Performance evaluation technology: How to address union concerns
Rick Arnett, assistant superintendent at Lake Orion Community Schools in Michigan, and Mike Shepherd, director of human resources at Folsom Cordova Unified School District in California, share their strategies for addressing union concerns when implementing a new performance evaluation solution.
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Kevin Keenmon: Welcome to TalentEd’s K-12 podcast. Today, we’re going to discuss how to get union buy-in for new technology.
Now for those of you who don’t know, TalentEd is the leading provider of K-12 talent management solutions.
My name is Kevin Keenmon, and recently I had the opportunity to talk to Mike Shepherd, director of human resources at Folsom Cordova Unified School District in California, and he explained why he’s made it a priority to develop strong partnerships with his district’s unions.
Mike Shepherd: I think it’s important to involve our employee groups as partners, and we’re working together. And, you know, they have a job to do through statutes,. They are representing their membership. And we have a job representing the board and representing the voters and students.
So, I think working together we all want the same thing. We all want what is best. And so, I think it’s important to be transparent and work with them. And, you know, I believe part of this has created greater transparency, so there’s been more positive dialogue.
Kevin: So when Mike was asked to help implement Perform — TalentEd’s K-12 education-specific performance management solution — he quickly sought to address union members’ concerns.
Mike: I think there were a lot of questions. So, when I came on board with it, there was a lot of hesitancy, and the team that made the decision to go with Perform hadn’t really laid any groundwork with our stakeholder groups.
So, I kind of put it on hold a little bit and held meetings with the union leaders. And I really worked with them on showing them that we were merely digitizing — automating the negotiated process — that we weren’t changing the process, we were just changing from paper to digital.
Kevin: Focusing on the fact that Perform would support their already negotiated performance evaluation process proved successful.
Mike: We had to build some trust that it was the forms that they had negotiated, they just looked different because they weren’t [on] paper in front of them. So, we had to work through and train our managers so that they knew how to use it, they knew how to help their teachers on the ground floor — there’s 33 different schools. I’m one person in a department of about … at the time we had seven people, and we couldn’t go out to 33 schools and train.
So, it really relied on us to just assure people that we were implementing a process, that we weren’t pulling any fast ones on anybody, and that we were really trying to streamline the process and make it actually more user friendly because teachers could view the process online in the cloud at will. So, I think once that caught on it really helped.
Kevin: The key to driving this point home was providing a first-hand demonstration of how they would use Perform.
Mike: What it really took was me to go to a negotiation session and pull up Perform and show them that it was still the negotiated process, that we didn’t make any changes to it, and that we wouldn’t make changes without having to bargain.
So, I think once they knew that, we answered questions about security of sign-on, and once we answered those questions, I think that the group left feeling much better about it.
Kevin: Lake Orion Community Schools in Michigan also implemented Perform, but as noted by Rick Arnett, assistant superintendent of human resources, state laws limited union push-back.
Rick Arnett: We’re fortunate in the State of Michigan to have some laws in place that afford us as management some leeway in certain areas and one of those is the use of technology, so it is a prohibited subject to bargaining.
So for us, we don’t have to negotiate the fact that we’re going to utilize some technology in a certain way. This kind of fell under that category.
Kevin: Still, Rick wanted to ensure union members felt heard during the purchasing and implementation process, while still ultimately making a decision that best aligned with district goals.
Rick: We still like to be collaborative with our association, so I still want them to be on board and have some input and understand.
We just have to let them understand, too, that input doesn’t always necessarily mean output. We’re going to listen to you. We’re going to listen to you. We’re going to take your concerns to heart. But in the end, we’re going to have to do what’s, first and foremost, legal, and then second, what we believe is in the best interest of our students in our district. So, you know, approaching it from that perspective I think helps. We do want input. We do want to hear what you’re thinking and how this impacts you. We want to know. But in the end, there will have to be some decisions made.
Kevin: To ensure union members were on board with his decision, Rick highlighted Perform’s benefits.
Rick: I’ve always been in the mindset — and I never try to convince people to do something or to think a certain way — I’m more inclined to say we need to compel them to think this way or to act this way.
So, if you present them with enough information and data about why it’s important and why it’s helpful and what these changes can do as a benefit, you get a little bit more buy-in than just trying to convince them.
Kevin: Based on his experience implementing Perform with a former district, he knew the value of focusing on the solution’s ability to fit the district’s already established processes.
Rick: I will tell you the district that I was at prior to coming here, that I had brought the system to there, as well, it was a greater battle. And battle is probably a tough word, but it was a little bit more difficult with the implementation because I had to even demonstrate it harder and in more detail what really truly was involved with the system and … I mean if you think about it — not to minimize it by any means — but we didn’t change our evaluation tool. We’re still utilizing the same tool that we had before. All we’ve done is taken technology and helped us streamline our processes and procedures for implementing our tool in our evaluation. So, helping them understand that we’re not changing how we evaluate you.
Kevin: Just as Rick learned from a previous Perform implementation at a different district, Mike learned from his experience implementing Perform at Folsom Cordova, and he used that knowledge to successfully implement Records — TalentEd’s recordkeeping and process management solution.
Mike: When we brought in Records, I brought in the unions. I brought leadership in from both unions — our classified union and our teachers union — And I demoed what we have. We demoed records with them, and we showed it to them, we answered their questions, and then I did a pilot with just two or three employees — new employees to onboard them — so that I could show … and, I had the new employees sign a waiver that we could use their materials with our unions so that they could see what the process was, they could see the sign-on security, they could see what we were doing.
Kevin: His decision to involve union leadership early and take time to ensure everything was set up properly paid off.
Mike: I spent about seven months piloting and working with all of our groups because I knew Records was going to go online for 2,000 plus employees, and it’s been really seamless. And I think it’s because I spent a lot of time involving the different stakeholders and getting inputs, and then having, you know, with my team weekly shakeout meetings where we discuss pros and cons and how we can streamline it. So, if I were to do it differently that’s what I would have done with Perform.
Kevin: Well, there you have it: Best practices in K-12 talent management. If you’d like to learn more, please visit talentedK12.com. Thank you for listening.