Springfield Assistant Human Resource Director Caitlyn Julius discusses her experience moving to municipal human resources from the private sector during Massachusetts Municipal Human Resources’ HR101 Boot Camp on May 9.

Massachusetts Municipal Human Resources held its annual HR101 Boot Camp in Northampton on May 9.

Mary Beth Bernard, principal of HR Key Solutions and a past chair of MMHR, opened the meeting with a workshop on developing strong job descriptions. She stressed the role of job descriptions as the “building blocks” of many aspects of human resources management, and as a “crucial” tool for employee recruitment.

In one survey, she said, “52% of job-seekers answered that a description can make or break their decision on whether to apply for a job.”

Bernard also discussed how job descriptions support municipal branding, employee training and performance, and classification and compensation. She offered tips on how to write strong job descriptions that not only reflect a single position’s qualifications and responsibilities, but also the “positives” of working in the respective community.

In the second session, attorney Anne Marie Noonan of Valerio Dominello & Hillman gave a primer on Massachusetts labor law. She also provided an overview of recent trends in collective bargaining, including the first new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on discrimination and harassment in 25 years, which were released in April.

Paul Scott, vice president of the Unemployment Tax Management Corporation, led a workshop on unemployment claims and benefits. He urged attendees to document every step of the unemployment process.

“It’s really documentation that’s going to win cases,” he said. “Ninety percent of the cases come down to that.”

In the afternoon, Ed Mitnick, executive director of Just Training Solutions, led a “train-the-trainer” workshop on conducting internal workplace investigations.

“Your role,” he said, “is to lead a fact-finding mission.”

By placing an emphasis on fact-finding, the investigator can help to preserve the integrity of the investigative process and ensure all parties are treated respectfully.

“We’re always going to treat everybody with dignity and respect,” Mitnick said.

The boot camp concluded with a panel discussion led by veteran MMHR members, including Michael Taylor of Pittsfield, Caitlyn Julius of Springfield, Deb Radway of Human Resources and Interim Management, and Chuck Romboletti of South Hadley.

Moderator Emily Russo, the human resources director in Easthampton, asked the panelists to begin by recommending immediate priorities for newcomers when they begin a new role in municipal HR.

Reflecting on her experience coming to Springfield from the private sector, Julius recommended starting by getting to know your municipality’s existing job descriptions.

“Coming from outside of municipal government,” she said, “there are some many titles you’ve never worked with before.”

Taylor and Radway said it’s important to become familiar with the people and culture of a new city or town hall as quickly as possible.

Panelists also shared self-care strategies for dealing with stress and feeling overwhelmed.

“Be intentional about the boundaries you create,” Romboletti recommended.

“Take a step back and breathe for a minute,” Julius added. “This is HR, not the ER.”

The HR101 Boot Camp is a signature MMHR program for members who are new to municipal HR and/or come from a private sector background.

As Chair of the MMHR Membership Committee, Taylor opened the conference by welcoming attendees and encouraging them to get more involved in the association and make connections with fellow members.

“Stay connected to us,” he said. “And please, if you’re new, lean on us anytime you need to.”

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