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Human Resources

Catholic columnists share views on news, family life, spirituality
By Malea Hargett Editor, Arkansas Catholic
CPA board member (Southern Regional Representative)

This is an incomplete list of 30 syndicated Catholic columnists. Every attempt was made to contact columnists and get their information, but some did not respond by the deadline. This list does not include information on the quality columnists you can find on Catholic News Service. We encourage editors to call or e-mail the columnists and ask to see samples of their columns.
Please click here to download the list.


By Karen A. Hurley, Deputy Executive Director, CPA
The Catholic Press Association received 41 resumes for the Executive Director position. The Ad Hoc Search Committee chaired by Penny Wiegert is charged with the task of screening the resumes and conducting the interview process within a timely manner.
Every organization engages in human resource management and seeks to find a balance between the employees' needs and management's goals. Human resource management is a formal system in an organization to ensure an effective and efficient use of human talent to accomplish organizational goals. It was first recognized in the early 1900s and was primarily a clerical role including payroll, benefits processing and personnel recordkeeping. Today it functions in the role of advisory, service, control, change agent, and ethics. Human resource management includes not only employment and recruiting, but employee orientation, training, compensation, rewards and recognition, employee services, community relations, and health and safety.
Savvy employers are always recruiting because there is a war for talent and quality workers. Today it is easier than ever for an employee to begin a job search through the Internet. Employers must develop retention programs that meet the needs of the employees through rewards and recognition, professional development opportunities and competitive compensation and benefits. Poor management still tops the list as the number one reason employees leave a job.
When an employee leaves, the organization is faced with the daunting task of starting an employee search and interview process. A planned and well-structured interview helps to avoid hiring pitfalls. The interview should include a conversation that provides the interviewer with needed information about the applicant; discussion that accurately evaluates the candidate's abilities and motivations; dialog that predicts the applicant's ability to succeed; and information that helps determine the applicant's "fit” within the organization. The interviewer should know what questions to ask and those that cannot be asked.
A planned and well-structured interview should avoid questions that can be answered with a "yes” or "no”. Ask detailed job-related questions and probe for examples of previous experiences. Ask the applicant to describe interactions with past supervisors. Further, all gaps in employment history should be questioned as well as any termination of employment. Employers have the right to know and to gather as much information on an applicant's job performance and work habits as they can before making good hiring decisions. However, goggling or internet searches of an applicant are not recommended because even if you found something questionable, you could not do anything with the information.

Reference checking is critically important because unfortunately, candidates exaggerate or outright lie. Go beyond the last employer and make contact with supervisors, schools, etc. Have candidates sign an authorization form. Make the offer contingent upon reference check. Don't skip this step just because a candidate came "highly recommended”.

Finally, what does success look like? How do you know if a candidate is a "fit”? Start by thinking of people who are most successful in your organization. List the common traits and behaviors that they possess. Then define success in the specific job; what are the six or eight things a person must do to be success in the job. If your candidate has these characteristics, you have won the battle in the war for talent.
By Karen A. Hurley, Deputy Executive Director, CPA
In this election year we are hearing a lot of rhetoric about leadership and what it takes to be a leader. Leadership is about challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, empowering others to act, and recognizing the potential of others while creating opportunities for them to succeed.

One characteristic that defines an effective leader is their ability to select highly qualified employees and then create a learning environment in which all employees challenge themselves to develop to their fullest potential. There are four effective ways of enabling employees to become active participants in the organization and to grow personally and professionally.

First, delegate responsibility, which implies trust in the person's ability to make appropriate decisions and act effectively on them. It sends a message that the success of the organization depends upon the accumulated actions of individual employees.

Next, set and communicate performance standards. If the organization expects excellence, leaders must communicate well-defined criteria for evaluating performance on that basis.

Give immediate and honest feedback. This enables employees to understand the expectations and recognize the existences of an environment that supports and encourages them to achieve the expected level of performance.

Lastly, work with employees to identify strengths and weaknesses and structure work situations to maximize or minimize those skills. This helps employees strive for the excellence that is desired and stimulates staff to plan for long-term career goals. The leader can provide insights about opportunities, within both the company and the profession, where the employee can develop his or her own leadership skills.

Because leaders are role models, they should want to actively mentor, teach, coach, and help pave the way for employees who demonstrate potential. Leaders who have high self-esteem, are personally secure and have confidence in their own ability recognize that developing future leaders is a legacy and it is something to be proud of.
By Karen A. Hurley, Deputy Executive Director, CPA

People are your biggest asset. Recognizing and rewarding good employees exhibits a synergy between values that nurture, challenge and empower people to support the organization and its mission. Saying "thank you” in the workplace conveys sentiments such as "I appreciate you and you matter.” Messages of this kind are always important to send to valued employees especially when it is easier than ever for employees to surf career web sites on a regular basis.

Studies have shown that raises and bonuses are not the most important measure of appreciation for employees, it's recognition for a job well done that matters most. Let your star employee know you appreciate them with these little reward suggestions.

The honor of representing the company at a conference or event is a dignified reward. It is the opportunity for the employee to attend an off-property function. It gives them the chance to grow professionally and network with their peers therefore enriching his or her work experience.

Nourish your employee's professional interests by offering a one-year subscription to his or her favorite business magazine and have it sent to their home. It satisfies their need for information and may provide articles on best practices which will benefit on-the-job performance.

An inspiring introduction is priceless. Ask your star employee for the name of someone in the organization or industry that he or she would love to meet and learn more about. Help to make the connection and provide the introduction so they can spend time talking together.

Provide a perk just for fun. Tickets to see the employee's favorite pastime ranks high on the appreciation scale. Taking an afternoon to visit the art museum or providing a movie theater gift card to see the latest blockbuster is a low-cost reward and shows that you care about the employee as an individual.

Private time with you whether it is a scheduled lunch, a cappuccino, or a drink after work is a reward. Give them an opportunity to select the site and use the time to simply get to know them better. Tell them how critical they are to you and the team. Let them ask questions and answer honestly.

Hand an employee a chance to shine by giving them the lead on a project you've been hoarding for yourself. Offer the spotlight and coach when necessary.

Put it in writing so the sentiments can be read over again. There is nothing like a handwritten note on your personal stationary that says simply how valued and appreciated they are.

Lastly, everyone is seeking to balance work and family life. Too many times deadlines cause employees to work late or on weekends and family times are lost. Reward the star employee with a few hours off to attend a school program or send pizza delivery to the home where the whole family can enjoy it together. It's the little things that mean a lot.
By Karen A. Hurley, Deputy Executive Director, CPA

Most organizations have a formal performance appraisal program, but did you know it can boost employee morale too. It is important to conduct an annual performance review because failure to do so is one of the most significant sources of employee dissatisfaction. Simply said, most employees are good workers and appreciate being told so. Annual reviews usually are conducted on the employee's anniversary date. If you do not provide appropriate and timely performance appraisals, employees may assume that raises will be delayed or just not awarded – a real morale killer.

Organizations should have a clearly identified performance expectations. Factors typically include a company standard for quality and quantity of work, competency skills, reliability, and other performance issues. It is important for companies to identify performance expectations and develop a guideline for measuring performance. Also, it is necessary for organizations to provide continuous feedback throughout the year as opposed to evaluating an employee only during his or her annual review. Supervisors can do this by regularly noting specific job-related behaviors (both positive and negative) and documenting the performance in the individual's personnel files.

There are many methods for conducting a performance review. Here are a few critical steps in conducting an effective performance appraisal:

  • Pick a time and place for the review.
  • Make the employee feel at ease, and create a positive environment.
  • Be prepared. Know what you want to say and set objectives and goals for the employee in the new year.
  • Give balanced feedback, but start with the positive.
  • Have documentation supporting both high and low level performances.
  • Ask questions and encourage the employee to provide feedback.
  • When discussing areas for improvement, talk about specific performance and set objectives and a timeline for improvement. Provide mentoring or other resources to help the employee meet those objectives.
  • Discuss the employee's goals regarding future opportunities with the organization and, if possible, set an action plan or provide a mentor to help prepare him or her for such opportunities.
  • After the performance appraisal, follow-up with the employee to see how the plans are proceeding within the given timeline.

Effective performance appraisals are the foundation for measuring compensation. There should be a direct link between performance, the measure of performance based on accurate evaluation, and compensation. Compensation differs among employees. Most organizations use a salary grade with a range of salary rates within that grade. The mid-point of each range is usually the market rate. This provides for appropriate salary positioning in the range for newly hired employees, the progressing employee, and the employee who consistently performs above the requirements of the position.

Other measures of performance include a grading system based on low performers, average performers and high performers. This rating is measured against a job description and expectation. If the organization expects excellence, they must set and communicate performance standards with a well-defined criterion to meet the expectation. Just saying that excellence is expected without a set guideline or criteria on how to achieve and measure excellence is shortsighted and duly unfair to the employee.

Many companies compensate employees using a standard percentage increase like 5% across the board. This practice is not recommended and actually can result in employee dissatisfaction. Low performers should not receive the same percentage increase as your star employees. The supervisor should tell its top performer that they are receiving the highest compensation rate.

A well-developed performance appraisal program should help companies identify top performers from those that are in need of improvement. Conducting annual performance appraisals is a positive program and can boost morale. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the employee wants to know that they are doing a good job.

CPA's senior management implemented a performance evaluation based on the following scoring system: (consistently exceeds expectation, exceeds expectation, meets expectation, below expectation, and unacceptable). The review is based on a competency skill set specifically designed for association management professionals. Performance is measured against industry standards and the guidelines set forth by Association Forum of Chicagoland.


Time Waits for No One

By Karen A. Hurley, CPA Deputy Executive Director


            It would be great if you could add as many hours as you need to every day.  The demand for your time would be much easier to manage with more time in the day.  You would even have time for learning a new skill or networking regularly with colleagues on social media sites.  The fact is there are many distractions that occur throughout the day and time gets away from us.  Time management skills are critical in today’s demanding business world.  Here are some tips to free up your time at the office resulting in greater productivity and more time for family and friends.


1)      Clear the clutter off your desk so you can focus on the task in front of you.  Get a large wastepaper basket and throw out the papers or materials that you will never use or read.


2)      Create a "to do” list every morning when you get to the office.  Estimate how long each task will take and include only those that you know you can finish before business-end today.  Do not exaggerate the number of tasks you can complete.  Don’t work through lunch or promise to stay late into the evening if you have a record of breaking those promises.  Incomplete tasks will only stress you out.


3)      Avoid interruptions followed by more interruptions.  Emergencies need to be addressed immediately but no interruptions like a visit from a colleague who is notorious for water cooler chat.  If you can, move your chair so it doesn’t face the door; you will create body language that says you are busy and do not welcome interruptions.


4)      Prioritize your work activities and stick to it.  Don’t allow a phone call or visitor with a minor problem take control of your time.  If this is unavoidable, consider ranking items on your priority list by importance. For example, items for customers rank "1,” day-to-day responsibilities or administrative duties ranks "2,” and tasks that can wait one more day get a "3.”


5)      When confronted with a colleague that wastes your time, stand up when they enter your office.  This will discourage them from sitting, getting comfortable, and taking more of your valuable time than you would like.  Close your door, or if you have an assistant, give him or her permission to prevent people from walking in.  If you talk business regularly with various employees, schedule it, set aside an hour or so every day to meet with them.


6)      Avoid telephone tag.  Leave detailed messages when you cannot reach someone by phone.  Ask them to do the same with you.  If you are waiting for instructions or an answer to a question, this will enable you to move forward on a project when you cannot easily reach them.


7)      Identify "time-sensitive” or "reply-needed” emails.  Most software programs have an icon to "flag” important emails.  Use a different colored flag for each day of the week that requires follow-up or action on that day.  Reply to those emails at the beginning of the specific day but only allow a set time frame like 15 minutes to do so. When sending emails indicate in the subject line a request for a reply, for example "ABC project - reply requested.”  At the top of the email write, "Kindly reply by…” and add the date.  Most emails have "reply by” or "deadline” instructions at the bottom.  People do not always read emails in their entirety and sometimes they do not read past the first few lines.


8)      Determine whether you really need to attend every meeting you are invited to.  Keep in mind that the more important your responsibilities, the more you will be asked to attend as a matter of protocol.  Further as your responsibilities grow the number of tasks demanding your input will grow.  Make sure that the meetings you attend or the ones you schedule are well managed.  The meetings should start on time, discussion should be focused to the agenda items, and the meeting should end on time and as promised.


9)      Greet and meet people outside your office.  You maintain control over the time you spend with them.  You can also end the discussion when you feel it is appropriate.


10)  If people ask for a minute of your time, either say "no” by letting them know that this is not the best time and schedule a better time, or say you only have one minute; then look at your watch so people recognize that your time is short.


11)  If you schedule appointments during the day, don’t just set the time to meet include the amount of time you will have for the meeting.  Don’t let meetings run over the allotted time.


Taking control of your day and improving time management skills should be a priority in everyone’s life.  The point is to learn how to control your time when there are so many factors vying for it.  If you can do that you are way ahead of the game.  Even though you may not have more minutes in a day, you will have greater control of your time and be more productive at the office.

Excerpts from this article can be found at

Corrective Discipline to Dismissal

By Karen A. Hurley, Deputy Executive Director


            When times are tough tempers can flare but repeat offenses are cause for corrective discipline.  No employer wants to deal with corrective discipline on the job, yet many times it cannot be avoided.  Discipline is an attempt to correct inappropriate behavior or job performance.  Most situations can be corrected by directly bringing the issue to the employee’s attention.

            If there is a lack of improvement generally it results in the escalation of disciplinary action which reinforces the seriousness of the performance issue. Sanctions could include a verbal slap-on-the-hand or reprimand to a more formal level with backup documentation.  If the employee cannot make the necessary corrections or remains indifferent to the need for improvement, termination is usually justified.  Immediate discharge can also be justified if the employee commits a severe breach of policy.

            An employer should always protect the right to terminate an employee by having an Employment At Will Policy.  It is recommended that when disciplinary action is taken that a third party be involved and preferably an HR professional.  Use the following checklist as a guide for investigating situations before taking corrective disciplinary action:


  • Thoroughly investigate and review the facts.
  • Find and obtain statements from witnesses, if applicable.
  • Talk with the employee to get his or her perspective on the situation.
  • Obtain related, current, and prior documentation, if applicable.
  • Summarize and outline the facts of the most recent situation.
  • Examine the employee’s previous disciplinary history and work record.
  • Examine records of employees with similar infractions and compare the discipline imposed in those situations.
  • Allow adequate time for all parties to review the details of the offense.
  • Determine if the employee is in a protected class.  If so, determine if disparate treatment or treatment that is the result of the disparate impact (not intentional but discriminatory) has occurred.
  • If appropriate, review the facts of the investigation with an objective third person.
  • Pinpoint the basis for corrective action or termination.
  • Determine if the discharge violates any federal or state laws: employment at will, unfair dismissal, equal employment opportunity, disabilities, and veteran’s protection rights.
  • Discuss your decision with an HR professional, labor attorney or professional society with human resource expertise before implementing a final decision.
  • Determine the best time and place to conduct the disciplinary interview.
  • Carry out corrective discipline or termination in a calm but direct and compassionate manner.  Consider including a witness in the meeting, if appropriate.
  • Document what was said and actions taken during the disciplinary interview.
  • If the employee was terminated, arrange for the employee to obtain personal belongings, return company property, and leave the property promptly, without creating an awkward and embarrassing situation. 

Employee issues and corrective discipline can be difficult and extremely time consuming.  Direct prompt action is required to resolve the matter in a timely and professional manner.

Excerpts for this article can be found at


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