2013 Game Changer: Emily Douglas

By Max Mihelich

Aug. 11, 2013

Emily Douglas is a nerd. A human resources nerd, that is.

Douglas, 31, is the director of human capital for Battelle for Kids, an education and compensation consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio.

Emily Douglas

“I’m a nerd. It took me a long time to embrace that, but I’m OK with that now that I’ve turned 30. I read a lot. I’m always reading, I’m always studying, I’m always reflecting, I’m always asking people for feedback. Sometimes it’s hard to hear things, but you need to hear them,” she says. “I’m definitely a HR business or strategy nerd, whatever you want to call me.”

The latest example she gave to highlight her nerdy love of HR is a compensation certification exam she took July 3—not because she was required to, but just because she just felt like it. Yet it’s her self-described “nerdiness” that has allowed her to achieve a high level of success throughout her career.

Douglas’ work with Battelle for Kids centers on compensation systems for school districts and state education departments across the United States.

She says one of the biggest challenges in education is attracting people with the proper degrees to teach math and science. Douglas says that instead of becoming teachers, people with degrees in math and science are heading to jobs in the private sector or better-paying government jobs. An important reason why is that many school districts use a compensation system that’s more than 100 years old and is based on tenure and the amount of degrees teachers have rather than their performance. “Essentially that sets up a system that doesn’t work. It doesn’t do what we want it to do,” she says.

To correct poorly designed compensation systems, Battelle for Kids consults research about pay methods that work well at retaining highly talented teachers in all subjects, in addition to studying compensation systems in other industries. They then collaborate with education administrators to implement a better compensation system.

In her free time, Douglas heads a nonprofit called Grandma’s Gifts, which she started when she was 11. The purpose of the organization is to give children from low-income families necessities like clothing and toothbrushes or even science equipment for their classrooms. The success of Grandma’s Gifts means disadvantaged children are given a better chance to be successful in life.

But despite Douglas’ many accomplishments, she says her greatest achievement is having a job where she can move fluidly across different industries and apply best practices.

Max Mihelich is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below or email Follow Mihelich on Twitter at @workforcemax.

Max Mihelich is a writer in the Chicago area.

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