Informational Interview with HR Representative

Introduction

On Tuesday September, 11 2018, I interviewed the Human Resource Manager at Special School District of St. Louis County, Lynn Lanigan. I chose to speak with her because I was rather unfamiliar with her daily role within Special School District. In our department of Human Resources, Lynn informed me that she screens and hires all of the teacher assistant positions that the district employs. She informed me that this position can be difficult to fill because of the level of pay and job duties. One of her main goals is to reduce the total vacancy level of the teacher assistants throughout all of the partner districts served by Special School District. She rose to her position as an HR Manager after fulfilling her role as the district HR Generalist.

Why Become an HR Manager?

Lynn currently enjoys her role as a Human Resource Manager and feels a strong connection to the functions of her position, but she did not start her career within the realm of Human Resources. Her career began in the payroll department within the corporate stratosphere, which lasted for fifteen years. She expressed that her desire to enter into Human Resources began with the question, “Why can’t HR get things right”? Coming from payroll, Lynn expressed that she enjoyed the structure of following a series of processes that arrived at a solution. Human beings are complex entities and must be seen as such rather than numbers on a spreadsheet, which is why Lynn immediately flocked to Human Resources from the field of payroll. They are outliers that must be delicately placed into the pre-determined processes laid out by an organization’s Human Resources Department.

She told me that she enjoys seeing how an individual person fits into the puzzle of a position within a part of the district and how they might be able to fit the needs of a specific student demographic. One aspect of her current role that she does not enjoy is the aspect of filling well over one hundred teacher assistant vacancies. The teacher assistant position is one that, because of sensitive job duties and lower pay, is often difficult to fill and comes with high turnover. Getting teacher assistants to buy-in and grow within the organization is something that she expressed was very satisfying for her. Many of the individuals fulfilling the role of teacher assistant find that they really engage within the field of education and wish to begin a career in the field. Special School District is in the early stages of implementing a plan for teacher assistants to ascend into the role of full-time teacher. This type of career management can only improve the organization as a whole as well as the consumers that they serve. Those consumers are students, parents, and the partner districts as a whole throughout the entirety of St. Louis County. Lynn expressed that one of her central challenges is getting those candidates to buy-into the mission of the district. When individuals invest in themselves like this, they are also investing in the district as a whole because they are gaining valuable skills and experiences.

“If someone was curious about beginning a career in Human Resources, where should they begin”?

When I asked the question, “If someone was curious about beginning a career in Human Resources, where should they begin”? She informed me that it is very important for someone to begin in the role as a Human Resource Clerk. When they begin in the lower level, they get a sense of what skills they can bring to the table and have a chance to experience the inter-workings of each Human Resource process. This also gives each person a chance to complete their own career self-assessment by seeing what their likes and dislikes are, as well as how their values fit into those of the organization with which they work. Beginning at an organization in a lower level clerical position may also help create a scenario in which an employee wants to stay within that organization because as they grow, they feel as if they are being invested in.

Employee loyalty is crucial to the success of organizations and is just as important to that success as the consumers that the organization serves (Laine, Stenvall, & Tuominen, 2017). One of the reasons why Special School District has become such a staple in St. Louis County is because it is known as a great place to work and a place where employees can maintain a career. Helping to manage career management is something that Special School District has attempted to build for years and will continue to do going forward. Their “Grow Your Own” program is designed to help lower-level teacher assistants gain experience and grow their equity within the organization, eventually building into a teacher-level role (2018). Currently, this plan is still on the horizon but it is part of the organizational strategic plan. Special School District has this as part of their strategic plan because they care about the career management of their employees and have a desire to be an active contributor to its overall success.

Innovations in HR

Another point of discussion during the interview was the selection and interviewing of qualified applicants. Lynn acknowledged that the field of Human Resources is changing as different technological hiring innovations arrive on the scene such as online selection and interactive game-based selection. She said that one of the benefits of using game-based interactive selection allows the Human Resource practitioners to not only gauge applicant reaction time but to showcase their overall communication skills. This could really help build a more diverse workforce for organizations and select applicants who are best-suited for the job it allows for someone to see how they might react on the job.

One hiring and selection innovation tool is the use of videogame playing to select applicants from a larger pool. Applicant data retrieved from videogame playing has shown that traits such as creativity and multitasking can be put into the spotlight for interviewers to examine (Savage & Bales, 2017). When organizations are interviewing hundreds of applicants for series of positions, this data could be a great way of getting specific snapshots of individual candidates while pragmatically sifting through the applicant pool as a whole. During the initial stages of applicant selection, using the data obtained from interactive videogame playing could help eliminate or decrease the presence of unconscious bias because the practitioners would have no knowledge as to the whether each applicant was a part of their in-group such as race or age (Savage & Bales, 2017).

Lynn expressed that she does not want for the traditional interview format to disappear but for selection to innovate with the times so that by the time the interview takes place, there is a diverse and refined applicant pool. She believes that interviews are a valuable way for the applicant and interviewer to communicate with one another and form a connection that carries over into the organization after that applicant has been hired. The interview itself creates the buy-in from the prospective applicant and could make or break the entire hiring process.

References

Comprehensive School Improvement/Rolling Plan 2017-2022. (2018, May). Retrieved September 16, 2018, from https://www.ssdmo.org/assets/about_us/CSIP_rolling_plan.pdf

Laine, P., Stenvall, J., & Tuominen, H. (2017). A Strategic role for HR: is it a competence issue?. Nordic Journal Of Business, 66(1), 29-48.

Lanigan, L. (2018, September 11). Informational Interview [Personal interview].

Savage, D. D., & Bales, R. (2017). Video Games in Job Interviews: Using Algorithms to Minimize Discrimination and Unconscious Bias. ABA Journal Of Labor & Employment Law, 32(2), 211-228.   

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