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Well, good day, everybody. And welcome, again to another wonderful LeaderGov podcast, we're so glad that you're here. No matter what role you play in local government, whether you're in a city or county, whether you're in animal control, finance, community development, the library, whatever, we really, really do want you to know that you're welcome here. And we're so glad you joined us and listening in to another awesome interview by another great local government executive. And just to reiterate, for everybody, what we're doing here, we do these podcasts really, as a service to local government. We want to inspire you, we want to equip you. And we want to give you tools and ammo and just insight so that you can really thrive and your job in local government that is serve the people around you better, and ultimately serve the citizenry better. And that's going to make for a better community. So that's what we're all about at leader. Gov. And we're glad you're here. today. We have a great guest Lynette Hart. She is the human resources support services supervisor for Oakland, California, in the Public Works. department. So hello, Lynette, how are you today?
I'm good bill, how are you?
I'm doing wonderful. It's summertime here. Now Georgia says a little bit hot outside. I assume y'all have this awesome California weather right now. Is that right?
We do. I live about 40 miles from Oakland. So where I live, the temperatures can be 20 to 30 different than Oakland. And so where I live, it's probably about 90 right now. And in Oakland, it's probably I don't know, maybe 70 today, so it's pretty hot. I feel your pain in Georgia.
Yeah, exactly. Well, we're glad you're with us today. Thank you for taking a few minutes. And, you know, we just we really liked this idea of getting input and insights from different local government leaders around the country. And so we appreciate you being here today. I wanted you to take just a moment and tell us a little bit about your role in the HR department in Oakland, and maybe a little bit about your background even before serving the city of Oakland.
Okay, thank you, Bill. I've worked for the city of Oakland since January of 2017. And I came in as a human resource support services supervisor. It's a generalist type of management role where I'm managing processes as far as recruitment class and compensation, workers compensation, payroll FMLA programs. It's It's um, what do you call decentralized Human Resource Services? So we do we it's a team of eight of us, but we are handling the different functions that make the 800 employees hopefully happy and healthy.
And you're talking public work. So is that include stormwater, streets water, wastewater, what services are in that public works?
Yes. So the city of Oakland about two years ago separated its Department of Transportation. So that's the streets and sidewalks crew. But before that, my my employee total was over 1200. So then it decreased because of that. So beyond that, I have the homeless encampments I deal with. I have the storm, like you said the storm water drainage, sewers, divisions, parks and trees. Every other division that has anything to do with public works are the employees that I service. Okay, my team service
and before Oakland, where else did you serve in government?
I've worked for the lovely Bay Area Rapid Transit District for about nine years in its human resource department. There there was Out 3400 employees total. And at any I was my specialty there was training and recruiting. And at any given time because of how busy Bart is and was, I was handling anywhere from 30 to 40 recruitments at all times
Whoa, yes, the bar have taken Bart, of course from the airport in San Francisco. What is what was unique about the human resources department there at BART would y'all do that was kind of cool and different, what set it apart.
Transportation itself is different. And so one of the one of the things that I bought to the organization is we had there was a philosophy before I came on board that because they were Bart, quote, unquote, people want to come there. Because there Bart, we're known world well renowned, however, that was not the case, we were having a lot of issues with filling a lot of hard to build positions, because you can't just put an application up on a website and assume if you build it, they will come. That is not what was happening. So I helped him create marketing plans, advertising, social media outlets, to announce the positions, I went into the community showed him how to go into the community, to market the positions to the folks that are interested, I did a lot of work with the police department, that's a whole nother wheelhouse that I have, I have expertise in working with police departments. And so that in and of itself was something that took on a whole life of its own. But really bar is a transportation company, it was a little difficult because people a layperson didn't understand working. And also working for a transportation company. So we had a we had a lot of recruiting going on. But it was tough to fill positions at first until we started really understanding how to market those positions, and how to get them in front of people who were passive are actually interested in, and then branding the employer as the place to come work for.
Yeah, really. So your ability to recruit. new talent really does have a lot to do with how the citizens perceive you how well they know you, and what you stand for the kind of culture kind of reputation you have. That's, that's really quite interesting. Before we get into want to talk to you about obviously, being an HR in Oakland, tell us something about yourself. Hobby, anything that you like to do California so beautiful. What are you into out there in California,
there's two hobbies that I have that are that have taken over my life. The first is always been reading I love to read it is I if I can find the time I'm going to read every day for at least half an hour or an hour. I just finished a book. And every time I tell someone, I just read this book, they're like, Hey, you never read that. I just finished To Kill a Mockingbird. And I never read it. Of course, I saw the movie. Of course, I saw the play, I actually got to see the play in New York before COVID. Um, and so that was fascinating to actually read the book and go, Oh my goodness, there's a lot of cool stuff that's in the book that wasn't in that movie. So if you haven't read it, I highly suggest you read it, you will be shocked at the difference. The other thing I have come to love in the last four to five years is podcasts. I am a podcast theme almost. I listen to podcasts on everything sports. That's my new one is this one called all about the smoke, which is all about basketball, football. And these guys are asking really good questions of the premier players that are there in the sports today. And yesterday, I listened to PBS Frontline. I listened to so many. So many and I'm learning so much from other other people I'm a I'm a people person, probably I love HR. So it's fascinating. I'm hearing other people tell their story in their own voice and then hearing questions being asked that you're interested in understanding something differently. I don't have to always agree but I always like to learn so black has given me that that then you like the one you started bill.
Yeah. Well, you're you're a definitely a learner. You know, you like to learn and they say that Leaders are readers. Right? So we got to be hungry and we need to be we ought to be all curious, curious people, right? Not just not settling for status quo, wanting to improve be our best, that kind of thing. I love that about you. I think that's very cool. It's so I could go on forever about reading as well. So tell me about I want We want to get to this topic, today's main topic is about coaching. And we're gonna get into that in just a moment. But first, I want before we got into that I wanted to ask you to share, maybe for the HR folks listening. Certainly a lot of local government people listening to this podcast, what are some things that you've implemented in your department, since you'd been there that are kind of innovative, kind of different? What have you brought to the team that that they've begun to implement, that's really begun to make a difference there at the Public Works Department.
So because I've been in HR for over 20, some odd years, I've learned that applicants, either internal or external, are not one size fit all. And so obviously, I've recruited executive all the way down to the beginning of positions, you know, your custodial, your janitors, your administrative secretary to an intermediate clerk to beginner clerk, there's a different conversation and career building for each of those people. Because your white collar is possibly looking to go into executive management, and I'm not sure how to get there. But my blue collar, even the way I communicate, I had to I had to learn differently. For example, you and I probably are in our email all day, all night, right? There not a lot of my blue collar people. I've had to teach them. Hey, John, we're going to communicate with you with your with your email. Well, I forgot my password to my email. Okay, well, let me help you, let me help you get it set up. But this is you need to check your email at least once or twice a day. Because if you miss the email inviting you to interview, that's your responsibility. And I've had I had that happen. And so when I came to Oakland, because of the blue, there's a lot of blue collar that I deal with, I immediately recognized started getting complaints from people, once people became very uncomfortable speaking with me, they would tell me, they don't want us to promote here, they make it really hard. And so the more I heard what was going on, I understood, there was a huge line of not understanding process, not understanding the process from the application, to qualify, to qualify for the job to the interview, how to conduct yourself in an interview, and how to proceed through this whole process, or even where the wherever the natural stops are for that person in the process. So what I did is I created a two hour class that I give, and that class starts from how to fill out the application, how to make sure you put that you are a city of Oakland employee, I even had people that weren't even putting their employees and missing out on that opportunity to even get screened in in a different way. Then I explain them how to create a resume and the fact that you apply for a job, don't just put anything up to the sticks, because you like the salary, make sure you have the requisite skills and education and certifications required. And so, you know, people would, at first they couldn't understand why those things were important. Until after the class, they got it. So they all started applying for jobs, going through interviews. And even when they weren't making it, they were happy because it never done so well before because they understood the process. I helped them understand what a behavioral interview question looks like, what it sounds like, and how to address it. I helped him understand that. After the interview, it's okay to reach out and say thank you, you don't have to say a whole lot. Just let people know, hey, I still got a heartbeat here. I'm interested in a position. Thank you. I'll also let them know the most important thing, just because you apply and you go through a process, it does not mean that that is your job. Always understanding maybe someone else who's more qualified than you. And don't think because you work with somebody for 20 years, you know, their qualifications. I just had a conversation with a manager yesterday about someone else applying for a position and they got attacked because they offered the job of someone else. And he said that person doesn't have a college degree. And the manager said, actually they do they haven't and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, I never knew that. Why would you know? And that but that happens because we work with people and we think we know their background. A lot of my people don't know I was a manager for SBC communications for years. Or I did some other work beers. I mean, there's all these things you don't know it's in someone's wheelhouse. And I also tell people it is experiences experience. Never negate to put that out there. Whether you put it in the interview, are you getting in at resume, whatever you need to do to get yourself qualified with your experience. You've got to give it to them.
Yeah, you I think the learning there that's a great example because For anybody in local government that's listening, no matter what department you're in, if the people that you're interfacing with don't understand the process or the procedure, or what is expected of them, if it's not clear, if it's not written, articulated, or maybe provided through training, people are going to wander around and be disconnected and be disengaged. And then we look up one day, and no one's interested in what we're doing. And so you're taking the time to create a process, it really invest in people, you know, help them through the process through training is a wonderful idea. We sort of take a lot of things for granted in these processes of hiring people. And, and, and succession planning and career planning. And a lot of people haven't had the benefit of some of the training that you and I have, have had, right. And so you're you're creating those tools and trainings, is awesome. That is a wonderful contribution that you've made to the city of Oakland. And just think of the lives that you've helped, that you've helped impact to.
Another piece of that, that I've created and implemented is if someone doesn't bear the selection process, I do what's called a debriefing with them. So what that entails is, take the interview material, I looked through the notes, and I don't give them verbatim what was where the what was said, but I give them enough information to say in this area, you could have done better, these are the areas we were looking for, but you kind of missed it. And then always it's a two way, the whole time. It's a two way coaching conversation. And I'd like to bring in at least one hiring manager that was on that panel to be so we can really have that conversation. People walk away if people understand the transparency of the organization, that it's not a someone who was promised that job. And it's not you by telling me but they understand where they have shortcomings. They get it, they don't like it, but they get it. We do things in a closed box and no one understand someone so got the job. And that's all there is to it. It doesn't breathe happiness in an employee, it doesn't help them doesn't always it I'm not gonna say it's always positive, because there are people, it's going to still think that they were right, and we're wrong. But at least we know that we were transparent, we know that we gave them every opportunity not only during that debriefing to understand today, what they can prove and point the next time.
That's a great I wonder how many people listening to this podcast, who are hiring managers in some have some role in the hiring process. have that as part of their last act, which is we're going to go back to the people, particularly the internal candidates suspect and say, you know, thank you for applying here's, here's the area where other people had more experience, here's something that you said, maybe you can modify that in the future, what a very kind, thoughtful, basically, you're helping develop the person in a moment of, I guess, failure, you could say, or you know that they're down, they're upset or whatever. But at least you're investing and you're making that effort. And I think that's a great best practice for any city or county that's listening that they can implement tomorrow. And having that hiring manager there that was part of the decision is another great, it really just shows that you care about the person. All right, what a great, what a great idea. When I asked you about this idea of coaching, you know, in, in local governments that we serve we we that well, first of all, you know, there's a time to be a leader that's highly intentional and directional and giving orders of police chief, if you're at a fire, you want someone giving orders to put out the fire, there's no time to form a committee, you know, at a fire. But in day to day management, particularly around professional development, which you do a lot of in succession planning and career planning. You know, we want to ask people questions when we coach people, we want to get them to think about their future. And think about what do I need to do to get from point A to point B, and so we want to start asking questions to make people think, so that they develop their own plan so they can own it. And that's what we're talking about when we say coaching. And so I wanted to ask you, what have been your experiences in this area of coaching, what are some things you've done that have been successful? When you're coaching someone to get to that next level, or maybe coaching them on how to do something they can't do? What have been some of your experiences in this in this area of coaching?
So I have two specific examples. One I have a I just had a auto mechanic come to my office and tell me you know what, miss, Lynette, I really liked the way you do your job. I want to work in HR. I said, Oh, okay, cool. We need to help. So I asked him, you know, what was his background? And so he told me that he had a I'm a degree from UC Davis and sociology. But he'd never worked in an office. So I went online, gave him on some information to look through for, I gave him a couple of things. First thing I gave him was information to a local community college to get an HR certification class going, that's going to be more of a generalist. So understanding of HR. And I told him to doing that, you could probably find out which area to focus on because HR is hybrid, you can go into so many different areas, and some people specialize in it or say, you could be like me, where I have touched all the different areas, which is, which is fine. The other thing I did is I gave him the human resource technician. And I do this through that class, I do as well, as I gave him the job spec for HR tech. And so I said, what we're going to do right now is we're going to take your practice of you take two highlighters use, I said, always use purple, because it's my favorite color. And I take my favorite color, and I highlight everything I know how to do in that job spec with my eyes closed, then I take the second highlighter, and I go through and highlight what I don't know. That's the area you got to focus on. That's the area where you need to figure out how I could compete. I said more than likely, it may be in the interviews that you're going to find yourself that you're sorely lacking. And then you need to figure out, we help you figure out what are the steps that you need to take to get there.
Yeah, that's that's so that's kind of a model. I like that. So you have this tool, this little process you go through of the highlighters, which I love. That's very clever. And then basically, you're just asking a question at that point. What do you think you need to do to get from where you are maybe an area of weakness to a place of strength, you want to go to the library, you want to listen to podcasts, you need some training, do some research, need to talk to somebody on our staff, go back to school, whatever, those are all decisions the person makes, you can't, like you said earlier, you take a horse to water you can't write. That's good.
He wants to he wants to make as well as I will. The other example I have, I just had a gentleman go through a up supervisor recruitment. And he was not successful. But he knew that another opportunity is coming. And matter of fact, I think I just posted it. On Monday, I believe it went live. And so he's asked to meet with me to go over what the debriefing that I offer. And he wants to go over the job spec for the new position. Show me his transcripts, show me his his resume. And then let me help him see where again, where he needs to go so that I can get him, you know, help him understand if he's ready for this next role. Because it's different, it's different from the one he applied for. So even in that class, what I tell people, just because you're a maintenance worker today, who here doesn't want to be a manager, and of course, hands go up, who here doesn't want to go to the next step, as a leader, start looking at those job specs right now. Because those opportunities are going to require your mate, this leader to the maintenance worker today, you may need three years of experience to get to even apply for the leader. While you're waiting on that three years of experience. Go ahead and get certificates, go ahead and get whatever education whatever you need. And that makes you valuable when that position opens up. Don't wait until the position opens for you to go, oh man, I don't have this. I don't have that anywhere I apply anyway, I say because that's only going to upset your heart. When you get the letter that says sorry, we're not going to move you forward. So being a part of something like that investing in yourself is helpful. But then also having somebody that you trust in HR, to be honest with you is so important. Because a lot of our employees they want to succeed. They want to max out on their retirement, but they don't know how. And as they are eight, the HR staff were there to shepherd that. I believe we are at least
Yeah, yeah, you know, the word that comes to mind. We're talking about coaching, of course, the word coach comes to mind. But also it's like what I hear you being as a guide, you're a guide, and you're basically showing them and exposing them to resources and ideas of action they can take because you can't do it for them. And you're there just to be a resource, a guide, a facilitator, but ultimately, it's it's laying out opportunities. It's laying out visions, they have to embrace it, they have to make the decision. But all too often in local government what we see and it's a little different. We're talking about recruiting now. But instead of coaching an employee to improve in an area of weakness, oftentimes me as a manager, I'll just do the work for them because I know already know how to do it. And you know, that doesn't help anybody. And so what we want to encourage people to do is Coach those employees up to a new level, it takes more time, it takes more effort, it might take more time to coach them a lot more than it would take you to do it yourself. That's true. But at the end of the day, the long term benefit for the employee is they now have this skill that they can live with forever and excel at. So it is a short term pain, long term gain, right? Do you see a lot of that in your? You know, do you see a lot of that type of coaching? In the area where you are where you're investing in a person just to build a skill? Maybe it's someone else on your team that has a need to go deeper? In some area? They don't have the skill? Have you? Have you seen that? I've seen that before?
Yes, I as I said, before we started if you open is going to give you everything and more. One of the mores that I got is I've received an employee that was a have been with the city for believe 12 years. And because of personality conflicts and work issues have been bounced around the different departments. And it made it to our department as a receptionist. And then there was some issues with that position. So then I got the phone call. We're gonna we're gonna give this employee to you. And of course, I was kicking and screaming going no, no. And so I said, You know what, no problem. So I received this person. And on the first day, we had an issue. So and I already told the person what my expectations were, what this department is how human resources is very different. It's very confidential, and all the other nuances. And so the person did something they should not have done, bleep was was actually on the first day, I sat him down, explained again, what the issue with the issue is, how it can't happen again. And we moved forward, that person has worked for me now. Believe it's been, it's probably nine months, in that nine months, within 60 days, the complete 360 start happening, that person became beyond my left and right hand, had never worked in HR, or now knows every nuance of recruiting, she knows new payroll pieces of workers comp, another part. And again, because this person had been at the city a long time other people knew this person I really did, because I haven't been there as long. So they were watching and saying to me, Hey, what did you do? Because this person is different, what's going on? To the point where one of our directors there person left, and they asked me, Can I please have your person come work for me. And they were only supposed to be there for 30 days, she's been been with that person now have taught more than 70% with him and 30% with me now, and now is getting ready to get a double promotion to go work directly for that director. Well, you have to invest in people, you either you're going to coach them to be a part of the team or you coach them discipline out the door. It's only two ways. It's not okay to just keep people hanging in there. Because other employees are watching. I didn't know people were watching this person grow. As she worked with me. I didn't know that. But me giving her the latitude to understand the conversations that we had to have difficult. But she kept growing and wanting to grow to now. I don't want to lose her. I'll be honest with you. I just told somebody today, you sure we can create a position to keep her because and she loves now working in HR, she sees the opportunity. She said I didn't know HR, and so many different areas. So yeah, it's it's quite the journey. But you the more you're involved, the more you help, the more you talk to employees. It breeds that self assuredness in them that they can do it, or you help them understand why this may not be the best place for you to be. It's difficult. It's a hard thing to do. But you can do it but you've got to invest the time and energy in it.
Gold, that's gold, I was gonna ask you a final question, which is what is the payoff? You know, what's the what's the benefit of this investment that you make in people? And you just answered the question before I asked. So, thank you. What a wonderful story. And it does get that we talk about this all the time. I'm sure people are tired of us repeating it but it all gets down to people. is people, people, people. And if we can invest in them, equip them, support them, encourage them, appreciate them. But on this area of coaching, it's giving them options, showing them a path, letting them see. And think what they can do to take next steps to move their career forward or solve this problem. Very, very powerful concepts of supporting people and encouraging them. And then all of a sudden, you look up one day, and they're off to great things, promotions and other areas. So any any final thought before we close up here, Lynette uses has been awesome.
Yeah, I'd like to share just one opportunity that I had that may help on the HR person, professionals that are listening. So when I got to BART, one of the things that was sorely lacking was diversity in the engineering group. And I'm sure you know, as a transportation company, engineering was huge. So the chief engineer came to me one day and asked me to help him diversify his engineering group, because he, he felt he only had two different groups represented white males and Asian males, he may have had maybe four or five females. And that was pretty much it. So I had never created a program and intern program. So what I ended up doing was, I read a book about creating an intern program, I then interviewed Chevron and PG and E Pacific Gas and Electric cars here in California, they have really good robust college intern programs. Then I also read an amazing dissertation by a lady in Virginia, and it was titled growing your own engineers. And that principle was finding the right students to come to your organization, brand new organization, and then letting them grow within the organization, giving them solid opportunity when they come aboard for, you know, seven 810 weeks, and then letting them know this is where you want to be later. This is where your career could go. And by doing that, and having that outreach, and making sure your outreach is diverse, making sure you're touching all of the different areas across your customer, which is what I ended up doing. It helped. So in doing so and you start a program like that you are growing, you can do that. This has to be with engineers, you can do it with any facet in your in your area that you're lacking any department that's lacking a specific area or personnel that you need, you can grow, you're just have to have a plan, and you have to execute it. And you have to know that when these people come on board, they're interviewing you, just like you're interviewing them.
Oh, wonderful. Yeah, I like that. And I know that there's a there's a need to always bring in fresh ideas and fresh people, including diversity ideas, and a lot of diversity and local government. But But what a great way to find great talent moving forward is through an internship program. And basically build your own engineers, make your own engineers, I love that. That's a great, that's a great thought. Thank you for sharing that. This has been wonderful. You can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink, you're going to coach them up and coach them to something greater, or you're going to provide discipline and help them find another career. We've talked about that. But this whole idea of supporting people, giving them ideas, giving them options, letting them take the next steps to solve their problem, engaging them caring for them, creating processes for them training for them to make their life easier to make their career path smoother. I really, really love what you're saying very powerful stuff. And we will look forward to to hear more about the great things going on in in Oakland very soon. Thank you so much for being with us.
Thank you for inviting me. I really appreciate it.
Yeah, you have a wonderful day. Take care. You too.
Thank you, Bill. Bye bye