PBPN HR: A Path to Progress
By: Michelle Simon
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Human Resources Department has been on a progressive path the past three years. Each year the department has looked for opportunities to improve and strengthen the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation organization by utilizing their unique role.
“Human Resources is a resource for the Nation’s employees while also representing the best interests of the Nation. It can be a difficult balancing act at times, but well worth the effort,” said Adele Wahwassuck, PBPN Human Resources Director.
Charged with a diverse range of duties for the PBP Nation’s staff of 300, the Human Resources Department includes recruitment efforts, conducting the employment process, administering the employee benefits programs, classification and compensation, maintaining employee records, coordinating employee training, providing employee counseling on rights and personnel matters, along with overseeing human resources strategic planning.
In 2016, the department upgraded the Nation’s application process from an outmoded paper version to a web-based online version. The majority of applicants are predominantly in the local Northeast Kansas area, but adding an online component helps the PBP Nation attract talent spanning throughout the United States. Going digital has streamlined the entire onboarding process for the Nation, by increasing productivity along with reducing the amount of paper involved in the process.
In 2017, governing policies were a major focus. PBPN Human Resources staff assisted in the revision of Title 22, the Employment Code of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, with a specific focus on the Employment Disputes Tribunal. Prior to the change in the law, Nation employees had no true legal recourse in the termination process. By further developing the Employee Disputes Tribunal, the Human Resources Department has assisted in ensuring that PBP Nation employees have a voice throughout the course of the entire employment process. Other changes in the wording of Title 22 provide a solid avenue for the Nation to employ individuals that contribute desirable skills and services to the Nation’s members. The revision to Title 22 also broadened Tribal Preference by including PBPN Descendants, a factor that has never been considered prior to the revision. Throughout 2017, the department also completed a comprehensive review of the employee handbook, instituting an updated version effective October 2017. All previous revisions to the employee handbook were outsourced.
“Our government is so unique in terms of the programs and services that the Nation provides. Developing our policies internally is critically important because we are shaping the framework for years to come,” stated Wahwassuck. The ability to revise the document internally speaks to the experience and education of the workforce. It also allows the Nation a means to capitalize on its distinctive nature and emphasize the various benefits of working for a tribal nation.
Most recently, the Nation implemented a new policy in 2018 in direct support of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s culture. With over half of the Nation’s 300 staff being enrolled PBPN tribal members, the administration instituted a different approach and determined it would benefit the Nation as a whole to allow employees to utilize administrative leave to carry on cultural practices. Employees are allowed up to five days of administrative leave for things such as hunting, planting and gathering.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Human Resources Department also includes an assistant director, benefits coordinator, human resources specialist and an administrative assistant. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Human Resource department is located in the lower level of the Government Center, located at 16281 Q road. Web resources are available at www.pbpindiantribe.com and can be reached toll-free at 866-694-3937.