City and local governments have enormous opportunity to advance racial equity within the workforce. As noted in the Government Alliance’s recent publication Public Sector Jobs: Opportunities for Advancing Racial Equity, “walking the talk” within one’s own local government workforce is a critical area of focus for jurisdictions working to eliminate racial inequities. The City of Madison, Wisconsin is one jurisdiction whose Human Resources and other Departments have been working hard to advance racial equity within their city’s workforce. They recognize there is a lot of progress that has been made, and there is a lot of work to do as the city moves into the future.
A recent report authored by HR Director Brad Wirtz, HR Services Manager Michael Lipski, Organizational Health and Development Manager Erin Stenson and Organizational Health and Development Specialist Melissa Gombar details the steps taken and progress achieved thus far by the City of Madison’s Human Resources Department. The report, entitled “Equity in Hiring and Employee Development: A Review of Initiatives in Human Resources Designed to Increase Diversity in City Employment”, utilizes the Public Sector Jobs paper’s recommendations as an outline to highlight its equity efforts and accomplishments from 2012 to 2015.
In 2011, the City of Madison began utilizing an online applicant tracking system called NEOGOV. This system allows Madison to review its ability to attract and hire diverse candidates for employment. Melissa notes that there were advantages and disadvantages associated with transitioning from a paper-based application system to a completely online system. Overall, the department believes that the online system has been advantageous in advancing racial equity within the city’s workforce, as it easily allows for examining data related to equity at every step of the hiring process. In order to mitigate some of the unintended impacts of a purely online system, HR partnered with city libraries to train staff in helping people use the system. In addition, HR has provided a guide on its website that assists individuals in navigating the online hiring processes.
Equipped with data collected from NEOGOV, the City began moving forward on a plan to improve racial equity within the city workforce and hiring processes in 2014. The following is a summary of the initiatives undertaken by Human Resources in 2014:
|2014 HR Initiatives Related to Racial Equity|
|WorkForce Planning Equity Initiatives|
|Modifications to the Civil Service System||Changes to the civil service system included creating trainee positions for applicants with potential but without previous experience, expanding posting rights for city interns, expanding referral rules, and updating Personnel Rules to allow limited-term- employee transfer rights.|
|Reviewing Minimum Qualifications||HR has modified the minimum qualifications for many job classifications since 2013. Reviewing minimum qualifications will ensure that potential candidates are not screened out. Minimum qualifications have been adjusted for hourly attendants, seasonal laborers, maintenance workers, transit operators and library pages.|
|Ban the Box||Questions regarding criminal background were removed from city job applications in September 2014. In addition, hiring managers are now expressly prohibited from obtaining arrest and/or conviction information on candidates for employment.|
|Use of Racial Equity Impact Tool||A Racial Equity Impact Tool was utilized in order to analyze the process and minimum qualifications for hiring General Managers and Transit Service Managers in the city’s public transportation system. This analysis and subsequent changes resulted in a more diverse applicant pool and a woman of color being hired for one of three positions.|
|Advertising and Outreach||HR and the Urban League partnered to create a special seminar that resulted in increased diversity in hiring for hourly/seasonal laborer positions. The Multicultural Affairs Committee promoted and conducted outreach activities to fill the seminar. In addition, HR worked with the Department of Civil Rights to update the mailing list that promotes city job opportunities to include more diverse organizations. Also, a new manual entitled “Navigating the City of Madison Hiring Process” was created and posted on the HR website by the job postings. This manual helps individuals through the process of applying for city jobs.|
|Exam Offerings in Spanish||Exams for some positions in the Parks Division are now being offered in Spanish. HR is continuing to examine the possibility of offering exams in other languages for certain positions.|
|Employee Development Equity Initiatives|
|Engagement and Equity Implementation||By the end of 2014, most city departments had received initial training and surveys on engagement and equity. Many departments created internal culture and engagement teams that have developed feedback tools, training for employees and internal newsletters. New Employee and Supervisor orientations now have a focus on the Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative.|
|Supervisor Manual Focus||The City of Madison Supervisor Manual was reorganized to focus on the 4 pillars of the City’s Equity and Engagement model: building trust, equipping employees, developing employees and connecting to purpose. Each chapter provides tools for supervisors to help foster engagement and equity.|
|Leadership Conference||A conference was provided for city leaders in November 2014 that included many topics important to equity and engagement. The conference focused on the leader’s critical role in advancing racial equity and social justice.|
|Added HR structure||A new Organizational Health and Development Unit has been created in order to manage the efforts of organizational development, employee assistance and wellness. This will enable the City to grow its equity and engagement initiatives.|
Outcomes of Equity Efforts as of 2014
The report features several tables of data that illustrate the advancements in racial equity related to the City’s efforts. For example, in 2014, the City of Madison saw 14,418 applications come through its system, which is more applications than previous years. In 2014 there were 221 total job postings and 621 candidates hired. 28.05% of candidates who were referred to a department for an interview identified as people of color. This means that not only did a larger number of people of color apply, they were also successful in navigating the civil service application process and in getting an interview. In addition, more candidates of color have been hired since the introduction of NEOGOV in 2011, at 21.9%. NEOGOV data also showed that the number of women applying for city positions increased from 34.07% in 2013 to 36.3% in 2014. These and other accomplishments are further detailed in the report.
Initiatives for 2015
The Human Resources Department is continuing and expanding its racial equity efforts in 2015. The report offers further details on 2015 goals and initiatives, which include:
- Developing a comprehensive on-boarding for all city employees that emphasizes focus on engagement and equity.
- Reviewing the HR annual work-plan with an equity lens
- Developing a Women’s Leadership Conference and continuing to critically examine the gender pay gap
- Offering a second leadership conference specifically emphasizing the leader’s role in advancing equity at the agency level
- Conducting training regarding Interest-Based Problem Solving, which aims to build more equitable distribution of decision making throughout the organization
- Performing a comprehensive review of training offerings to ensure alignment with engagement and equity
The 2014 Human Resources Equity Report
Erin spear-headed the idea of organizing this year’s annual Human Resources report specifically around HR’s equity efforts and utilizing the Government Alliance’s Public Sector Jobs publication as a guideline. The Department wanted the report to highlight the equity work it has been doing to an audience both internally and externally. As a result, the report has been shared with the Mayor’s Office, Common Council members, City Department leaders, as well as online for the public. HR hopes that having the report available online will help publicize the importance the City is placing on creating an equitable workforce and encourage diverse candidates to apply for City positions.
Michael says that putting the report together helped HR see the large amount of work it has already done, and that there is still a lot of work to do. It has also fostered excitement for what can accomplished in the future. Melissa remarked that HR’s accomplishments speak to the importance of data-driven goals, tracking goals over time, and utilizing racial equity tools. Melissa credits assistance from Julie Nelson and the Government Alliance for offering a formula for success.
To read the full report, visit the City of Madison’s HR website. The report is under the “What’s New” heading, in pdf format.
For more information on Madison’s racial equity efforts within the Human Resources department, contact Melissa Gombar: