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Fix Payroll, HR Problems ‘Right Now,’ Pasadena Unified School Board Told

Consulting firm presents scathing ‘operational review’ of P USD payroll department and processes; presents recommendations

Published on Friday, November 19, 2021 | 5:50 am

Any problems that arise with classified employees and the Pasadena Unified School District Payroll department need to be taken care of  “today, right now,” a management consultant told the Pasadena Board of Education Thursday at its monthly meeting.

In an “operational review, not an audit”—which was requested by PUSD and presented by Danyel Conolley,  director of management consulting services for School Services of California—the consulting firm detailed a litany of problems with the District’s payroll process.

“HR Department staff, Payroll Department staff, and ‘customers’ of the departments perceive that payroll processes are highly dysfunctional, resulting in regular erroneous employee payments, paying employees late, or in some cases employees do not receive payment until months after the work has been completed,” Connolly reported.

Conolley reported that, at the time of the company’s active research, there were multiple grievances over payment issues filed by certificated employees which were more than a year old and were still not resolved.

“Issues with employee compensation has created an acute sense of distrust amongst employees as customers of the departments — and in some cases, the feeling is that the problems cannot be fixed.”

The HR and Payroll departments have been “severely impacted by functional problems,” Connolly said.

She pointed out in the 28-page presentation, as an example, that employee work calendars are frequently entered incorrectly, which clearly results in a significant impact upon what they are paid.

Conolley was emphatic in her presentation that the district has “a significant need to implement processes and procedures for stipends and extra hour work for employees.

“Creating those standards and creating that written process and procedure is really, really important here,” she continued,  “so that everybody knows what to expect and when they will get paid for additional work completed.”

“The payroll department also needs “an understanding of the impacts to employees when they’re not compensated appropriately, when they don’t get a paycheck, and what are those outcomes for them and their personal life, and in really moving up the service attitude and responsiveness up the line, in terms of what’s important to establish (a) customer service climate and environment,” she told the Board.

The District needs to develop initiatives to ensure a customer service-focused culture that filters through layers of the Payroll Department, she said.

“Expectations for customer service and behavior should be specified,” said the report,  and used in all levels of the Payroll Department for staff training and evaluations. Part of the Payroll Department’s initiatives should include establishing a lasting culture of service, responsibility, and accountability.”

The presentation also recommended that the PUSD and its Payroll department implement a process to manage extra pay for employees. Stipends and extra hours worked should be submitted using the personnel requisition process for pre-authorization and these items should also be appropriately approved by the Board. This will help manage the cost of extra pay, reduce risk, and ensure that these items are charged to the appropriate budget account code, she said.

Board members were supportive of the recommendations presented by Conolley.

“I think a lot of these problems can be addressed by the recommendations that were made,” said PUSD Board Member Michelle Richardson Bailey. “I believe that with the changes that are needed, that whole customer service attitude and the changes that we need to really show empathy to our staff and our faculty, needs to happen, like yesterday. We need to start doing this immediately.”

Board Member Tina Fredericks concurred, but was concerned about the current workloads of the HR and Payroll departments, while acknowledging that “even some small changes can have some big effects.”

PUSD Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald also noted that “The (PUSD) staff has taken this very seriously. From everything I’ve heard, they’ve begun to make changes in the various departments. There is a sense of urgency, and I believe that we will get things improved here very quickly.”

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