Management Center to Review Town’s Hiring Practices, Present Staff Training

June 6, 2024

The Bedford Select Board has authorized a $64,000 professional services agreement for a “comprehensive review” of recruitment and hiring practices and procedures, and how they impact diversity, equity, and inclusion related goals.

The contract also provides for management and staff training on “difficult topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism” aimed at providing a “baseline for respectful workplace communications.”

The agreement is with the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The work is scheduled to begin in September.

Town Manager Matt Hanson said the review and training are the next phase of Bedford’s state-funded REMAP, Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan. That original grant was announced in 2021. 

“An initial REMAP was completed but conversations regarding how best to use the remaining funding were put on hold during the town manager transition,” said Hanson, who was appointed in September 2023 after five months of an interim town manager.

Hiring practices and staff training were the priorities identified in the initial REMAP, Hanson told the board.

Board member Paul Mortenson inquired whether the town has an anonymous process to field complaints from citizens as well as town employees He called for a “a robust system in place for citizens to tell us they are not being treated fairly.” The topic should be explored in detail on an upcoming agenda, he said.

Hansen pointed out that soon after his arrival last September, he separated the human relations position “after feedback that some staff may feel uncomfortable seeing human relations as part of the town manager’s staff. From a staff perspective, folks can go directly to the HR director.”

Board member Bopha Malone asked about expanding the training to boards and committees, as proposed by the Collins Center. That was part of the original REMAP vision, Hanson said, “but we thought it was too daunting all at once.” Now it can be considered, he said.

The timeline of 12 three-hour training sessions “seems rather aggressive,” said board member Dan Brosgol.  

According to the Collins Center, the sessions will “address concepts such as cultural competencies and lenses, layers of diversity, inclusive language, discrimination law, etc., with the goal of creating a safe and inclusive workplace.”

Hanson said that after the first few sessions, he will sample feedback to see if the presentations need to be adjusted.

A project team will conduct a survey of staff “prior to the tailoring of the curriculum to fit Bedford’s specific needs,” according to the Collins Center’s proposal. “The project team will solicit feedback on what skills and topics they want to learn more about. By requesting feedback up front and incorporating that feedback in the model, the project team seeks to avoid negative or resistant reactions from staff in attending and absorbing the training material.”

The result of this study will be recommendations for adoption and implementation by the town and its staff. In addition to a review of the recruitment and hiring policies and procedures, the town is interested in baseline DEI training, also framed as “respectful and inclusive workplace training.”

According to the agreement with the Collins Center, by April 2025 the town will receive “a report containing recommendations for improved and modified recruitment and hiring practices and policies, as well as recommendations for implementing suggested changes.”

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