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Results mixed in human resources poll

An audit report of the county department shows improvement in some areas and less satisfaction in others.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- As some county employees seek to unionize, an operations audit report of the government's human resources department appears to give credence to some of their concerns, while dousing others.

Union organizers have said the department does not provide an impartial venue for employee grievances, for instance.

The report, conducted by the Clerk of the Circuit Court Audit Services Department and released late Thursday, shows a majority of employees, managers and department heads disagreed with the statement that human resources handles grievances, problems and complaints in a "discreet and professional manner."

The percentage of respondents who did not agree with that statement -- 62 percent of managers and department heads, 53 percent of employees -- increased from two years ago, when a similar report was prepared.

"It's a universal complaint that grievances are not dealt with fairly," Commissioner Chris Kingsley said. "I'm not sure if that's an accurate complaint or not."

On the other hand, the union also has complained that the department has not promulgated clear rules for employees to follow.

The audit report shows a growing percentage of employees, managers and department heads find that the county's policies, practices, rules and benefits are "spelled out and communicated effectively to all employees."

Two years ago, 40 percent of managers and department heads, and 51 percent of employees, agreed with that statement. This year, the agreement level rose to 62 percent of managers and department heads, and 67 percent of employees.

Overall, the audit report offered a mixed bag. Some key areas, such as the effort to fill jobs with qualified internal applicants and information requests filled in a professional manner, saw vast improvement, according to the people who answered the survey.

But other equally important matters, including whether employee performance is measured against known standards rather than opinion "as to the worth of individual effort," showed decreasing satisfaction. The evaluation document is provided by human resources, but used at the department level.

"When you get to the integrity question, that says a lot, too," Commissioner Diane Rowden said.

The "strong" dissatisfaction among managers and department heads for the human resources integrity of services and products rose from 5 percent two years ago to 25 percent this year. Regular employees also had 25 percent strong dissatisfaction, down from 27 percent two years ago.

"I think that whenever you get some kind of report like that, plus looking at the way it was last (time), you should be concerned," Rowden said. "But that's why we hire an administrator, to handle employee issues."

After reading about half the 35-page report, Chairwoman Nancy Robinson shared Rowden's view.

"So far, I see some improvement, but there is much more improvement that is necessary," Robinson said. "I would expect the county administrator will address the issue of the need for greater improvement."

Kingsley seemed more accepting of the results.

"When you have a followup, that's what you're supposed to be looking for -- improvement," he said.

County Administrator Richard Radacky said on Friday he had not reviewed the audit report yet, and therefore had no reaction to its contents.

Human Resources Director Barbara Dupre acknowledged that some areas need improvement, and vowed to work on those items. At the same time, Dupre noted, more items saw increased satisfaction than not.

"I thought there was a great deal of improvement in a lot of areas, especially with the payroll clerks," she said. "We've been working hard on that."

She said surveys often draw negative responses, because people with problems and concerns tend to respond at higher levels than those who are satisfied.

The response rate was 76 percent of managers surveyed, 40 percent of regular employees, 38 percent of new hires and 86 percent of payroll clerks.

-- Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to solochek@sptimes.com.

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