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Limited Series-Human Resources to Growth and Support: How REACH does HR (Vol. 1), by Andrea Francis

I have been connected with Wabanaki REACH since 2017, first as a Graduate Assistant, a volunteer, a temporary employee, and most recently as the newly appointed Assistant Director. In this role, developing our policies around Human Resources tops an important list of priorities our committee has faced since its formation in August of last year. Previously combined with the Finance committee, but as REACH has grown, so too has the need to develop Human Resources. 

As the newly minted HR committee, we know how bureaucratic policy making can be. As a Wabanaki-led organization, we want to ensure that aside from being compliant with laws that protect our staff, we want to make our internal policies and work-culture reflective of our own REACH values.

Wabanaki REACH Values:

  • We believe in the natural strength and beauty of Wabanaki culture, language and ways of being.
  • We believe in the power of Wabanaki people learning the truth about history and reclaiming traditional healing practices.
  • We honor and promote Wabanaki values of taking care of one another, of being grateful, joyful, loving and forgiving.

As a values based organization, REACH strives to honor this shared set of core values. Since our committee is made up of staff, Board and volunteers, a diverse number of perspectives drives the momentum needed to craft policies which reflect the values of those involved in our organization.

To embody this commitment, we are now directed by what we think HR can be and not what it has been historically. Motivated by what it takes to care for people, we simply asked our staff what they needed and wanted from HR. 

Using a survey, we found that our team regards flexible work schedules, support in career and professional development, support in navigating conflict, employee morale and a safe space to talk about potential problems as priorities when it comes to HR management. 

The needs voiced in our survey guide our priorities as a committee, giving us the focus necessary to adjust even the context of the name Human Resources.  Historically embedded in the ideals of capitalism, HR departments were sinkholes where productivity and organizational stability were prioritized over the wellbeing of employees. Changing our committee name seemed like a logical next step in up-ending that way of thinking. Collective Growth and Support Committee was the name that appealed the most to staff surveyed and picked by popular vote.

Our Collective Growth and Support Committee ensures that we meet the legal guidelines to protect staff in the workplace, that are expected by all HR departments, to make our organization transparent. However we strive to balance that by shaping our HR into a people and value centered organization, honoring the Wabanaki voices and the ideals that make REACH an important part of the Maine community.

Please stay tuned in our next installment where we will begin to unravel how we tackle the dreaded annual performance review and rewriting the employee handbook.   

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