Opinion
Recruitment & Retention Opinion

Is HR Leading Change in Education?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — November 29, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Brad Power, a researcher at the Lean Enterprise Institute, recently wrote a blog entry on the Harvard Business Review website asking, “Why Doesn’t HR Lead Change?” He explains that it is difficult to find HR people “who are active in helping their organization improve the way it works.”

According to Power, HR departments that attempt to lead change typically face three major barriers: politics; a perception of HR as a transactional, rather than strategic body; and “being inbred,” meaning that HR people hire HR people and don’t always understand all the facets of the organization. While I agree that these barriers are prevalent in the business world, HR groups in schools face a slightly different set of hurdles.

Many school districts lack adequate HR departments (and some don’t have them at all). While many school districts understand the value of human resources, they simply do not have the funds to maintain a highly effective HR group. I know of many rural districts that only operate with a superintendent, treasurer, and office staff member. If we are truly going to make the support and growth of talent the most important thing we do, we have to, walk the walk. This will not be easy... but necessary. Education leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders should come together to discuss innovative ways to invest what resources are available in helping school districts maximize their ability to select and develop talent.

When we do have HR teams, we don’t always empower them. I have seen many educational organizations with HR departments full of smart, experienced, strategic-thinking people who are not allowed to actor speak without approval. Empowerment is the best form of flattery, and it gets results. It is hard to hold people accountable for their actions when they can’t act.

Not all HR people are created equally. Similar to lawyers, doctors, teachers, and engineers, HR people come in all shapes, sizes, and with various experiences and educational backgrounds. There are good, great, mediocre, and bad HR people. Typically the “bad” ones end up costing organizations a significant amount of money and time. They can also cause more damage to an organization’s brand and culture than I can put into words.

HR’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. I once had a high-ranking central office employee tell me that, “anyone can be an HR person...anyone can buy an HR book and read it.” I (obviously) strongly disagree. What if we applied this mentality to education? Not just anybody from off the street can read a book and then walk into a school and be an outstanding teacher. Teaching is a profession. One that takes knowledge, practice, patience, talent, courage, and heart. One that I highly respect. This is similar to being a great HR person. Working in HR takes knowledge, practice, patience, talent, courage, and heart. It’s a profession and its experts are ones I greatly respect.

Understanding the hurdles faced by HR change leaders in education is the first step toward letting HR be a part of educational-improvement efforts in schools. I would love to hear from you! Does your organization construct or destruct hurdles for HR?

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention Download GUIDE: How Administrators Can Address Staff Shortages in Schools
The number of job openings in schools this year is daunting, but there are steps district leaders can take to keep operations running smoothly.
1 min read
group of diverse people fading away
Getty
Recruitment & Retention This District Built a Better, More Reliable Supply of Substitute Teachers. Here's How
A Rhode Island school district tackles one of the biggest staffing challenges for school administrators. So far, it's working.
6 min read
Substitutes size is fine
Getty
Recruitment & Retention Many Feared an Educator Exodus From the Pandemic. It Doesn't Seem to Have Happened. Yet.
A RAND Corporation survey of district leaders finds that predictions about principals and teachers fleeing their jobs haven't panned out.
5 min read
People form two lines in front of an Exit sign
E+/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Schools Pay a High Price for Low Teacher Salaries
Teacher turnover rates are rising and more than half of teachers said a salary hike could persuade them to stay in the classroom longer.
4 min read
Conceptual image of salary.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)