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Tips for Creating Equity in Museum HR

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  1. Even if your site has fewer than 15 employees and no HR department, create or review your organization's employee handbook. Make sure it's written in clear, understandable language. If you can't understand it, it's unlikely your employees will.

  2. Make sure it addresses common HR issues and what your organization will do about them. Kicking the can down the road means you will make decisions as they come up, rather than addressing them organizationally from the beginning. It's hard to be objective and impartial when you are making decisions in the moment based on a single staff member's situation.

  3. Create a personnel committee on the board. It may include the board leadership and/or those with interest and experience in HR.

  4. Seek advice from your local Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau or HR firm.

  5. When altering handbook rules, be open and transparent about rule changes. If you're a staff member ...

  6. Know your rights. EEOC's Home Page is a good place to start.

  7. Find out if there is any kind of HR document--even a Google doc--that governs day-to-day work. If there is, read it.

  8. Before you approach the leadership, it's helpful to know if you're a trail blazer. For example, are you the first employee to ask for paternity leave, jury duty, or a parking accommodation?

  9. Or conversely, are you one in a long line of staff asking about a particular issue? Knowing whether your organization has a history may help you strategize your request. (Example: your museum's staff is under 10 FT people. Six have requested maternity/paternity leave in the last year. Nobody's gotten the same deal.) A lot of museums and heritage organizations, often small ones, hide behind size (We're too small) and the non-profit shield (We're not a business) when it comes to HR issues. Size isn't an excuse to treat employees inequitably. Do the best you can given your resources. Create policy first--even if it's a one-page document--so you're not reacting to individual problems in the moment. Be kind, be a good listener, be empathetic, but most of all be fair. Joan Baldwin

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