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Rockville moves forward

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Published on: Thursday, April 04, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – Though the city has hired the Mercer Group as its headhunter for a new human resources director, City Manager Barbara Matthews said Rockville is still at least 2-3 months away from having a new HR director in place.

Mercer Group will begin the search on April 8, Matthews said, and the firm will also lead the search for two other positions. The search will begin with initial interviews and focus groups, which Matthews said will take 30 days or less. Afterwards, Matthews said she will develop a candidate profile and a job posting will be published and advertised for 30 days.

Matthews said the Mercer Group was hired because it is a well-respected firm in government circles, offered a reasonable price and is a firm she has worked with in the past. She said the firm is also currently working for Takoma Park to hire her successor as the city’s city manager.  

Matthews said she would prefer the new HR director have a master’s degree, and management experience because she cannot have someone learning on the job.

Once a new HR director is hired, it will have been more than a year since the Saul Ewing report originally began. The report was an internal review of Rockville's personnel policies and procedures based on employee complaints.  The report made five specific recommendations:

•    Affirmation from the human resources staff and from all City supervisors that all personnel information remains confidential.

•    Purchase Human Resources Information Systems software to facilitate the tracking and monitoring of employee complaints, grievances, and evaluations.

•    Clarify and refine the City's employee performance evaluation policies and procedures, including the implementation of an electronic performance evaluation system.

•    Update the City's Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual.

•    Improve training on the City's personnel policies and procedures to ensure consistent interpretation and application across the organization.

The new HR director will be aware of the recommendations, Matthews said, and it will be the priority of that person when they take the job to make changes in the city’s performance evaluation policies and procedures, and the personnel policies and procedures manual.

Councilmember Bridget Donnell Newton said the hiring of a headhunter took longer than she would have liked, and she hopes the city does not have to wait on a new HR director before changes can be implemented to meet the recommendations.

“The Mayor and Council and the city manager have a city to run,” Newton said.

In terms of meeting the recommendations, Matthews said the timing has not worked because she came into her job in October and there was no HR director in place and she had to put together a budget for the Mayor and Council. Once a new HR director is hired, Matthews said her job will become a lot easier.

There has been some progress with a couple of the recommendations already, Matthews said. She has tested some human resources information systems software, she said, and she hopes to have a decision on what to do in terms of purchasing software in the next two months.

Matthews said a first wave of recommendations have been made for updates to the personnel policies and procedures manual that the Mayor and Council will look at, but she said a lot more changes will need to be made.

“There is probably a lot more updating of the manual that is necessary,” Matthews said. “We are trying to make some strides on that now, and I think we have made some strides but not as much as I would hoped to have made at this point. I think it is certainly something a new director needs to do is expect to come in and pick up the ball and run with it.”

Overall, Matthews said there has been progress in making changes in Rockville to meet the recommendations of the Saul Ewing report, but not as much as she would like.

“Do I wish we had been able to make more progress on these things quicker? Yes,” Matthews said. “Having a gap at the top in HR has been problematic. It is my responsibility to fill the position and I did wait to start that process until the Saul Ewing report came out. I was trying to get a sense of what exactly where the problems are I had to fix.  I think we are in a good spot now to start that recruitment and get it moving.”

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