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Chinese visitors get global lesson in HR

September 21, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Recruiting and retaining skilled and reliable employees is the goal of Franklin County Human Resources Director John Aguirre, and Thursday he shared some of his methods to a group of fellow HR professionals who didn't understand a word he was saying.

Fortunately, they had an interpreter.

The group - about two dozen provincial, municipal and educational officials from the Chinese province of Guangxi - were in the Board of County Commissioners office to learn how the county goes about finding and retaining its work force.

"We were contacted by the Chinese about three years ago," said Larry Glenn, director of International Programs at Kaplan College-Hagerstown. At that time, he said, the Chinese government was looking for a college offering criminal justice and computer forensics to help train security personnel for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

"Since then, we've developed a rapport and a relationship," with other Chinese professionals visiting the college to learn Western practices in a variety of business and administrative areas, Glenn said. This was the first time a group was taken to Franklin County for a field trip, he said.

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The county Web site, newspaper ads, jobs fairs and working with colleges, universities and high schools, are among the methods the county uses to find the people with the skills it needs, Aguirre said. Specialized Web sites are also useful for reaching out to potential employees with specific skills, he said.

"The best thing you can do in human resources is to network ... face-to-face contact," Aguirre said.

Each of the visitors received a bag of county promotional items, tools Aguirre said are used to pitch its benefits package. An eyeglass cleaning kit illustrates that the county health-care package has a vision plan, and a toothbrush promotes its dental plan.

"We push the benefits because we have a good benefits program," he told the visitors.

"We all know as human resources professionals we get a lot of problem people," Aguirre said. The county combats absenteeism by rewarding people with extra days off for perfect attendance. In 1999, 69 employees did not miss a day, a figure that rose to 292 last year, he said.

The county's wellness and risk management programs are another tool to keep employees healthy and productive, Aguirre said. That includes weight reduction, smoking cessation and other voluntary programs, one of which encourages employees to walk 10,000 steps a day.

Participants in that program are given a pedometer to count their steps, and each of the Chinese visitors received one in their gift bag. The pedometers are made in Taiwan.

Interpreter Liu Chunmei relayed Aguirre's advice to the group, who got to pose a few questions afterward on topics such as hiring relatives and age issues.

Aguirre, whose son is a sheriff's deputy, said relatives may work for the county, provided one is not directly supervised by a family member. The county does not have a set retirement age, he said.

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