compensation in the district.

Recruitment and Retention

Many districts are struggling with staffing shortages — a direct impact on the recruitment and retention of employees. The HR department may want to provide presentations that include discussion of turnover data, employee survey data, exit interview responses, and current staffing challenges. It may also be helpful to present the recruitment and retention plan for the district and how it connects to the overall district strategic plan.

Employee Leaves and Absences

Sharing information on leave policies and their impact on employees will help board members understand what is working well and what might need to be addressed for absence control. The board can help HR by knowing the tools and resources needed and providing support. Employee leaves and absences can directly impact student performance, so this is often an area of discussion with board members.

Employee Complaints

Board members may be the first line of complaint for some employees. Community structure and the district chain of command may push employees to take their concerns to board members. Board members need to know policies and procedures for employee complaints and how to prevent a conflict of interest if an employee complaint must be formally addressed by the board. The HR department can provide district procedures to the board to ensure all members are consistent in responses to dissatisfied employees.

Providing information to the board shouldn’t be a daunting task. The HR department can benefit from being proactive in scheduling presentations and seeking areas of interest from the board. With so many topics in HR, school district leaders should be able to create a full calendar of presentations that will help strengthen the HR knowledge of board members.

Supporting HR

Information can be a powerful tool for district administration to garner the support of their board members in the implementation of HR functions in the district. Moving the discussion of HR beyond the narrow scope of closed-door meetings will help board members understand the great things happening in the HR department, as well as recognize how the district is working to improve human capital management and support their employees.

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Jennifer Barton
Jennifer Barton
HR and Compensation Consultant

Jennifer Barton joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with compensation planning and development, staffing reviews, training, and other HR projects. Prior to joining TASB, Barton served for 19 years in Texas public schools as a principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.

Barton earned master’s degrees in education and educational leadership from The University of Texas at Austin and Lamar University. She holds a Texas superintendent certificate and is a SHRM-CP.

HR Services

TASB HR Services supports HR leadership in Texas schools through membership offerings in specialized training, consulting, and other services.
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