Hiring Revamp Makes the Grade

By Martin Karamally

Mar. 1, 2005

Within fairly recent memory, the hiring process at the Los Angeles Unified School District was cumbersome and discouraging: long lines, surly attendants, misplaced records and endless shuttling back and forth between two locations. But in a brief two years, the LAUSD, with its 746,000 students, 80,000 employees and annual human resources budget of $28 million, has metamorphosed into a desirable employer while saving taxpayers $10 million over a 24-month period.

    Much credit goes to retired Navy Capt. Deborah Hirsh, who took over as chief human resources officer in 2002. When she arrived at the school district, the malfunctioning hiring system was under acute stress because of legislation that raised the bar on teacher credentials.

    Under the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind Act, only 83 percent of the 36,000 LAUSD teachers were deemed to be fully qualified. The stats for new hires were worse: Only 67 percent of annual new hires made the standard.

    Hirsh says her primary challenge was to upgrade recruiting techniques to make the 3,000 to 4,000 new hires needed each year.

    “When I became a more senior officer, my ability to see the big picture worked well because I could go into an organization and improve it,” Hirsh says of her 26 years in the Navy. She began at LAUSD by whittling down her human resources staff from 400 to 300. She invested $65,000 in technology and marshaled computer hobbyists from the staff to help with applicant tracking and other technological issues.

    Under the old system, the LAUSD received 35,000 paper forms annually. Applications were lost or went unacknowledged, and potential hires waited months for a response. By then, many of the best had gone elsewhere. Now, an online application system makes it possible for applicants to receive a response within 24 hours, and those short-listed are promptly called in for interviews.

    “Once our recruiters had the proper technology and tools, they approached their work with a new enthusiasm,” she says. “Before, their frustration level was a drag on the process.”

    The school district switched from seasonal to year-round recruiting, offering contracts to budding teachers in advance of the hiring season. That approach allows the LAUSD to have an early pick of the new applicants with the best résumés.

    For its successes in streamlining the hiring process and, in doing so, improving the level of teacher qualification, the LAUSD is the recipient of the 2005 Optimas Award for Service.

Workforce Management, March 2005, pp. 53-54Subscribe Now!

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