Toward strategic human resource management in the central office


The purpose of this study was to identify and explore how human resources are managed, what human resource management can look like, and what organizational issues, tensions, and ambiguities are likely to surface as a district central office moves toward being more strategic with their human resources. The research design was an exploratory case study of one Midwestern school district completed over the course of two academic years. The district studied was a mid-sized district in a more liberal municipality with a somewhat diverse population. Using knowledge of successful district attributes as well as organizational management theories of strategic human resource management and high reliability organizations, the researcher explored: (1) what it means for a district to be strategic and (2) how a district goes about being strategic (what it looks like), particularly regarding their human resources. Findings of this research project indicated that defining strategic in this district was done two different but mutually reinforcing ways. Strategic meant having foresight, pre-emptively planning, and using knowledge-based innovation as a leader, but at the same time it also simply meant aligning everything to district goals. Findings also indicated that the act of being strategic in this district focused on two key elements: systemic functions and strategic leadership. As the district portrayed, acting more strategically means moving from silo-ed or compartmentalized functions to more systemic structures, policies, and procedures. At the same time, these systemic organizational structures and procedures cannot be strategic alone; strategic leadership guides strategic behaviors. As elicited from this case study, there are six attributes of strategic leadership that leads to strategic behaviors: shrewd decision-making, candor in communication, building authentic relationships, empowering human capital, structured and focused flexibility, and creating, innovating, and reflecting. Findings also indicated that various environments, both internal and external to a district, hold influential roles in the strategic functions and actions of district leaders. Implications for these findings are both research and practitioner-based. This study is simply the first in a multi-phase project that will attempt to view the entire district system from central office to classroom in order to understand how decisions and management functions at the central office impact instructional capacity at the classroom level. Such insight will allow future research to better understand what it means for districts in general to be strategic and ultimately develop a tool for practitioners and researchers both to utilize in order to assess the strategic and non- strategic behaviors occurring in districts in order to aide them in improving their management of human capital. Better human capital management would allow greater organizational efficiency and success in reaching district goals, including those revolving around student success

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