Extreme HR Makeover


A city located east of Cleveland, Ohio is home to 20,000 residents. The city’s 150 employees are led by an elected mayor and a seven-person city council. The mayor recently created a human resources (HR) director position to support the city’s strategic goals; there had been no HR department prior to this.


Because the city had never had an HR department, the new director wanted to benchmark the city’s HR programs and employee initiatives against other employers. It was also important for the HR director to determine how employees felt about their work environment, pay, benefits, internal communications, and employee relations. Another priority was to standardize HR policies and procedures among the many distinct departments, such as fire, police, recreation, and administration. There were many tasks on the HR director’s list, and determining a cohesive strategy with prioritized tasks was a very challenging undertaking.

The city needed input from subject matter experts in all HR disciplines—health and group benefits, HR technology, compensation and rewards, retirement, and communications. It was important to assemble a team that understood how the pieces all fit together so recommendations could be made within the “big picture.” With that in mind, the city engaged Findley to analyze the current state of HR and develop recommendations for all aspects of HR.


Seizing the opportunity to start from scratch and have a little fun, Findley and the city decided an “extreme HR makeover” was in order.

Findley began the project by analyzing current HR policies and programs. Findley team reviewed plan documents, summary plan descriptions, benefit overviews, employee communications, and other materials. Once all the data had been collected, Findley used national surveys and market knowledge to benchmark the city’s current state against peers.

Findley also developed and administered a confidential online survey to capture employee opinions about working for the city. About half of the employees participated. In addition, to gain insight from city leadership, Findley interviewed each department head to understand the city’s strengths and pinpoint areas for improvement regarding HR.


After reviewing all aspects of HR, Findley developed an “HR blueprint” to help the HR director manage and drive the changes necessary for the city. The HR blueprint contained:

  • Best practices for each area of HR;
  • Benchmarks for medical, dental, vision, disability, and retirement programs;
  • Employee survey and department head interview results;
  • Recommendations for each area of HR: compensation, benefits, technology, employee relations, and communications;
  • Guidance for creating and documenting standard policies and procedures;
  • A prioritized action plan.

The city is excited to work on the top priorities in the action plan and feels confident that it is building a strong foundation for the new HR department. The HR director expressed his gratitude in a thank you note saying, “I really appreciate all you and your team did for the city. All the best!” Defining clear priorities positioned the human resources team to manage and drive organizational change and created a workplace that promotes employee trust and satisfaction.

Category: Case Studies