HR Packs a Punch with Small Gestures!

Meet Chatham County’s Human Resources Director, Carolyn Miller.

funny photo of HR Director Carolyn Miller dressed as Dorothy for Halloween
Carolyn Miller: our fun, lively Human Resources Director

On Thursday last week, I had the opportunity to shadow Carolyn.  I learned more about how conflicts are managed, HR consultations, new employee orientation, and all the many things our HR department does and manages. But of course, I got to learn more about the little things that Chatham County’s HR department does that makes a big impact on employees. 

Little things, Big impact

Thing 1: Promotions are celebrated by baked goods. Chatham County employs over 500 employees and HR makes sure to celebrate each promotion. Every time that there is a promotion in the County, the four HR staff make a basket of baked goods for that employee.  This is definitely a nice touch that shows that HR cares and is proud of you!

photo of powerpoint from new employee orientation that says diversity, equity and inclusion
Picture from new employee orientation of the beginning of the diversity, equity and inclusion portion

Thing 2: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are embedded into new employee orientation. Chatham County’s HR department makes sure that diversity, equity and inclusion is something that you hear from the beginning of your career with Chatham County. Carolyn reviews key definitions and how every individual’s culture impacts their reality, starting with her own story. Carolyn stresses the importance of these values and the continued work that everyone must engage in to overcome our implicit biases.

Thing 3: Desk chairs and colors were intentionally selected to impact organizational image. You are probably wondering what HR has to do with desk chairs and colors. Apparently, a good deal! Carolyn Miller told me that she and the previous County Manager intentionally picked a medium oak colored desk and cloth-backed chairs for their offices to promote a more welcoming space. She said that they steered clear of mahogany desks and leather chairs because that created a more ostentatious look. Moral of the story is that HR played an important role in being intentional in how they crafted the County Manager’s space.

picture of HR staff dressed in wizard of oz costumes
Halloween 2018: HR staff dresses as the Wizard of Oz

Thing 4: HR + the County Manager judge an annual County-wide employee Halloween costume contest. First and foremost, the HR department does reverse trick-or-treating and goes to each department in the County to pass out candy on Halloween. In addition to that, the departments (as individuals or groups) can also enter the costume contests! I saw the pictures from years before…Chatham County employees go ALL OUT.

Thing 4: An employee-generated policy idea became HR policy & it is the only one of its kind in the STATE. In the County, there is a Personnel Committee where employees are selected to represent employees to HR staff. The Personnel Committee presented HR with the idea of a “Tobacco Free Petty Leave Policy.” Petty leave for those who don’t know is “free time off” granted by your employer to use for running errands or whatever you want. Chatham County does grant each employee an allotted amount of petty leave, but if you are a non-tobacco user (verified from your medical provider) then you are granted additional petty leave known as tobacco free petty leave. If you are a tobacco user that enrolls in a cessation program, you are granted some tobacco free petty leave as well. This is the only policy like it in the state and it was completely generated by employees and accepted by HR. This shows HR’s commitment to employee health.

photo of goody bag filled with tootsie rolls for 2017 employee appreciation day that says great serivice is how we roll - happy employee appreciation day 2017!
2017 Employee Appreciation Day

Thing 6: HR marks “Employee Appreciation Day” and visits every department with small gifts. On this day in March, the HR department and the County Manager go to every department and office to pass out goodies and talk with folks to show their appreciation. This is a great way for people to interact with the County Manager.

Thing 7: Annual Salsa and Chili Contests for employees. Every year in the fall, County employees can also compete in the annual salsa and chili contests. The chili that won last year had an unexpected twist – CHOCOLATE. Apparently, it was a mole (Mexican dish)-inspired chili recipe.

Needless to say, I learned a lot about how Chatham County’s Human Resources Department gets creative to make employees happy and proud to work for the County.

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