Mae Brooks and her team are putting the human back in human resources at the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.
Hired as the board’s director of Human Resources in June of 2016, Brooks has been working to redefine the relationship between her department and the parks’ 500-plus fulltime and 1,200-plus seasonal employees. In changing the relationship, Brooks said she hopes people see her department as less about paperwork and more about the person.
“When people think of HR, oftentimes they think of the forms and paperwork to fill out and things of that nature, but we are working to offer the employee tangible assets,” said Brooks.
Some of the things Brooks is working on are written in red on an erase board in her office. They are written as short-term and long-term action items.
“We have a one-year, three-year and five-year plan,” said Brooks.
Those plans include starting this year offering tuition reimbursement for employees. It also includes offering incentives for participating in healthy living activities such as providing discounts for using the Nice Ride bike sharing program or discounts for Metropolitan Transit.
“Things like that help to leave a smaller carbon footprint, but in addition, they are economically in favor of the employee,” said Brooks. “For instance, if an employee earns a certain number of points for things like taking Nice Ride he or she can get up to a 30 percent discount on the cost of health benefits.”
Brooks and her team are coming up with other innovations to make the parks and recreation board a better place to work. Those innovations include providing standing desks that are better ergonomically and promoting more open space work environment that feel less confining than the typical office cubical.
“Ideas such as these are the things that help to keep us competitive in attracting and retaining hires,” said Brooks. “The demographics of the workplace are changing and these are some of the things younger employees are looking for.”
Mindful at almost every opportunity to praise her staff of about 10, Brooks said those in the department have the perfect mix of energy and experience to help keep the parks system tops in the nation, which it has been voted since 2013 according to Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index. Members of the department say working for and with Brooks is rewarding.
“(Brooks) is very knowledgeable about HR and she positions her employees to do well above their job title,” said Spelda Myrthil, a two-year HR associate at parks and recreation.
“She challenges the team to do better,” said Yaneque Walker, a HR generalist, onboard since January. “The beauty of Mae is she is able to connect with everyone for senior level management to the workers in the field.”