Board of Directors seeks to update policies on city employee reviews, electronic communications | Local News

Updated policies for electronic communications and computer use by city employees, as well as a whole new language to standardize performance reviews, were sent to those selected for review.

Members of the City Council of Staff, who reviewed the policies last week, voted unanimously to approve the changes in a bid to help improve job performance and ultimately deliver better taxpayer services.

Deputy City Manager Michael Johns explained that all city employees are already assessed on an annual basis, with department managers providing feedback and informal assessments on an ongoing basis.

The new policy, which still needs the blessing of elected officials, establishes a written framework for this process that applies to all municipal bargaining units as well as non-union staff. The language also helps set expectations and explain the logic behind regular performance reviews.

Currently, all municipal employees are assessed between May 15 and June 15, with step increases starting July 1. The process also includes a self-assessment component.

“Our intention is not to use assessments as weapons – not to withhold money or fire people – but to help their development,” said Johns, who is also the director of social services. from the city. “I think at this point people see the value of it.”

Calling the policy “very detailed,” personnel committee members Nancy Bacher and Dennis Keefe inquired about the training of supervisors and / or managers responsible for conducting performance reviews.

“It’s a great tool and there’s a lot of advice here,” Keefe said of the new document. “I have discovered over the years that some people [evaluations] really good and others are doing it very, very badly, and that’s a question, I think, of practice.

Johns responded that some managers, especially those who supervised the Boyden Library staff, had received training in appraisal techniques, but agreed that there is “definitely room for improvement” at all levels. .

“Training is definitely something we have to do,” he said.

Johns noted that the city recently hired a new human resources specialist, Kate Levesque, who previously provided consulting services to several industry groups.

In addition to the guidelines outlining performance reviews, board members approved an expanded policy outlining expectations for electronic communications and the use of computers in the workplace.

“While the intentions are the same and the procedures are pretty much the same, some equipment, and certainly social media, has changed,” Johns said.

Citing the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology and smartphones, Johns said some employees receive phones while others receive a stipend to offset the cost of personal devices. Many, he added, bring their personal phones to work and can even use them for city business.

“We know it’s normal practice for them to have them in their pocket,” he said.

While personal calls are allowed, within limits, during working hours, Johns said new language has been added to ensure personal phone use does not interfere with assigned tasks.

If adopted by selectmen, employees will be required to review and sign a copy of the new policy, which will be kept in their personal file.

Keefe noted that before mobile phone technology, employers could easily monitor phone usage during working hours.

“Now with cell phones you really can’t monitor it,” Keefe said. “It’s really the honor system, so it’s more difficult.”

Asked by Keefe about the dangers of ransomware, Johns said all employees are currently engaged in training modules covering web browsing, audio calling and other areas to raise awareness of risky online behavior.

I myself have been a victim of phishing, ”Keefe said of fraudulent calls made to trick people into giving money or revealing personal information. “They are very sophisticated.

In addition, Johns informed the staff board members of an existing policy that outlines the ground rules for remote participation in public meetings.

While noting that Foxboro recently passed provisions in the state’s open meetings law that codify how remote meetings are to be conducted, Johns said most remote meetings locally have operated under the authority of emergency orders issued by Governor Charlie Baker during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This distinction is important, he added, because the permanent law of the state is much stricter than the temporary executive decree of the governor. It’s so strict that city officials who reviewed the section after it was enacted ten years ago dismissed the idea.

For example, legal provisions require that public officials participating remotely must provide sufficient reason for not attending meetings in person, suggesting that remote participation is only permitted “if physical presence would be unreasonably difficult”.

At this point, with remote participation having become an accepted way of conducting public business, Johns predicted that state lawmakers would be forced to make some common sense changes before Baker’s temporary order expired. .

“I think when we get out of this emergency ordinance, the legislature will come up with something that will at least give us a little more flexibility,” Johns said. “I think there are a lot of abilities and a lot of reasons to do it.”

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